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.'" -- Pacifica.org 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."
Poetry is actually the art form that straddles the line between literature and music, and no one embodied that fusion more 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.
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.
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.
No more needs to be said. One poem that defined the fifties and sixties for many, including myself.
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.
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 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.
I had taken for 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.