Allen Ginsberg Howl Essay Research

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Allen Ginsberg Howl Essay, Research Paper Allen Ginsberg and HOWL: Analysis and Response Throughout the ages of poetry, there is a poet who stands alone, a prominent figure who represents the beliefs and mor s of the time. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Beatnik era in America brought forth poets who wrote vivid, realistic poetry in response to the rise of bigotry, crimes against the innocent, and the loss of faith in the national government. With little euphemism, they wrote about homosexual sex, drug abuse, and other brazen topics. Of this Beat Generation, as they were called, Allen Ginsberg rises above the rest as the pseudo-poet laureate of the group (Burns 125). His most well-known poem, “HOWL”, caused an incredible amount of controversy; however, it also

forever changed the world of poetry. Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1926 to an upstanding middle class Jewish family. In a lifetime of literary accomplishment, he has moved from the position of a curiosity on the borders of society to become the hero of a broad-based subculture. In 1943, Ginsberg entered Columbia University where he met Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, two names that would later join him as fathers of a literary/social movement known as the Beat Generation. Ginsberg’s subject matter focused on the activities of his social circle and included such things as drug use and homosexual sex. These topics hadn’t been written about so openly, without some sort of literary masking before. Ginsberg’s far-ranging, wildly expressive style greatly

impacted the evolution of modern literature. His literary odyssey created a vast legacy of poetry and the publication of many books of poetry and prose. Perhaps most notable, “Howl,” was published in 1956 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. A landmark court decision found “Howl” to be “not obscene” (Ehrlich 57). Allen Ginsberg’s monumental poem was first heard in a series of famous readings that signaled the arrival of the Beat Generation of writers. The first of these readings took place in October 1955 at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. It was Allen Ginsberg’s first public performance, and it made him instantly famous at the age of twenty-nine. The poem is part Walt Whitman, part Old Testament hellfire ranting, and

one-hundred-percent performance art. The lines in the famous first part of the poem tumble over each other in long unbroken breaths, all adding to a single endless sentence: 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 machinery of night … (Ginsberg 5) The rhythms of the rolling, crashing words portray a vivid picture of Ginsberg’s friends and their numerous adventures across America. Ginsberg is describing his fellow travelers, the crazy, lonely members of his community of misunderstood poet artists, unpublished novelists, psychotics, radicals, pranksters, sexual

deviants and junkies. At the time that he wrote this he’d seen several of his promising young friends broken or killed: who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island Ferry also wailed, who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons, who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in police cars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication … (Ginsberg 7) Each of these describe real-life events by people Ginsberg knew, but the poem is especially dedicated to Carl Solomon, Ginsberg’s insane hyper-intellectual friend who he’d met in a mental hospital years