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Analysis and comments on Sunflower Sutra by Allen Ginsberg

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Comment 6 of 16, added on September 23rd, 2008 at 10:21 AM.

Bringing “Sunflower Sutra” to Life
The Ginsberg poem, “Sunflower Sutra” brings to light a very important and
universal issue. Although it was written in the 1950’s it is still
comparable to the here and now. When Ginsberg wrote this poem, it was the
time of conservatives, consumerism, and strong morals. Ginsberg did not
relate to such a culture and instead expressed himself through his poems,
which blatantly rejected such outlooks on life. “Sunflower Sutra” is about
the death of the inner beauty and spirit in one’s soul in relation to the
destruction of nature and the realization that it is never too late to
bring such creativity and beauty back to life.
A “sutra” is actually a cable or a fiber line that holds something
together. Ginsberg’s sutra is symbolically his sunflower, or realistically
his hope and creativity. His personal sunflower represents the only
beautiful thing left inside of him that holds his own life together. As he
sits and gazes upon the steel machinery and locomotives he notices this
dead, single, sunflower as “a dead gray shadow against the sky, big as a
man, sitting dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust”(lines 11-12). In his
mind, this sunflower is a symbol of life, even though it is dead. Covered
in the grime and dirt of the industry, this sunflower is slowly wilting
away, allowing its outside “skin” to effect its inner beauty. Ginsberg
later addresses this issue saying that “we’re not our skin of grime, we’re
not our dread bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we’re all golden sunflowers
inside…” (lines 57-58).
The locomotive and the industry discussed in this poem are only examples
of the destruction that has taken its toll on the nature and beauty of our
world. This began with the industrial revolution, when there was a
noticeable shift in the use of technology and transportation (i.e.
locomotives). This revolution demeaned nature and only worked for the
benefits of enhancing the technology of the day. There was no
consideration for nature or the beauty of the earth. This depressing view
of industry is described as “….dead baby carriages, black treadles tires
forgotten and retreaded, the poem of the river bank, condoms and pots,
steel knives, nothing stainless….”(lines 16-17). The picture this paints
is a picture of grime, dust and garbage.
The sunflower initially stands defeated with “seeds fallen out of its
face, soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sunrays obliterated on its
hairy head like a dried wire spiderweb, leaves stuck out like arms out of
the stem, [and] gestures from the sawdust root…” (lines 21-24). Its outer
appearance seems to have made the sunflower hopeless and on the road to
death, as we are on the road to death if we allow the industry and
destruction of nature to get the best of us. But then comes the
realization, that the sunflower is still standing and therefore
“…[glorious] in [its] form!” (line 41). It is a beautiful realization to
know that we can make a change by opposing the ways of the world and to
focus on resurrecting beauty and creativity in our inner souls.
By viewing the sunflower as an actual sunflower, and not a dead weed, hope
starts to shine through Ginsberg’s words. The poem starts to sound more
positive and upbeat starting in line forty as he discusses the beauty of
the flower. The beauty of a sunflower should not be underestimated because
of its outward appearance, but should be judged but what it actually is,
before it was affected by the industry and the dirt and dust. The problem
is that Americans have chosen industry and technology over the sunflower,
over life, and over beauty. We, as Americans, have forgotten that we are
all sunflowers. Ginsberg asks us “…when did you forget you were a flower?
When did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old
locomotive?...You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a
sunflower!” (lines 47-51). He wants us all to get in touch with our own
personal sunflower and wants us to reject the culture of technology. In
doing this we will be able to bring the beauty of nature and the creativity
of our souls back to life.
This realization sparks a fight within Ginsberg’s soul; a fight to beat the
culture and to resist conformity. He automatically “[grabs] up the
skeleton thick sunflower and [sticks] it by [his] side like a scepter, and
[delivers his] sermon to [his] soul, and Jack’s soul too, and anyone who’ll
listen…” He wants to make a change in the world and the only way he can
hold his own in this fight is by reviving his inner sunflower.
In relation to today, we can do small things to revive our sunflowers and
improve the beauty of the world around us. We can do such things as
recycle, walk more than we drive, use appropriate waste bins, plant a tree,
and/or buy recycled items. In doing this we are doing our part in
restoring our nature that was once precious. This whole poem is the
process of the resurrection and revivification of the sunflower that
represents inner beauty and nature, the conclusion is his realization that
we can still fight against the views of the world and make a change.
/>

Kayla Holliday from United States
Comment 5 of 16, added on December 2nd, 2006 at 1:05 AM.

Ginsberg describes the fall of a mighty the sunflower. Once a bright yellow
beacon of life, it now is “broken like a battered crown.” Having been
covered by the dirt and grime of industry, by human “ingenuity,” this
sunflower is really representing a demise in humanity. Rather than choosing
nature as a prime example for life, choosing the “perfect beauty of a
sunflower,” we have chosen industry and technology, and have forgotten that
we are flowers. Ginsberg berates the dust and grime which have rained down
from the locomotives onto “my sunflower O my soul” and wonders “when did
you forget you were a flower?” This poem really is not about a flower, but
the tragedy of losing one’s inner beauty, the vivacity and brightness which
makes one shine.

Sophia from Canada
Comment 4 of 16, added on June 10th, 2006 at 2:35 PM.

this poem is calling for a reawakening of the soul

ben from United States
Comment 3 of 16, added on March 14th, 2006 at 7:20 AM.

This poem is unholy, real and magic!!!

Olaf from Sweden
Comment 2 of 16, added on November 12th, 2005 at 4:28 AM.

this poem is about the careless behavior against natureand tha material
aspect of mankind

nissrine el moubaraki
Comment 1 of 16, added on November 14th, 2004 at 10:52 AM.

I believe this poem to be an awakening to Americans on our own
selfdistruction of the earth. He discribes the pollution that was going on
back in 1955 and to our suprise it remains today.

mary ann capone from United States

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Information about Sunflower Sutra

Poet: Allen Ginsberg
Poem: Sunflower Sutra
Volume: Howl and Other Poems
Year: 1955
Added: Feb 20 2003
Viewed: 25054 times


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