Our Fresh Local Lit series serves up poems and prose by Philadelphians twice a week. Today’s author, Jennifer Markert, is a poet who recently graduated from Temple University and currently calls Brooklyn home. Enjoy her response to Allen Ginsberg, from America.
What gave you the idea to write a poem from America to Allen Ginsberg?
You know, I’m not sure exactly where the specific idea came from, only that when it hit me it felt so appropriate for the occasion. I wrote the poem as a skit to be performed at a slam/dance party event appropriately called “Beats and Beats” in which myself and several other friends/poets used the theme of beat poetry in attempt to bring poetry to the masses in a fun and unique way; it also served as a precursor to an APIARY launch party. My take on Ginsberg’s “America” was a very different approach to poetry than I’m used to; whereas I normally tend toward more whimsical, abstract, and emotionally rooted writing, this concept allowed me to be witty and satirical, even slightly political. Performing it was really a blast. I’d never personified a country before.
In your opinion, what did the beats add to America’s poetry history?
The beats were basically the hipsters of their era. Do I think hipsters add a lot to America’s present? I think some will. I think a lot of the beats thought they were cooler than they really were, but then you have these amazing works such as Howl, Naked Lunch, and On the Road, and it’s really impossible to imagine where poetry or literature would be without them. More than their art, the beats were a movement, so not only was their work important in terms of opening doors for poetry and writing, but it was politically relevant and accessible, which was a big deal at the time and even now. Where as modernists largely took poetry away from the public toward academia, the beats brought it back in a direct and powerful way that I think we should all respect and learn from. I wanted this poem to be accessible in a way that was similar in to that beat style, but more current in subject matter.
What is your favorite place in Philly to get inspiration for your work?
I get inspiration from everywhere, especially Philadelphia; rather than getting inspiration from any specific place, however, I find it traveling on the subway, walking around, and accessing public spaces such as parks and train stations. I also get it from the people you see accessing these spaces and traveling, all with their own histories and bodies rubbing shoulders, and from the stories seeping out of each section of the city. My senior thesis at Temple was actually a poetry manuscript based on Philadelphia, and probably at least half of it was written on the subway, bus, or train. It just goes to show how much movement and public access influences my work. Also, how much I love Philadelphia.
To Allen, with Love
You know what? Allen, I can’t stand your mind either. All of that
howling is really messing up my weather patterns.
Because we kind of live together, I will bother you as much as I see fit.
Allen, thank you for the suggestion, but I will not fuck myself with an
atomic bomb, that would be extremely uncomfortable. I’m hurt that
you would wish such an atrocity upon me.
We used to be so close.
Allen, you need to watch your language. What if there are children in
What if there are women in the audience?
What if there is an atomic bomb in the audience?
I think they would be insulted by your lack of tact.
Allen, I don’t feel like I deserve all of your appalling accusations and
Why do you want me to be angelic?
Why do you want me to take off my clothes?
Allen, I’m not a Victoria’s Secret model.
I don’t have the right proportions. I’m wider than I am tall.
Allen, my libraries are full of tears because of all the poets and their sad
My libraries are full of tears also due to the invention of the kindle and
all of the people who don’t appreciate the pungent smell of moldy
My libraries are also full of tears because Americans are crybabies.
I guess you just don’t understand me.
Allen, maybe I don’t want to send my eggs to India.
Maybe I would like to keep my eggs for the sake of breakfast and
I think as the third largest country in the world, I have the right to be
Also, Allen, do you really think your looks are good enough to buy
anything at the supermarket?
I mean, really, Allen? Do you think that your good looks will buy you
Do you think your good looks will buy you love?
Allen, I don’t think we’re perfect.
Take me for example. I stand on top of Mexico and wear Canada as a
hat. Also, most people in Europe think I’m a cowboy.
Don’t take this the wrong way, Allen.
It’s okay if you aren’t a saint.
Besides, I’d rather laugh with the devil than cry with the saints.
Just like I’d rather laugh with the kindle than cry with the books in the
Allen, if I stopped pushing you, what would you write about besides
If you like plum blossoms so much why don’t you move to Beijing?
I’m sorry I can’t be more sympathetic.
I’m not really a sentimental kind of country, except when it comes to
Allen, those roses are going to die if you keep them in the closet!
Why would you keep flowers in there?
Are you doing one of those 5th grade science experiments where you
put one plant in the closet and one in the sun and one under a
What else are you hiding in there?
I hate that you try to keep secrets from me. I already know you smoke
Marijuana. And I’m not proud of you.
Maybe you should get these cosmic vibrations checked out by a real
Oh, and Allen, I really am sorry about what I did to Uncle Max. But it’s
totally Russia’s fault, too.
Allen, how dare you accuse my mood of being silly!
Do I seem silly?
Tell me to my face that I am silly and see what happens then.
See if I don’t smack you.
I take myself very seriously.
Free Tom Mooney?
Save the Spanish Loyalists?
And you call me demanding.
I have an agenda the size of the Midwest. I can’t do it all alone.
Allen, I also have never really cared about your mother.
Allen, you’re right, I don’t really want to go to war.
I’d rather just sit over here in North America and eat big macs.
Allen, we both know Russia isn’t going to eat us alive.
I’ll eat myself alive before she gets to us.
By the way Allen, everything the television tells you is real.
Allen, I’m answering you!
None of these things are my fault! I’m only a country!
But if you want to fight me, lets see you try.
Let’ see you have an Allen’s funniest home videos.
let’s see you have an Allen’s Next Top Model
let’s see you have an Allen’s Got Talent, an Allen Horror Story, an Allen
Cheese sandwich, an Allen Eagle, an Allen Express, an Allen Idol, Allen
Spirits, Allen Outfitters, Allen Dad, Allen Psycho, or a group of Allen Girl
Allen, I’ sorry.
But I really think we need to talk.
It’s really not you, it’s me. Or maybe we’ve just grown apart.
You just want more than I’m prepared to give.
But I guess we can still sleep together, if that’s okay.
Jennifer Markert is a recent graduate of Temple University, with a B.A. in English and concentration in creative writing (poetry). As a core member of the Philadelphia Poetry Collective, Jen has spent time organizing and participating in events such as “Emo Sex Poetry” and the “Beats and Beats Poetry Slam” in the past, among various open mics at The Wooden Shoe and Chapterhouse Cafe. Currently interning at CHARGED.fm Magazine in Brooklyn, New York, Jen also works with the digital lit magazine TheInternetisDead.com to promote the importance of the arts as she otherwise sells her soul to journalism. In her precious spare time Jen writes for her own blog, obsesses over cats, accumulates hats she rarely wears, and scribbles poetry/flash fiction on any piece of paper available in her overstuffed purse. Though living in Brooklyn for the time being, Philadelphia will always be her #1 go-to city/home for its brotherly-loving-ness, cheese-steaks, and thriving literary scene. Jen is excited to be featured on APIARY’s glorious website and looks forward to its next publication!