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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Allen, Dick
[Editorial comment: the poet looks at space--inner and outer],   pp. [184]-193 PDF (10.1 MB)

Page 192

time when we will buy our poetry on records
with books tossed in as extras,
rather than vice versa.
The pop music composer's love of space
allusions and imagery has a twofold
source. First, space exploration
and terminology allows a useful way of
speaking in somewhat veiled terms
about the drug experience: "liftoff,"
"touchdown," "floating." The rocket off to
wander becomes a symbol for mind
seeking freedom from normal
confines, for reaching some sort of mystical
union with the All. It is interesting
to note that hippies throughout the
country would not have dreamed
of seeing the last section of 2001 unless
they stoned themselves during intermission.
More important is the use of
surrealistic satire, extremely strong in the
works of Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
In this type of work the poet begins
with the assumption that the universe is
most rationally met as an experience
of Absurdity, change, chaos, fantasy.
Anyone who still believes that straight lines
never meet, or that subjective
192     reality is not more real than objective
reality, is to be satirized. All Time flows
together, for instance, in Bob Dylan's
"Desolation Row" where Einstein
and Eliot meet. In a Dylan "Dream" song
nuclear destruction and the discovery of
America occur on the same time
plane. The Beatles take us on a
Magical Mystery Tour where we meet the
mystical creature called "The Fool on the
Hill." They send us down "Penny Lane"
and into "Strawberry Fields."
Earlier they have made us fall in love with
a girl who has "kaleidoscope eyes,"
bidding us to follow her into a land
"where rocking horse people eat
marshmallow pies." Simon and Garfunkle
sing, "Wish I was a Kellog's Cornflake/
Floatin in my bowl takin movies" and
ask "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?/
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
(Ooo ooo ooo)." And "At the Zoo"
the animals are more real than
those watching them. The Byrds take us
"Eight Miles High" after pleading with
one "Mr. Spaceman" for a humorous
escape from Earth/rationality. In
Their Satanic Majesties Request The Rolling
Stones send us on a record-long
trip into where both inner and outer space
Clearly, the young are turned onto a
McLuhan sensibility, into group art. And,
since science-fiction is so avidly
read in both the high schools and
universities, space song-poems
are surrealistic time-jumbling fantasy put-ons
of those who do not understand fifth
dimensional concepts. Which is more real
- Mayor Daley's Chicago or Andromeda?
Or perhaps the question is "Which
reality do you prefer?"
I think what we come down to
is this: the modern poet, particularly the
older modern poet, finds space and the
space age frightening, upsetting his
Euclidian concepts of the universe, tied up
with the same developments in
science which he distrusts - the
developments which led to possibilities of
nuclear war. He looks at new
concepts of space exploration and cannot
help but recognize their potentialities,
the changes they are increasingly
making in our human philosophies, our
religions. But he also senses
that one of his duties as a poet is to hold
off, hold back; to let us realize what
we are doing before we go too far. He
sees us leaping into space without
an understanding of what we are doing-
leaping into space as machines (2001's
HAL?), moving so fast it will be
impossible to catch up with ourselves.
Another reaction is that of fantasy,
amusement. If you can't quite understand
what is happening, you write a
child's garden of space poems, or funny
ditties about Buck Rogers subjects,
or you just give up and move into the
fantastic, into the fantasia, the
subconscious, as a way of reproducing the
exterior fantasia which has become
everyday contemporary civilization.
Nursery rhymes seem to be fitting. After
all, we are children trying to become
masters of something so huge it is and
always will be beyond our individual
A more hopeful reaction - seen in
Ginsberg and the folk-rock psychedelics -
is the attempt at a reconciliation.
Space, the sense of our smallness in it,
can make us once again awed with the
universe. We have, in one sense,

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