Gregory Woods: On "Love Poem on a Theme by Whitman"

Perhaps the most successful of the poems of bisexual celebration is the famous 'Love Poem on Theme by Whitman.' Here, as Ginsberg imagines lying between bride and groom, and making love to both, he avoids his own and Whitman's frequent error, of alternating references to man and woman, which beg to be contrasted (as above). Here, he mixes references to the two genders into a polymorphous whole, into which defining characteristics only occasionally intrude. The result is an admirable expression of that human condition to which neither of the limiting epithets 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual' applies. The emphasis is on shared physical detail, such as shoulders, breasts, buttocks, lips, hands, and bellies -- apart from one reference to a 'cock in the darkness driven tormented and attacking', but even this could be either the poet's or the groom's. An orifice is left uncategorised as a 'hole'. At the climax, when 'white come' flows 'in the swirling sheets', the three seem to merge even into their surroundings, as well as into each other. However, this was an early, Utopian piece, somewhat undermined by the later poems of distaste for female flesh. In order to come any closer to the distant ideal, which has remained unchanged since the writing of 'Love Poem on Theme by Whitman', Ginsberg had first to pass through the matter of the sexism of sexual orientation. The love poem establishes a goal, but the poems of distaste were calculated to show how far he still was from it.

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Criticism Overview
Title Gregory Woods: On "Love Poem on a Theme by Whitman" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Gregory Woods Criticism Target Allen Ginsberg
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 15 Jun 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Articulate Flesh: Male Homo-Eroticism and Modern Poetry
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