Howl and Other Poems
The prophetic poem that launched a generation when it was first published in 1956 is here presented in a commemorative fortieth Anniversary Edition.When the book arrived from its British printers, it was seized almost immediately by U.S. Customs, and shortly thereafter the San Francisco police arrested its publisher and editor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, together with City Lights Bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao. The two of them were charged with disseminating obscene literature, and the case went to trial in the municipal court of Judge Clayton Horn. A parade of distinguished literary and academic witnesses persuaded the judge that the title poem was indeed not obscene and that it had “redeeming social significance.”Thus was Howl & Other Poems freed to become the single most influential poetic work of the post-World War II era, with over 900,000 copies now in print."

Howl and Other Poems Details

TitleHowl and Other Poems
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 1st, 2001
PublisherCity Lights
ISBN-139780872863101
Rating
GenrePoetry, Classics, Fiction

Howl and Other Poems Review

  • Bill Kerwin
    January 1, 1970
    Easy to overstimate Allen Ginsberg. Easy to underestimate him too.There are—if you leave out the political, religious and major historical figures—only about two dozen or so 20th century cultural icons, and Ginsberg is one of them—right up there with Einstein, Bogart, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe. In the 60's, his face was ubiquitous, and the Ginsberg poster you picked out for yourself showed the kind of Ginsberg you aspired to be: Ginsberg in Uncle Sam hat, naked Ginsberg embracing naked Pete Easy to overstimate Allen Ginsberg. Easy to underestimate him too.There are—if you leave out the political, religious and major historical figures—only about two dozen or so 20th century cultural icons, and Ginsberg is one of them—right up there with Einstein, Bogart, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe. In the 60's, his face was ubiquitous, and the Ginsberg poster you picked out for yourself showed the kind of Ginsberg you aspired to be: Ginsberg in Uncle Sam hat, naked Ginsberg embracing naked Peter Orlovsky, psychedelic “Moses” Ginsberg holding up two stone tablets of the Law of “Who to be Kind to,” or Ginsberg protesting in the snow and wearing a big sign that says “Pot is Fun.” He was a hipster, a hedonist and a holy man, standing up for every form of free expression you could imagine, smiling from the walls of every coffeehouse, every bookstore, every other two room apartment that you knew. And it was hard to get past all those posters and just sit down and read the poetry.But if you got past all that, it was still hard to separate the political from the poetic. His most famous poem "Howl" was the center of a notorious free speech fight, and many of the later poems, from “America” to “Wichita Vortex Sutra” and beyond, could not be fully understood without some knowledge of the protest movements of the time. However, if you did actually sit down and read some of his poetry--away from the context, away from the intoxicating counter-cultural atmosphere--you might begin to suspect that Ginsberg the Poetry Icon was superior to Irwin Allen Ginsberg from Newark, New Jersey, the guy who actually sat down and wrote what is often—frankly--mediocre verse.Part of the problem stems from the length of Ginsberg's free verse line: it is indeed a very long line, habitually a few beats longer than a dactylic hexameter. (Even when he breaks a line into W.C.Williams “triads,” it still seems to be long.) Most poets who choose such a line as their vehicle (Kit Smart, Martin Tupper, Whitman, Fearing, Jeffers, Ginsberg) come off sounding biblical and orotund in long passages which lack lyricism and are often indistinguishable from mediocre prose. (C.K. Williams--perhaps because of his narrative drive--is the notable exception here). When you add to this the fact that Ginsberg delights in improvisation, and once embraced as his model the “no revisions necessary” Kerouac prose style, it is little wonder that many of his lines fail to sing.But, as I said, it is easy to underestimate him too, particularly if we “just sit down and read” his poetry, divorcing it from the world of cultural influences and public performance that he loved. For example, if you sit down to read “Howl,” and it seems too ponderous, too much like the prophet Jeremiah wailing for all the pitiful beatnik dead, just stop for a minute and go download some early 50's jazz--Herbie Nichols maybe, or Lee Konitz or the MJQ—and play it quietly in the background while you stand up and recite the poem aloud to yourself—swaying a little, perhaps even snapping your fingers. You may begin to discover unexpected deposits of gentle humor, the occasional pocket of sick humor, and even a little slapstick from time to time, and also sense--knitting the four movements of this magnificent performance piece together—an overarching, self-conscious hipster irony which refuses for even one second to take Ginsberg the Prophet or Ginsberg the Poetry Icon completely seriously.As you probably can tell, I love “Howl.” I think it is a masterwork of American poetry, unique and irreplaceable. This collections also contains four shorter pieces almost as good: ”A Supermarket in California” (an encounter with Walt Whitman, who is “eyeing the grocery boys”), ”America” (a love letter to the USA and a protest poem at the same time, ending with the memorable line, “America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel"), “Sunflower Sutra” (a conversation with Kerouac in Frisco about a gray dead sunflower which ends with a “sermon” proclaiming that “we are all beautiful golden sunflowers inside”), and “In the Baggage Room at Greyhound” (Irwin Allen Ginsberg's farewell to a job he obviously hated).These five poems make up only 70% of this small 50 page collection, and the rest of the poems included here I don't think are worth reading at all. (But then I didn't experiment with jazz in the background. So I just might be underestimating Ginsberg once again.)
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  • Paquita Maria Sanchez
    January 1, 1970
    Preface: Though I enjoyed this book as a whole, the focus this evening will be on Howl. Why this one alone? Simply put, I am writing these jumbled thoughts as a dedication to a friend. Rather, I am dedicating this to a cluster of friends, each of whom have chosen, in one form or another, to leave this earthly plain and shatter vehemently into oblivion. Suffice it to say that this series of words and interpretations will be highly personal, and therefore guided by inflated emotions which have for Preface: Though I enjoyed this book as a whole, the focus this evening will be on Howl. Why this one alone? Simply put, I am writing these jumbled thoughts as a dedication to a friend. Rather, I am dedicating this to a cluster of friends, each of whom have chosen, in one form or another, to leave this earthly plain and shatter vehemently into oblivion. Suffice it to say that this series of words and interpretations will be highly personal, and therefore guided by inflated emotions which have forcefully skewed my view in favor of this poem. It was just too relevant, too well-timed, and exactly what I needed to hear at precisely the moment I was "hearing" it. Then again, perhaps that means that, in my raw state, I actually DID hear it and can give an experience-based, honest opinion founded in emotional relevance (I mean, it's poetry, right?). That is for you to decide, I suppose. Keep in mind, I know this is ham-handed. I find expressing myself to those that I love to generally be difficult, so (since I cannot bring myself to tell them how I feel) I will just spew it here to a bunch of (mostly) strangers. My apologies...it just had to be done. Also, it highlights the reason that I am so keen on this poem (and this collection, which is excellent as a whole). As I sat at my desk on Monday evening engaging myself with Howl and the internet in varying doses, I received a call from an old friend. This call informed me that our yearly pattern had not ceased its locomotion: another friend had taken his life; another spastic, trouble-making, genuine, crass, rambunctious, unique, ever-smiling, glorious, damaged person had rippled the rivers with what we didn't know about his insides. Like those before him, the type of person that no one forgets, even after a very brief encounter. Those who demanded too much of you; their presence called for your eyes, their voice your ears, and their memory a sturdy bedroll in your cranium. People who will be missed by many, and, oddly enough, exactly the sort of people with the type of pain, obstacles, self-doubts, self-deprecating rants, and self-destructive tendencies that Howl addresses. The wonderful and wounded. Or rather, the wonderfully wounded. You are all familiar with the intro, but it begs repeating for the sake of this dedication: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, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machin- ery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene- ment roofs illuminated, who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war, who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull, who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn- ing their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall, who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York, who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, al- cohol and cock and endless balls, incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo- tionless world of Time between, Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn...Perhaps part of what made people feel so invested in and comforted by the beat movement wasn't just the hip facade, the "cool kid," rebel-without-a-cause nonsense, or even the fact that the stream-of-consciousness writing style and (often) lurid subject matter was just "weird" and "fresh." I think a part of it was also the fact that it was purifying, like how they say a fast makes you feel sick at first, and yet in the end more clean. Verbal vomit, is what I mean to get across. Maybe the notion that the cyclical, shrapnel-like thoughts of the scatterbrained, those individuals unnaturally removed from modern society (or even, sometimes, from Reality) still had a niche of people willing to listen to, and maybe even understand them in a million different and ever-changing ways, was a truly comforting thought to many of the insane and irreplaceable, no matter how good or bad they may have been at expressing themselves, and no matter how awful and isolating it may have initially felt to actually do so. I certainly related to Ginsberg's underbelly of people. I additionally relate to his pain at their loss. I find great tragedy in the fact that some of the most fascinating people I have ever known thought for so long and so hard that they talked themselves into habits, out of love, and away from a world that endlessly appreciated them. Ginsberg felt this, too...the way that modern society chews up and spits out some of its greatest members simply because they cannot cope with its pressures, its rules and expectations, its ugliness and fright; those who left because they falsely felt that they either were unprepared to endure it, or simply didn't deserve it. Howl is a poem for mourning the odd, endless ones. It carves with a jagged blade straight into the bellies of those both saintly and furious, but it is simultaneously the anti-venom for exactly the type if poison that it emits. Embrace in when the time is right (wrong). And please, be good to yourself!
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  • R.
    January 1, 1970
    Allen Ginsberg, a sad and lonely man, wrote this to impress Kerouac, another sad and lonely man. Over the years, a lot of sad and lonely people haven't gotten over the how much that first fucking line resonates with them. The whole best minds/generation/destroyed/madness line.Ten years ago, this was a 5-star poem. Ten years from now, it will be a 3-star poem. That's just called growing up, folks.
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  • Florencia
    January 1, 1970
    You will not like this. Like we use to say, vengan de a uno.So, “Howl”. My rating is based mostly on my experience with that long poem.I admire any work filled with sincerity and lyrically intense lines (when found). Powerful, raw images that expose an unknown world. I understand this book's historical context and what it represented at the time; storming in with a breath of fresh air, breaking the mold and dealing with some themes and views I also agree with. Well, except for the endless refere You will not like this. Like we use to say, vengan de a uno.So, “Howl”. My rating is based mostly on my experience with that long poem.I admire any work filled with sincerity and lyrically intense lines (when found). Powerful, raw images that expose an unknown world. I understand this book's historical context and what it represented at the time; storming in with a breath of fresh air, breaking the mold and dealing with some themes and views I also agree with. Well, except for the endless references to drug abuse and alcohol, regarded, through the years, as a source of creativity and a way to express yourself against reigning social conventions; a dangerously infantile waste of a life in some cases. Debauchery, consumption of drugs and alcohol as a statement, a sort of protest against materialism and conformity. Mindless attitudes that make you different, that keep you safely away from anything mainstream and doesn't lead you to an unbearable feeling of emptiness... Sexual liberation—being free of any dogma, any prejudice, being able to enjoy complete freedom to love—understood as sleeping with whoever crosses your street and then writing yourself an ode celebrating those actions; trying to be so different that you end up being as ordinary as any other mortal. It was their times, of course. And this is simply an opinion.Anyway, whereas I do appreciate the honesty and the experiences and sentiments that Ginsberg brought to these pages, I feel like many significant matters get lost in a haze of pretentiousness, self-indulgence and not an extraordinary writing (I take away the political context and there's not much to hold onto), in this particular case and from my perspective. A perspective that, needless to say, doesn't epitomize the absolute truth nor tries to. I was not expecting a bunch of puritan euphemisms and songs on a prairie, but it was simply too much and I struggled to finish the whole thing. Even though I always say to myself that literature does not have to be a source of misery so if I am not enjoying a book, I can leave it behind, I did try to finish this one because, well, it had less than 100 pages... don't be so lazy, girl.A really short book that became too painful to finish. You can imagine. You can also say: "Two stars. Are you out of your mind? This is pure sentiment, pure poetry meant to stir your most hidden emotions." "Oh, grow up" with a Joan Rivers' kind of tone. And I will respect that. However, for me it was not and the only thing I stirred was some benevolent coffee that helped me throughout this arduous journey.The rest of the poems were a little less painful; nothing more. I kind of liked “Transcription of Organ Music”. Some good lines, from time to time. “America” is a decent pearl containing the essence of the Beat generation. “Song” was a nice change of pace.Beats and me just don't get along. I still have Naked Lunch to read. I wonder...Nov 24, 2015* Also on my blog.
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  • Brent Legault
    January 1, 1970
    Muddled, addled and overrated. In fact, any rating, even a single star or half-moon, is too much for this amateur-hour of a "poem." It might have played well when shouted out to a roomful of arrogant drunks, but on the page it droops, it teeters under the weight of all of those ungainly adjectivies and finally collapses in a fog of its own flatulance. I saw the best minds of my generation ignore this long, long limerick. Now, only nostalgists and know-naughts still cling to its pages of ill-repu Muddled, addled and overrated. In fact, any rating, even a single star or half-moon, is too much for this amateur-hour of a "poem." It might have played well when shouted out to a roomful of arrogant drunks, but on the page it droops, it teeters under the weight of all of those ungainly adjectivies and finally collapses in a fog of its own flatulance. I saw the best minds of my generation ignore this long, long limerick. Now, only nostalgists and know-naughts still cling to its pages of ill-repute. Why?
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  • Pauline
    January 1, 1970
    My god.Reading Howl was like getting stuck for an hour in the brain of a rebellious, pubescent, sexist loudmouth. Between every sentence transpires the hubris of being THE NEW POET, and of being A COOL OUTCAST, and a member of that little BOYS CLUB Ginsberg brings up again and again although it weakens his writing every time. There's a faint, insufferable music of puerility behind it all : most notably when Ginsberg brings up constantly the names of his famous friends, brings down women and (ew! My god.Reading Howl was like getting stuck for an hour in the brain of a rebellious, pubescent, sexist loudmouth. Between every sentence transpires the hubris of being THE NEW POET, and of being A COOL OUTCAST, and a member of that little BOYS CLUB Ginsberg brings up again and again although it weakens his writing every time. There's a faint, insufferable music of puerility behind it all : most notably when Ginsberg brings up constantly the names of his famous friends, brings down women and (ew!) vaginas, and of course relapses into phallic metaphors every two pages. Love-child of an angsty teen, a 1950's jock and a wannabe anarchist, the book is always on the verge of being good, always grazing brilliance for a word or two, for a verse or two, and then back to complacent, biographical, drunken mediocrity.I heard so much about his poetry. I heard so much about the Beats Generation. My bookstore has a special, swagger section just for them pretty boys, you know. The more I read them though, the more I see how terribly overrated they are, just as a bunch of privileged bullies would be in a common high school. For a reason I cannot begin to fathom, they just kept up the illusion going in the literary community instead of peaking at 17.I don't see what Ginsberg brings to the table; what he invented, what he created with this; I don't see, read, feel the HOWL he's trying (is he even trying?) to express.
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  • Steven Godin
    January 1, 1970
    Nothing like a bit of controversy to keep the establishment ticking over, and in "Howl" it's easy to see why as this was seen as a shocking and powerful piece of obscenity in the eyes of some, but for many more it's viewed as a celebrated manifesto of great importance for the beat Generation of the 1950s that helped to stick a big fat middle finger up to sexual repression and capitalism. This is a vital collection of Ginsberg's work that will always stand the test of time.
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    I feel similar ways about Allen Ginsberg and Adele. While I appreciate the skill behind both of their work, I find both of their material overwrought, contrary to popular opinion. Yes, I see how Ginsberg's poetry revolted against oppressive forces and mainstream, heteronormative America. Its lack of style and nuance still frustrates me. Props to him for lending fire to a revolution that uplifted marginalized voices, even if I myself find his writing unfulfilling and too frantic, despite the posi I feel similar ways about Allen Ginsberg and Adele. While I appreciate the skill behind both of their work, I find both of their material overwrought, contrary to popular opinion. Yes, I see how Ginsberg's poetry revolted against oppressive forces and mainstream, heteronormative America. Its lack of style and nuance still frustrates me. Props to him for lending fire to a revolution that uplifted marginalized voices, even if I myself find his writing unfulfilling and too frantic, despite the positive impact of its shock value.
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  • Rakhi Dalal
    January 1, 1970
    I had goosebumps while reading Howl. It's like nothing I have ever read!
  • Duane
    January 1, 1970
    Considered a masterpiece of the "beat generation" writers, it reads like the jumbled rambling of a drug crazed alcoholic, preoccupied with sex and spiritual enlightenment, while battling mental instability and depression. But I "get it", and I appreciate the significance of it's contribution to the history of the hipster generation, and how they and their writing influenced the culture of the 20th century.
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  • Scarlet Cameo
    January 1, 1970
    Howl“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, draggin themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dinamo in the machinery of night.”Me pregunto ¿Quién no habrá leído las primeras líneas de “Aullido”? Un poema que influenció ampliamente la poesía norteamericana del siglo XXI, creado y disfrutado más recitado que leído , pero que sobre todas las co Howl“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, draggin themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dinamo in the machinery of night.”Me pregunto ¿Quién no habrá leído las primeras líneas de “Aullido”? Un poema que influenció ampliamente la poesía norteamericana del siglo XXI, creado y disfrutado más recitado que leído , pero que sobre todas las cosas es tremendamente egoísta y socialmente masiva. Para Allen todo se trata de su círculo, de aquellos con los que convivió y cuáles fueron sus experiencias, se alejó de la rítmica y se enfocó en el sentimiento, y es por ello que terminó marcando una época por la sensación de desazón que desprenden sus versos, de que el mundo te ha traicionado, pero que al final te da esperanza. Dividido en cuatro partes, las tres primeras son sucias, apasionadas y tristes, la última sección lo deja claro: no están solos. Sin importar si están en el psiquiátrico o en las abandonas calles de la ciudad, en la locura o en la drogadicción se tienen a ellos mismos y su libertad para ser, hablar y estar. Para mi Aullido es un poema directo y maravilloso, que muestra a los marginados y a los olvidados como sólo otro individuo marginado podría haberlo hecho....A supermarket in CaliforniaQuien hayan leído algo acerca de Ginsberg sabe de la gran influencia que tuvo Walt Whitman sobre él, y este poema puede ser tanto una oda a su persona como una visión de la sociedad común, de las situaciones del día a día, y dela transformación del mundo para bien o para mal.…AmericaEste es especial. Personalmente creo que junto con Aullido fue mi favorito. Es una conversación directa con América, donde Allen expone su sensación de traición, de desasosiego, de haber dado y no recibir nada a cambio. Conforme leía mi cabeza no deja de pensar en “Born in the USA” de Bruce Springsteen, ambas tienen ese mismo mensaje expresado desde la singularidad a la colectividad, sólo que aquí no hay música audible que nos haga omitir la letra, aquí todo es directo.”America when will you be angelic?”…Otros poemas de la colección son Transcripción de música de organo,Sutra de girasol y En la consigna de Greyhound. Todos ellos son buenos pero carezco de notas respecto a ellos debido a que los leí mientras iba de pie en el metro a las 8 de la mañana, por tanto no puedo reseñarlos de manera correcta sin que se me mezclen los mensajes de cada uno.Esta colección incluye además algunos primeros poemas los cuales difieren considerablemente respecto a los anteriores por su estructura: aquí se mantiene la rítmica clásica, la longitudes más corta y hay un mayor uso del sentido figurado, no obstante el sentimiento triste y perdido esinamovible.Al final esta es una colección que merece ser leída (al menos por Howl y America), ya sea que te guste o no la poesía, porque el trabajo de Ginsberg es distinto de la poesía clásica, más cercano a una buena conversación que a un compilado de versos que disfrutar en tu soledad.
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  • Roy Lotz
    January 1, 1970
    When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks? On my recent trip to San Francisco I was obliged to buy a copy of this book from the City Lights bookstore. Well, that isn’t the whole story. I visited the store without knowing anything of its history, left with a copy of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius, and then shamefacedly returned to pick up this book when my mother informed me, five minutes later, that it is famous for the “Howl” trial. I had heard recordings of Ginsber When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks? On my recent trip to San Francisco I was obliged to buy a copy of this book from the City Lights bookstore. Well, that isn’t the whole story. I visited the store without knowing anything of its history, left with a copy of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius, and then shamefacedly returned to pick up this book when my mother informed me, five minutes later, that it is famous for the “Howl” trial. I had heard recordings of Ginsberg reciting “Howl” many times, but I had never actually owned a copy of this poem. Now, thanks to the timely intervention of my mom, I am bona fide hip.Like so many obscene books of bygone ages, “Howl” seems remarkably tame nowadays, and it is hard to believe any institution would go through the bother of banning and confiscating it. As in so many other cases of censorship, the attempt to suppress the work backfired, helping to turn poem and poet into icons. In our present, enlightened age, we have realized that, when anything can be published, nothing can be shocking or subversive; so oversaturation accomplishes in a stroke what censorship failed to accomplish in generations. But I am getting rather off the track of this book review.It is difficult to evaluate “Howl,” since everything innovative about it has been thoroughly absorbed into the culture: obscenity, drugs, jazz, eastern mantras, free-form poems that follow the breath, and so on. Ginsberg’s voice is still with us; and you can hear it for yourself if you go to the right college campus—to pick just one example, New Paltz, in upstate New York, has many psychedelic, socially conscious, very enlightened free-form poets. This is not to say that this poem is no longer enjoyable, only that its appeal is more as a fossil than as a revelation now.But it is a delightful fossil. For with Ginsberg’s “Howl” I hear the first grumblings of a new phenomenon in society: a group of disaffected youths becoming self-aware as a loose movement—as a counter-culture. Now, there have always been disaffected people who have turned to alcohol, drugs, sex, foreign faiths, and in general that peculiar mix of mysticism and hedonism that gives solace to those who feel they do not have a place in their own society. Yet it was not until the Beats, I believe, that this now quintessential experience was turned into art that defined a whole generation. The irony, of course, is that as soon as a counter-culture becomes faddish, its harmless aspects are absorbed into society, and its radical aspects swept to the side, until the revolt loses its teeth. In both Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Kerouac’s On the Road I see young men, profoundly disenchanted and disconnected with their world, deeply disgusted with the values of their society, but without much to offer in the way of replacement. Instead they wander “starving hysterical naked” across the country, in search of some sort of epiphany that will clarify their predicament—an elusive truth, to be pursued on highways, in bedrooms, and in the altered states of the mind. Yet until they reach this truth, all they have to offer in opposition to “Moloch” is hedonism—which is exactly the same dilemma unsuccessfully faced by Babbitt. Needless to say I do not find either alternative convincing, but that does not mean I cannot enjoy Ginsberg’s poems. Now, I do think the book format does not do Ginsberg justice, since the lines are organized by his breath and demand to be read, preferably by him. I will always remember laying awake in my bed in high school, listening to Ginsberg reciting “Howl” and “America,” and feeling strange stirrings of literary rebellion that I could not hope to articulate. A literary triumph, perhaps not, but an essential landmark on the country’s and my own maturity.
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  • Fede
    January 1, 1970
    Once a classmate of mine got high on acid on her way to school and had a bad trip that would last for hours - perhaps until the following day. She sat next to me (there were two of us at each desk; ours was in the last row) and rested her head on my shoulder: long blonde hair, starry blue eyes, a dreamy look on her face. She slooooooowly opened her bag - you know, that mesmerising lysergic slowness - and started to display her survival kit on the desk: phone, chewing gum, cigarettes, more or les Once a classmate of mine got high on acid on her way to school and had a bad trip that would last for hours - perhaps until the following day. She sat next to me (there were two of us at each desk; ours was in the last row) and rested her head on my shoulder: long blonde hair, starry blue eyes, a dreamy look on her face. She slooooooowly opened her bag - you know, that mesmerising lysergic slowness - and started to display her survival kit on the desk: phone, chewing gum, cigarettes, more or less the same stuff I had previously displayed on my side. After twenty minutes or so, she looked up and said hello, her head still on my shoulder; then, the acid really started to make itself felt. She suddenly sat up staring at the ceiling and said there was a cloud in the classroom. Yep: a big dark cloud hovering over us that was getting larger and larger and would swallow us all and we'd never come back and the fucker would never go away and God only knows what else she must have rambled about, because at that point she buried her face in my hair - leaving a chewing gum and a good deal of saliva in it, by the way - trembling, drooling, crying. Luckily enough, the boys sitting in front of us were big enough to hide us both. Then she became silent and spent the rest of the morning in catalepsy. It was like sitting beside a life-size Barbie doll. The point is: that girl's writing skills would have been better than Ginsberg's. I mean, at least her trippy visions had a poetic side this book lacks completely. I read "Howl" out of sheer curiosity: it's such a classic that one must give it a go, sooner or later. This is what I thought. Turned out I could have done without Ginsberg (and 90% of the beatniks, for that matter) but it's always good to know that a book that is universally praised as a milestone is definitely not for me. It encourages me never to trust the majority when it comes to literature. I'd rather listen to a few outsiders and blame my unfortunate choices on myself. "Howl". The most famous and quoted of Allen Ginsberg's poems ("I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness..."). The only decent prose-poem in this collection, in my opinion - to a certain extent. The first and best part is a vision of drug- and alcohol-induced delirium, youngsters drenched in sweat and other fluids gaping in the darkness of lousy rooms in seedy blocks, neon signs, street lights and noises, beer cans, garbage, cum-soaked beds, cars, sex, Pop Art imagery.The second part reminds me of the Old Testament tirades, although the effect is far from being convincing. Ginsberg yells at least fifty times the word 'Moloch' ('lord/king/master') referring to the symbols of the political and economic system, in a failed attempt to sound like Isaiah or Jeremiah. Here's where he loses the plot once and for all. The third part is indeed entirely dedicated to Carl Solomon, the poet Ginsberg met in a psychiatric hospital while visiting his mother ('Rockland' hospital, actually Greystone Park, New Jersey): more ramblings leading nowhere. The 'Footnote to Howl' part is just ridiculous. What was supposed to be a... I don't know... a pantheistic hymn to the 'here and now' is nothing but a series of clichés and gratuitous grossness:"The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand is holy!"As for the language, oh it's not that great. Okay, I get it: writing about cocks and assholes and fucks and cum - and calling them by their name - was a revolutionary act in literature, especially in poetry. But maybe, and I said maybe, there should be some contents too. A meaning. Otherwise, I can't see any difference between the ossified formalism of the Old Masters on their pedestals and the empty formalism of the Young Rebels in their shit: it's pure mannerism either way. The other poems featuring in this little volume are not good enough to compensate. "A Supermarket in California" is a prose-poem in which Allen 'meets' Walt Whitman in the corridors of a supermarket, while the old poet's eyeing the boys around him and picking vegetables and cans and meat. Ginsberg calls him "dear father" and "courage-teacher", thus establishing some sort of spiritual communion between the long-dead poet and himself. Let aside that I hate Whitman's "Leaves of Grass", I find such parallels quite inappropriate and pretentious. A writer must refer to nobody but himself. Writing is a personal achievement, not a legacy. We can't really 'learn' how to write or what to write about. Either it comes from within or it doesn't come at all. "Transcription of Organ Music" is the description of a peaceful moment in the poet's life: his cottage in Berkeley, the flowers, the sky, the garden, music in the background... no more filthy apartments in NYC, huh? How come good old Allen has left the cold and the dirt and the hunger behind? Nice and cosy, but I really can't see any poetry here. "Sunflower Sutra" is much better: while sitting beside Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg's attention focusses on a sunflower growing in the dirt near the Berkeley railroad and draws a parallel between the pitiful, disfigured beauty of the flower and the ugliness of its surroundings. The point is that such parallel is merely aesthetic. Ginsberg' s writing - I absolutely refuse to call it 'poetry' - is just too shallow for him to go any deeper than that. "You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower! And you locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!" See what I'm talking about?I'm not going to discuss "America", kind of a political manifesto of the Beat movement. One wonders what kind of political opinion, commitment, interest might fit in Ginsberg's way of life. I mean, you can't praise madness and oblivion and then make moral statements. You just can't. Unless you're a hypocrite, either in your life or in your statements. The last part gets even worse: cheesy, mawkish, mercifully short poems such as "Song":"... but we carry the weight wearily,and so must restin the arms of loveat last,must rest in the armsof love."For God's sake. After reading this stuff I wish my lovely, fucked up schoolmate had written some poetry. Or maybe she did?I wonder what became of her.
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  • Glire
    January 1, 1970
    Many say that this is nothing more than an overrated, incomprehensible bunch of words about sex, alcohol and drugs. And they are right. But poetry is not about words, it's about the feeling they are capable of evoke. And Howl evoke a lot of feelings, at least for me. The eternal search of the meaning of life, the conflicted relation between the fear and mystification of death, the wonders and terrors of growing old. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysteric Many say that this is nothing more than an overrated, incomprehensible bunch of words about sex, alcohol and drugs. And they are right. But poetry is not about words, it's about the feeling they are capable of evoke. And Howl evoke a lot of feelings, at least for me. The eternal search of the meaning of life, the conflicted relation between the fear and mystification of death, the wonders and terrors of growing old. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, [...] who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried,who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality.” If you want to change the world but don't know how, if you want to leave your mark but fear you can't, if you are afraid of waking up one day with your dreams and ideals long forgotten and trapped in the mundane routine of the world. Then, you can relate with this "overrated, incomprehensible bunch of words about sex, alcohol and drugs", and that's all that matters. “We're not our skin of grime, we're not our dread bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we're all beautiful golden sunflowers inside, we're blessed by our own seed & golden hairy naked accomplishment- bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset.” (view spoiler)[Leído para el reto 12 months-12 classic: Julio. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Tom Quinn
    January 1, 1970
    So: a mi no me gusta poetry. I really really hate poems. I get it, on an analytical level: they're like ideas pared down into short little quick-fix portrayals and for all the amazing good they do with imagery and sharing the core of humanity, I really just don't like them. They're over too fast, they're too seemingly simple. And all that said, that is why I love "Howl" and Allen Ginsberg in general. "Howl" as a poem is long, longer than average, and yet still full of beautiful/ugly imagery - it So: a mi no me gusta poetry. I really really hate poems. I get it, on an analytical level: they're like ideas pared down into short little quick-fix portrayals and for all the amazing good they do with imagery and sharing the core of humanity, I really just don't like them. They're over too fast, they're too seemingly simple. And all that said, that is why I love "Howl" and Allen Ginsberg in general. "Howl" as a poem is long, longer than average, and yet still full of beautiful/ugly imagery - it's something that seems both tossed off in a single draft and also refined over and over again for purification. Beyond just "Howl" there is a lot in this tiny little tome that I relate to, especially Frost in a grocery store. Ginsberg gets me, or I guess more accurately I get him. It's got to be something about VOICE, that makes his poetry speak to me and makes so much other poetry NOT speak to me."Howl" is great, amazingly and blazingly American original, and that is what I love about it. Doesn't hurt that They Might Be Giants recorded a song based on it. The rest of this little book is gravy, but it's damn good gravy, and it's one of the only purchases I afforded myself after college—eight bucks that could have been spent towards a meal but instead went towards a tiny little thing that always hides behind the rest of my bookshelf and yet punches way more punch than anything else I've purchased in these many years developing a collection of literature.5 stars out of 5. One of the only poems I will ever recommend.
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  • Rania Attafi
    January 1, 1970
    mind blowing! i can't wait to read more of his poetry
  • Anuradha
    January 1, 1970
    I'm on a Beat experiment, of sorts, so bear with me. I'd read Howl a while back, but mostly because my then boyfriend was obsessed with Allen Ginsberg. He was prone to, er, herbaceous recreation, if you catch my drift. We were in a long distance relationship, and asking me to read vaguely psychedelic and experimental poems was his idea of foreplay. So I read Howl, I liked it. I didn't really care much about it beyond that, because I hadn't really wanted to read it then. I read Howl again after I I'm on a Beat experiment, of sorts, so bear with me. I'd read Howl a while back, but mostly because my then boyfriend was obsessed with Allen Ginsberg. He was prone to, er, herbaceous recreation, if you catch my drift. We were in a long distance relationship, and asking me to read vaguely psychedelic and experimental poems was his idea of foreplay. So I read Howl, I liked it. I didn't really care much about it beyond that, because I hadn't really wanted to read it then. I read Howl again after I read On the Road, and I actually, genuinely liked it. Which begs the question, why o why is Kerouac is considered the best of the Beats. Between this and the half of Naked Lunch I've read, I not only find Ginsberg and Burroughs smarter and more pleasant, but also less verbose and self-absorbed. My unadulterated hatred for Kerouac apart, I do have more to say about this collection. Full RTC.
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  • [Name Redacted]
    January 1, 1970
    I have a problem with Allen Ginsberg. It goes beyond how overrated I think he is, how mediocre his poetry seems to me. The titular poem of this volume in particular.It goes beyond his adolescent fixation on the prurient and the vulgar.See, I know for a fact that he was a pedophile. I studied under one of his friends, someone who admitted that Ginsberg was sexually attracted to little boys -- to the extent that Ginsberg's friends all refused to let the poet be alone (or, in some cases, even aroun I have a problem with Allen Ginsberg. It goes beyond how overrated I think he is, how mediocre his poetry seems to me. The titular poem of this volume in particular.It goes beyond his adolescent fixation on the prurient and the vulgar.See, I know for a fact that he was a pedophile. I studied under one of his friends, someone who admitted that Ginsberg was sexually attracted to little boys -- to the extent that Ginsberg's friends all refused to let the poet be alone (or, in some cases, even around) their small boys. He told us some of the things Ginsberg said about small boys. His support for N.A.M.B.L.A. was not grounded in concern over civil rights or freedom of speech; he had a personal stake in it.I had already concluded that I didn't like his poetry when i found this out, but it also makes it impossible for me to look back and analyze his poetry or his impact on American popular culture without seeing the little "tells" and hints at his actual...inclinations.So that's what I remember when I read this or hear people quoting it or read their discussions of it. A pedophile with a fondness for vulgarity, lionized.
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  • anna (readingpeaches)
    January 1, 1970
    i would say "suck my dick" but even that's too much respect for a boring pedophile
  • Timothy Urges
    January 1, 1970
    Ginsberg takes you there.
  • Robert Hobkirk
    January 1, 1970
    Ginsberg spent years, hunched over his typewriter, working at poetry, sending out poems with little validation for his talent from the gatekeepers of poetry, poetry magazines and literary journals. Then around 1956 City Lights published this little, very little book Howl. A year later Ginsberg got lucky when a plain-clothes SF cop came into the City Lights book Store and bought a copy of Howl, arresting the store manager and subsequently the publisher for dealing in obscene material. Bingo! With Ginsberg spent years, hunched over his typewriter, working at poetry, sending out poems with little validation for his talent from the gatekeepers of poetry, poetry magazines and literary journals. Then around 1956 City Lights published this little, very little book Howl. A year later Ginsberg got lucky when a plain-clothes SF cop came into the City Lights book Store and bought a copy of Howl, arresting the store manager and subsequently the publisher for dealing in obscene material. Bingo! With that Ginsberg was pushed into the limelight when the trial made the news. The copy I had said that almost a million copies were in print. I'm sure most readers were looking for what was so obscene - disappointed no doubt. I've listened to it many times on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkNp5...Howl, the first poem, has a wonderful rhythm and cadence to it. In the book Ginsberg said he got the title from Kerouac and some of the phrases.I don't understand all of it, for instance, what does "negro streets" mean, if anything? But I don't have to understand everything to enjoy poetry. After all, it's poetry not an essay. Different parts of the poem were written at different times, like the footnotes and part 2, which didn't seem like they fit with part one.There's a few other wonderful poems in the book. Like I said, it's a small book.
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  • Alfred Bates
    January 1, 1970
    Allen Ginsberg typifies the beat generation. Basically, a large amount of stoned/drunk pretentious hipsters who claimed they hated hipsters. And without much writing skill at that. The only exception to this is Jack Kerouac, who was actually a good writer, and did claim numerous times that he was not a beat. That being said, Howl is one of the longest, most terrible pieces of rubbish I've read in a long time. This deserves less than one star. I must admit, he does manage to incorporate a fair am Allen Ginsberg typifies the beat generation. Basically, a large amount of stoned/drunk pretentious hipsters who claimed they hated hipsters. And without much writing skill at that. The only exception to this is Jack Kerouac, who was actually a good writer, and did claim numerous times that he was not a beat. That being said, Howl is one of the longest, most terrible pieces of rubbish I've read in a long time. This deserves less than one star. I must admit, he does manage to incorporate a fair amount of energy into this, using the constant repetition of words, oftentimes striking ones such as "holy". (Gasps) This really seems to be more than a long kvetch more than anything. In my opinion, if you're going to kvetch, then at least incorporate some skill in it. In short, Allen, we know society is decaying, people are destroying their lives, and that you smoke marijuana every chance you get. It's really not helping your cause to write a terrible, tedious, poem about it. Also, who really cares? I pose this question towards you.[The best minds of your generation most likely thought Howl was terrible.:]
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  • Stephen M
    January 1, 1970
    "who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,with mot "who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,with mother finally *****, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger on the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you're really in the total animal soup of time—"Does it get any better than that?
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  • jo
    January 1, 1970
    ah, ranty rants and beautiful language and a deep deep sense of the long poetic sentence. and madness writ large. and industrial dissolution. and that wasteland that is america.
  • Tünde Ecem Kutlu
    January 1, 1970
    2nd reading: I understood more references and it only got better.what can I say? I'm apparently a sucker for beat poetry and anything Allen Ginsberg. this was a very short book of poems and the first one (Howl) was simply amazing. it made me feel so many things so suddenly. the rest of the poems are good as well but Howl was something else.
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  • Lexie
    January 1, 1970
    TBR jar pick for January 2016It's easy to underestimate the Beats now, in this era (of which the better parts, one might argue, they helped bring about). It's easy to dismiss it all as "attempting to shock" and "deliberately aggressive/anarchist/lewd/[whichever other titles have been slapped on this collection over the years]". They're Holden Caulfield, they're Jim Stark, they're Don Quixote tilting at windmills.But the truth is that the Beats, that Allen Ginsberg, that Howl, was revolutionary a TBR jar pick for January 2016It's easy to underestimate the Beats now, in this era (of which the better parts, one might argue, they helped bring about). It's easy to dismiss it all as "attempting to shock" and "deliberately aggressive/anarchist/lewd/[whichever other titles have been slapped on this collection over the years]". They're Holden Caulfield, they're Jim Stark, they're Don Quixote tilting at windmills.But the truth is that the Beats, that Allen Ginsberg, that Howl, was revolutionary at a time when poetry could spark a revolution - and at a time when such sparks were as much dangerous as they were subversive. The truth is that Ginsberg's audacity was not only ahead of his time then, but is also ahead of its time now.And there's something incredibly disheartening about that. But where the cultural value of this collection is concerned, it is also incredibly real.Because while some notions Ginsberg seems to deem the wildest of dreams have become a reality we are accustomed to today, others are ones we have yet to achieve. And ones we have become frightened to express. And this poetry, at its core, has not only retained its value, but also its very real implications. Despite an occasional cue taken from Baudelaire, Ginsberg's poetry was not l'art pour l'artisme. It was an art for the sake of change. Or - rather - art with the hope of change. It was art meant to provoke, meant to halt, meant to reflect the society until eventually the society reflected it the art in return.And we aren't there quite yet.And part of it - the part that laments an individual getting lost in a (harsh and unyielding) system - is the part which might well retain its relevance forever.
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  • Jason
    January 1, 1970
    It's been a fair few years since I read this, decided on a re-read because I'm going to read The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg soon, so thought it was best to have a refresh.I read Howl and then listened to the main himself performing it, best way to do it. Everytime time he says "eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio" it gives me goosebumps.One thing I noticed this time is that his poetry still angers people, still getting thumb dow It's been a fair few years since I read this, decided on a re-read because I'm going to read The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg soon, so thought it was best to have a refresh.I read Howl and then listened to the main himself performing it, best way to do it. Everytime time he says "eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio" it gives me goosebumps.One thing I noticed this time is that his poetry still angers people, still getting thumb downs on YouTube. What a guy!
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  • Daniel
    January 1, 1970
    Vibrante e impulsionante. Que mais dizer? Possivelmente muito.A edição bilingue da Relógio D'Água motivou-me a ler Uivo e Outros Poemas; nunca antes tinha lido um livro de poesia não lusófona. No fim tem ainda uma secção de notas que elucida sobre factos biográficos, históricos, geográficos, etc, importantes para a compreensão da obra.
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  • Milo
    January 1, 1970
    The United States Supreme Court has said that obscenity is construed to mean: having a substantial tendency to corrupt or arousing lustful desires. Is the word relevant to what the author of Howl is trying to say? Or did he just use it to be dirty and filthy. He sees what he terms as "an adonis of Denver. Joy to the memory of his innumerable conquests. Who went whoring through Colorado in myriad, stolen night cars. Neil Cassidy, secret hero of this poem, cocksman and adonis of Denver. Joy to the The United States Supreme Court has said that obscenity is construed to mean: having a substantial tendency to corrupt or arousing lustful desires. Is the word relevant to what the author of Howl is trying to say? Or did he just use it to be dirty and filthy. He sees what he terms as "an adonis of Denver. Joy to the memory of his innumerable conquests. Who went whoring through Colorado in myriad, stolen night cars. Neil Cassidy, secret hero of this poem, cocksman and adonis of Denver. Joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls. In empty lots, in diner backyards, movie houses, rickety rows, on mountain tops, in caves, or with gullet waitresses in familiar wayside, lonely petticoat upliftings. And especially secret gas station solipsisms of Jon's and hometown alleys too."Now I suppose he could have said that the secret hero of this poem, this cocksman, this adonis of Denver, joy to the memory of his innumerable conquests was at the Waldorf Historia, or at the Diner at Chasa's, or after one or two drinks was going to bed at the Stork Club. I presume he could have said that. But that isn't the kind of person he is writing about. It is not for us to choose the words. Mr. Ginsberg, in telling his story, is telling the story as he sees it. He is using his words. There are books that have the power to change men's minds and call attention to situations that are visible but unseen. Whether Howl is or is not obscene is of little importance to our world, faced as it is with the threat of physical survival. But the problem with what is legally permissible in the description of sexual acts or feelings in arts and literature is of the greatest importance to a free society. What is prurient? To whom? The material so described is dangerous to some unspecified, susceptible reader. It is interesting that the person applying such standards of censorship rarely feels as if their own physical or moral health is in jeopardy. The desire to censor is not limited, however, to crackpots or bigots. There is in most of us a desire to make the world conform to our own beliefs. And it takes all of the force of our own reason as well as our legal institutions to defy so human an urge. The battle of censorship will not be finally settled by your honors decision; you will either add to liberal educated thinking or by your decision you will add fuel to the fire of ignorance. Let there be light. Let there be honesty. Let there be no running from nonexistent destroyers of morals. Let there be honesty. Understanding.
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  • Laura Leaney
    January 1, 1970
    I just finished reading an essay about Ginsberg's "Howl," paused to reflect and decided to re-read the poem - as well as the others included in this little book. I like them. They're honest, saturated in Ginsberg's heart-wounds and the social concerns of the post-war generation (which, unbelievably, aren't now all that different from 1954). Reading "Howl" is a little bit like getting dragged into the underbelly of New York by one's peter pan collar and being forced to meet the "angelheaded" and I just finished reading an essay about Ginsberg's "Howl," paused to reflect and decided to re-read the poem - as well as the others included in this little book. I like them. They're honest, saturated in Ginsberg's heart-wounds and the social concerns of the post-war generation (which, unbelievably, aren't now all that different from 1954). Reading "Howl" is a little bit like getting dragged into the underbelly of New York by one's peter pan collar and being forced to meet the "angelheaded" and the "hollow eyed" who are continually appearing and disappearing. There is much gnashing of teeth, "ashcan rantings," and fucking in the "machinery of night." The images are sad, lonely, and lovely. This time around, I felt the contrivance of it a little bit too strongly. Out of the rest of the collected poems in this book (Pocket Poets Series Number Four), I also liked "A Supermarket in California." In this piece, Ginsberg imagines following Walt Whitman around a grocery market and I thought it was kind of funny: "What peaches and what penumbras! Whole Families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?"I was also moved by "Song" which is about the "weight of love." I kept thinking of his mother, the schizophrenic, who held Ginsberg so close to her during his formative years. I kept thinking of the agony he must have felt visiting her in all those psychiatric hospitals. This one ends with, "I wanted, / I always wanted, / to return / to the body / where I was born."
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