In the passage from Ginsberg's Howl:

who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war

How does the hyphen in Blake-light get interpreted? Is the speaker hallucinating about Blake-light tragedy? If yes, what does that mean?

Or is the speaker hallucinating about Blake, and using the hyphen to pause before commenting that his hallucination is a light tragedy when compared to what the scholars of war are doing?


It's a hyphen, not a dash, so its function is not to mark a pause.

At first glance the word "light" might be taken to mean "intellectually or spiritually less than profound", in the sense that one might write of "Shakespeare-light" or "light entertainment". That is the usual meaning of appending "-light" to a word. But here I think the poet is calling up an image of hallucinated tragedy illuminated by the experience of reading and taking in works by William Blake, or in a material world that one sees illuminated in a way that is comparable to how Blake saw it. So to summarise, the idea is of seeing in the light that is given by Blake's work and of viewing the world lit the way Blake saw it lit.

By the way there is a literary magazine called "Blakelight".

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