Howl and other poems

by Allen Ginsberg

Other authorsWilliam Carlos Williams (Introduction)
Paper Book, 1996





San Francisco : City Lights Books, [1996]


The prophetic poem that launched a generation when it was first published in 1965 is here presented in a commemorative 40th Anniversary Edition. Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems was originally published by City Lights Books in the Fall of 1956. Subsequently seized by U.S. customs and the San Francisco police, it was the subject of a long court trail at which a series of poets and professors persuaded the court that the book was not obscene. Howl & Other Poems is the single most influential poetic work of the post-World War II era, with over 1,000,000 copies now in print. "Howl was Allen's metamorphosis from quiet, brilliant, burning bohemian scholar trapped by his flames and repressions to epic vocal bard."--Michael McClure "It is the poet, Allen Ginsberg, who has gone, in his own body, through the horrifying experiences described from life in these pages." --William Carlos Williams "At the height of his bardic powers, Allen Ginsberg could terrify the authorities with the mere utterance of the syllable "om" as he led street throngs of citizens protesting the Vietnam War. Ginsberg reigned as the raucous poet of American hippiedom and as a literary pioneer whose freewheeling masterwork "Howl" prevailed against government censorship in a landmark obscenity trial 50 years ago." -- New York Times "Fifty years ago, on October 3, Judge Clayton Horn ruled that Allen Ginsberg's great epic Beat-era poem HOWL was not obscene but instead, a work of literary and social merit. This ruling allowed for the publication of HOWL and exonerated the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who faced jail time and a fine 50 years ago for publishing 'HOWL.'" -- Allen Ginsberg was born June 3, 1926, the son of Naomi Ginsberg, Russian émigré, and Louis Ginsberg, lyric poet and schoolteacher, in Paterson, New Jersey. To these facts Ginsberg adds: "High school in Paterson till 17, Columbia College, merchant marine, Texas and Denver copyboy, Times Square, amigos in jail, dishwashing, book reviews, Mexico City, market research, Satori in Harlem, Yucatan and Chiapas 1954, West Coast 3 years. Later Arctic Sea trip, Tangier, Venice, Amsterdam, Paris, read at Oxford Harvard Columbia Chicago, quit, wrote Kaddish 1959, made tape to leave behind & fade in Orient awhile. Carl Solomon to whom Howl is addressed, is a intuitive Bronx dadaist and prose-poet."… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Evadare
To really, really, really get the impact of this, you need to find someone with a good voice and stage presence and mark off as much time as is necessary to perform it ALOUD.

Poetry is actually the art form that straddles the line between literature and music, and no one embodied that fusion more
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purely than the Beats, and 'Howl' is probably the single best enactment of this principle.

As an aural experience, 'Howl' is one of the greatest musical pieces I've ever known. Reading it silently on the page is like skimming a musical score without hearing it played.
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LibraryThing member regularguy5mb
I want to read this aloud, shout it from the rooftops; just as it should be. Ginsberg lays out a world in which nothing is alright, everything is falling apart, and we really haven't gotten much better since then. Howl is one of those works that is polarizing, you either love it or hate it. If
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you're unsure, read it again. I find it rare that anybody falls in the middle on Howl, because it is so visceral, it will either turn you into a beat, or turn your stomach. This is Ginsberg at the top of his game.

Also included in this book are America (which is one of my all-time favorites, especially as read aloud by Ginsberg) and A Supermarket in California (in which Ginsberg follows Walt Whitman through a modern American establishment). Ginsberg was a huge Whitman fan, imitating his style quite often.

Even if you don't end up liking any of the poems in this book, it's still worth reading. Ginsberg is one of those poets that helps you figure out things about yourself.
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LibraryThing member Iacobus
This poem is a true classic. Its power lies not in its allusions, but in the raw power of its poetry. It is a work of language, a work of feeling, a work of sound, of music. Yes, as other reviewers have said, this is a work to read aloud. If you read this in a crowd, at least try to hear the words
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out loud in your head.

If the poem leaves you mystified, you've failed to feel it. Certainly, a knowledge of the Beats and the US in the 1950s deepens appreciation. But it's not a work of the head.

Allen Ginsberg - a crazed prophet of his time. As with all art, you don't need to agree with the artist to appreciate his creation. And for that extra frisson - do what I did, and buy it from City Lights in San Francisco.
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LibraryThing member ztutz
My college roommate's favorite poem - typically recited loudly when weaving home of a Saturday night. Still pithy, carefully crafted, and wonderful to speak aloud.
LibraryThing member cinesnail88
Having loved Allen Ginsberg for as long as I have, I can't believe I put off reading Howl until now. Of course, it did help to be able to buy it directly from City Lights, but still, there's no excuse for how long this took me. Read it, love it, what else can I say?
LibraryThing member Jakeofalltrades
The book of poems they tried to ban, it's still a pleasure to read after all these years. The title poem, "Howl" is a massive hit to the senses, with both divine and earthly imagery that inspires. Other poems in the collection, such as "America" are a critique of consumer society, ahead of his time
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and still relevant in the 21st Century. A great introduction to Ginsberg's works even though the poet himself did not regard "Howl" as his best poem.
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LibraryThing member abirdman
"I saw the best minds of my generation, destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked"

No more needs to be said. One poem that defined the fifties and sixties for many, including myself.
LibraryThing member AuntieClio
Oh, my beloved Howl. After each reading I find more depth, more which speaks to me. Allen Ginsberg has found a permanent place in my heart.
LibraryThing member latefordinner
An American love poem, prayer and lament, as powerfull now as when it was written. Our children are still sacrificed to Moloch. The Machinery of Night is still in place digital, darker and more dangerous. Neil Cassidy's ghost walks along counting railroad ties in eternity, followed by Allen
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chanting and playing the harmonium. Jack stumbles along behind swigging on a bottle of cheap burgundy.
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LibraryThing member guhlitz
I read this at a Borders in Mission Valley circa 2003 while drinking one of Border's fantastic lattes. I sat down in one of the cozy corners made available to the customers who choose to read a little before the purchase. Being that I was extremely familiar with Ginsberg at the time and heard much
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about the controversial poem, I was instantly headlong into the reading. Approximately forty pages in length, the continuity and stamina of the writing moves it along quite quickly. The colorization of the words and content were amazing, erotic, and often times bringing images of pain and anguish into the heart which desires. I didn't purchase the poem on this day andf walked out of the comfortable Borders that day feeling accomplished, with only a touch of shame.
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LibraryThing member ThatsFresh
I was bought this book by my uncle as a gift while on a day trip to San Francisco thsi past spring. We visited the City Lights Bookstore and I was taught a little about the beat generation and all the radical poets coming to the bookstore to publish their works since at the time, no one else
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would've dared publish them.
I read the book in one day, and even though I tried to read slowly and get in tune with the language, I found it hard. The book brought up people I didnt know and social ideas I dont know the history of.
I didnt really enjoy this book, but I know it's because I know nothing of all the history behind it. I'd love to read up a bit more on all the subjects this book covers so that I can read it again in 5 or 10 years and read it with a better understanding.
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LibraryThing member librarybrandy
Maybe I'm just too old for this. I might have loved it in high school, possibly even college--or maybe not, because I've never really cared for beat poetry.

I can see the cultural Importance (yes, capital I) of Howl, but that doesn't mean it did much for me. It reads as a long list of all the
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could-have-beens he's met who have been destroyed by the cruel, cruel world. The second part is mostly a rant on how industrialization has destroyed, will destroy, everyone and everything. Part three--I'm with you in Rockland--seems to come to terms with the preceding sections, but still isn't exactly bright and cheery. It's almost like a really demented mash note.

The other pieces in this collection were a little better--I even almost liked Transcription of Organ Music. The non-Howl poems were slightly brighter, more hopeful, and lacked the dark, cooler-than-thou, subterranean coffeehouse vibe.

Hey, I said I don't like beat poetry.
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LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
The poems here are classics and wonderful reads, but this isn't the edition I'd recommend. Aside from being an awkward size that will easily get lost on your shelp (or even your desk), for someone who isn't familiar with Ginsberg's work, footnotes are nearly a necessity, and here you don't have
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them. This certainly isn't the most convenient copy of his poetry, but if you simply want the words and already have a loose background on him or the beats in general, this is all you need to feel the poems themselves, which are classic, threatening, and still powerful.
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LibraryThing member TiffanyAK
This is definitely a must-read, thanks to its great significance in the realm of literature, but is also very strange and hard to evaluate. It's definitely unlike anything you ever read before, in an awesome way. There will likely be some parts that you love the sound and rhythm of, as well as some
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parts that weird you out. In any case, you will come away with a greater appreciation for the significance of what you have read than you could ever have by just simply hearing about it.
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LibraryThing member kencf0618
Great stuff, but it's difficult to put oneself in the pond that this poem made such a splash in; I saw a girl in a shopping mall the other day wearing a cap emblazed with "Porn Queen"! Still, I've often mused that I would have made a lousy hippie but a pretty good beatnik.
LibraryThing member uh8myzen
This poem blew my mind and to this day, the opening lines of this poem are among my favorite in all of poetic cannon. Ginsberg was a poetic genius who like Kerouac, was among the great chroniclers of the beat generation.
LibraryThing member seanj
I thought it was cool and edgy when I was younger, but it doesn't do much for me anymore. I still like "Supermarket in California." And "Howl" is a great title.
LibraryThing member palaverofbirds
Dutifully constructed and perverse rants against society. Celebration of what was cult and strange in it's time. Wheels over introspective poets who compare a snowy winter's garden to the status of their soul - boring. The world needs more Ginsbergs.
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
I might have considered this 'raw and intense' once upon a time. But now I am increasingly starting to think that manufactured drama and phony rebellions and the whole era of the 1950s-60s are becoming as banal and useless as the materialistic society it hates. What is to be done.
LibraryThing member DianaLynn5287
Arguably one of the best poems to come out of the 20th century. Along with many well written other works, this book is a treasure to have.
LibraryThing member HowlAtCLP
This book has been in print continuously from City Lights since 1956.
LibraryThing member gbill
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix…” And so begins the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg, a rambling, drug-inspired beat classic. I want to love it but can’t;
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I recommend Kerouac’s prose instead. This edition also includes several of Ginsberg’s other works from the mid-fifties, such as “America” (“America when will end the human war? Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.”); these are also hit-and-miss.
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LibraryThing member Sylak
Although I couldn't remember a specific moment in my life when I personally had taken the time to pick up and read Ginsberg myself, I think, that as with so many other important works of cultural literature, I must have somehow absorbed much of it through my skin over the years.

I had taken for
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granted that I liked Ginsberg.
But had I actually read him or not?
This situation clearly needed to be resolved.

So, the other day I picked up a copy of Howl and started to read.
Immediately, I was reminded of the first time I read Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, and I knew from the first few lines that this was definitely my scene. Quickly, my over-active imagination started playing cinema to the plain text which my eyes perceived.
After a few pages, I got greedy though; and decided to see if I could track down a recording of Ginsberg himself reading the poem out loud. In hindsight, that was probably my great sin.
I think that by this stage I had hyped the whole experience up to such a degree of spiritual ecstasy, that if the word of God had flown from his lips carried forth by a choir of angels or sirens sang sweet verses to my ears it would have been a let down.
Ginsberg's reading by no means lessens my appreciation of his work, and like I mentioned, my unrealistically high personal expectations of the mans own voice somehow echoing the power of his verse is my own fault not his. Still, it was not all bad listening to his recitals.
Ginsberg's reading of 'America' was much more revealing to listen to than I got from simply reading it to myself the first time.

By the end, I both enjoyed listening to him and reading the book of poems myself.

'Howl'' was everything I'd anticipated it to be, dark and full of melancholy - just what I'd wanted.
'America' on the other hand was full of cheek and wit and had me laughing out loud!

All in all, I can now say with certainly that "I like Ginsberg", what's more, I'll be seeking out some of his other works, and I'll definitely be reading 'Howl' again before this month is through.
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LibraryThing member LibroLindsay
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night!
LibraryThing member mkelly
"Howl" is unforgettable, impactful, mesmerizing, powerful, painful.




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