The William Blake Blog

Global Blake: In Conversation with Franca Bellarsi
Franca Bellarsi discusses the emerging sphere of ecocriticism and the Beats, via the work of Allen Ginsberg and William Blake.

Ecocritical readings of the Beats are barely beginning to blossom, and the work of Allen Ginsberg remains still much less discussed from an environmental perspective than that of some of his fellow Beat writers. Though this is never explicitly acknowledged, one of the fundamental reasons for this is that Ginsberg developed a fully conscious ecological awareness later than Beat authors like Gary Snyder or Michael McClure. Moreover, when attentively examined, Ginsberg’s environmental stance remains more ambiguous than than theirs, his dark ecological and social ecological leanings resisting homogenisation with the Deep Ecology that pervades other Beat voices. Moreover, the influence that Blake’s complex approach to non-human material creation had on Ginsberg’s own is never discussed, in spite of the life-changing epiphany that Ginsberg underwent in 1948 whilst reading The Songs of Innocence and of Experience. It is as if this transformative moment of ecstasy and hallucination had affected every other aspect of Ginsberg’s existence and countercultural consciousness—from his spirituality and politics to his mission as a poet and teacher—but his environmental consciousness and engagement with the non-human “other.”