Sally Baggett June 1994 ALLEN GINSBERG It is difficult to read Allen Ginsberg's poem _Howl_ in 1994, without recognizing

the influence it had on a society that was moving towards a banal and materialistic existence. This poem has made great progress since its controversial beginnings in the 1950s, and has made its way into anthologies and classrooms not only in the United States, but all over the world. _Howl and Other Poems_ has sold 745,000 copies making it one of the most read poetry books of it's time. (Miles 105) Allen Ginsberg has become synonomous with the Beat Generation, a group who coined the term anti-establishment and set the stage for the peace movement of the 1960s. In 1959 "Life" magazine did an article about the "Beat Generation" which, as the story goes, made the beats celebrities by bringing them into the spotlight. Paul O'Neil writes in the article, "No Beat work has so startled the public or so influenced the Beat mind as Ginsberg's long poem, _Howl_, an expression of wild personal dissatisfaction with the world." (O'Neil 119) _Howl_ broke away not only from poetic literary traditions, but also from the constraints of the "silent generation." It was as if Ginsberg's _Howl_ was meant to be heard by everyone,-- including the society that it criticized. The public was not startled by what Ginsberg was saying in the poem, as much as by the words that he chose in saying it. The public obscenity trial pushed _Howl_ into mainstream popular culture, and changed the way people read and thought about poetry. Although the media's fascination with _Howl_ made it a success with the general public, the literary critics were not so taken by it. In _The Partisan Review_, John Hollander states, in regards to _Howl and Other Poems_, "It is only fair to Allen remark on the utter lack of decorum of any kind in his dreadful little volume (Miles 161). Many critics felt that breaking away from the traditional forms of poetry meant that it could not be taken seriously. It wasn't until the sixties and seventies that _Howl_ broke through the literary resistance and became viewed as one of the great poems of modern American poetry. By this time _Howl_ was no longer media hype and critics decided to look at the special qualities that made it an original and extraordinary poem. In "How I Hear Howl", George Bowering explicates the poem, and discusses how the three parts are constructed in such a way as to revolve around the central unifying theme of the modern day Moloch. The Moloch represents the modern day monster which is symbolic of Time. "Section 1 of "Howl" shows portraits of people the poet knows, caught in the eye of Time" ( Bowering 372) "At the same time the martyrs demonstrate against the other oppressions, money & academy, prisons where not criminals but children are locked up, bent, warped, and trained to pass thru the sacrifice fires of Moloch (373). Critics like Paul Portuges and John Tytell also made contributions to the literary study of Allen Ginsberg and _Howl_. Portuges discusses in his book "visionary poetics" and the impact that Blake's vision has had on Ginsberg's work. He says, "(Howl) was indeed a surprise to many, and a threat to many more. Ginsberg had fully realized his quest to get right into the terror. The individual, victimized by the repression, fear, and violence that so permeates Western Culture, had surfaced as one of Ginsberg's major themes."(Portuges 46) This is symbolic of the change in attitude about _Howl_ in the 1970s. It was no longer perceived as a "wildly personal disillusionment" but was a very real and truthful vision of what America had become.

In "Out of the Vietnam Vortex", James Mermann recognizes "Howl" as an anti-war poem, and states, "It is readily clear that Ginsberg has no specific war in mind except the inevitable one that must come again and again to the culture that he describes; and it is clear that he sees the daily experience of living in that ambiance as a war against the spirit."(Mersmann 56) Although it is obvious that _Howl_ is dependent on the zeitgest, it is interesting to see the poem fit in to each decade over and over again. The interest and close analysis of _Howl_ seemed to get lost in the eighties, however, with the emphasis moving toward theoretical studies. In Marjorie Perloff's book _Poetic Lisence_, she points out that, "Charles Alteri's Enlarging the Temple, Hugh Kenner's A Homemade World, and Robert von Hallberg's American Poetry and Culture, have tended to ignore, if not depreciate, Ginsberg's achievement, partly, perhaps, in reaction to the journalistic overkill devoted to the Beat Generation." (Perloff 201) Mark Jarman states in the Hudson Review that (Ginsberg's) poetry, that is to say, is judged thematically, and since the "themes" are now pass�, so is much of Ginsberg's work." (224) But Arthur and Kit Knight argue that the eighties were a time when people needed to be particularly retrospective, since, "the complacency and the totalitarian atmosphere that characterized much of the fifties is again with us." (Knight, cover) In their book Beat Vision, they discuss the importance of "Beat Generation" and how it must be given the literary credit that it deserves. I think one thing that many critics overlook is the humorous aspect of _Howl_. Ginsberg states, "You're free to say any damn thing you want; but people are so scared of hearing you say what's unconsciously universal that it's comical." (Hyde 53) Here is a comical eighties parody of _Howl_ that I think Ginsberg would approve of: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by stress frazzled overtired burnt-out jogging through suburban streets at dawn as suggested by the late James Fixx, career minded yupsters burning for an Amstel Light watching stupid pet tricks, who upwardly mobile and designer'd and bright-eyed and high sat up working in the track lit glow of the Tribeca loft skimming through the Day Timer while padding the expense account..... who ate chocolate croissants in outdoor cafes and drank blush wine on Columbus Avenue washed down with a little Percodan with dove bars with Diet Coke with Lean Cuisine. (Perloff 225)

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Allen, Donald. "Improvised Poetics." _Composed on the Tongue._ Bolinas, CA: Grey Fox Press, 1980. 18-62. Interview in which, Allen Ginsberg discusses the function of stress, syllable, count, breath units, and stanza forms. He talks specifically about the use of the long line and how the actual size of the paper that he is working on determines the length of the line. The line break is also determined by the "thought breaks" that occur within the poem.

Breslin, Paul. "Allen Ginsberg as Representative Man: The Road to Naropa." _The Psycho-Political Muse._ Chicago: Chicago UP, 1987. 22-41. Comparison of "Howl"'s title to other titles in popular poetry of the time, and how this "imperative verb" speaks directly to the reader in a very active and animalistic way. The first part of the poem focuses on Ginsberg's "Whitmanian" synactical form, which is juxtaposed by his visions of an angelic, spiritual world. Bowering, George. "How I Hear Howl." _On the Poetry of Allen Ginsberg._ Lewis Hyde ed. Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, 1978. A Description of how the central image of "Howl" is the "robot skullface of Moloch" which describes a present day Hebrew monster that is representitive of the materialistic, industrial modern world. Ginsberg and the "best minds of my generation" are described as being the martyrs of this modern monster. Ginsberg also sacrifices himself in "Howl" to time, loneliness, and lack of communication with others. Cassady, Carolyn. _Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg._ An insightful perspective on the lives of Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg. It allows the reader to see, not a glamourized Ginsberg living free and easy, but rather a confused and insecure person who turned to his close friends for stability and reassurance. It contains exerts of letters about "Howl" and other poems that he sent to Carolyn and Neal Cassady. Challis, Chris. _Quest for Kerouac_. London: Faber, 1984. An analyizes the form of "Howl" and gives a quote from Jack Kerouac on the first reading of the poem. An overall assessment of the Beat Generation and the social impact of the movement. It also discusses Ginsberg's regard and admiration for Walt Whitman and other influential poets like Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville and Thomas Wolfe. Dowden, George. _ A Bibliography of Works by Allen Ginsberg._ San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1971. Extensive bibliography that includes translations, speechs and recordings up to the 1965. It also gives a brief biography on Ginsberg and describes in detail the publication history of "Howl" and how the different editions were put together by the publisher. Ehrlich, J.W. _Howl of the Censor._ San Carlos, CA: Nourse, 1961. Account of the trial that took place in 1957 in which Ferlingetti, editor of City Lights Books, was being prosecuted for publishing Ginsberg's "obscene" poem, titled "Howl/For Carl Solomon". Foster, Edward Halsey. "Ginsberg" _ Understanding the Beats_. Columbia: South Carolina UP, 1992. 84-127. Discussion of the poets who have influenced "Howl" and the scholarly and academic reaction to "Howl" in the nineties. Barry Miles annotated facsimile edition of "Howl" identifies the poem not with the San Francisco "Beat Generation" but rather implies that "Howl" is a New York poem that encapsulates "New York" culture. It allows contains a bibliography of Ginsberg's work as well as criticism on each work.

Gefin, Laszlo K. "Ellipsis and Riprap: The Ideograms of Ginsberg and Snyder"._Ideogram, History of a Poetic Method_. Austin: Texas UP, 1982. 117-134. Analysis of elliptical juxtipositions throughout "Howl" and how they are representitive of modern poetry. Ezra Pound's poetry was very influential for Ginsberg, and is reflected in the surrealist images throughout "Howl". He felt, like Kerouac, that spontinaiety and automatism are ways to unleash the flow of the mind. Howard, Richard. "Allen Ginsberg". Alone with America. New York: _Atheneum_, 1980. 177-184. Analysis on Ginsberg's contracting use of raw, sexual images and spiritual chants and mantras, especially in relation to the footnotes in "Howl". It gives a complete explication of the poem and describes the importance of performing "Howl". The article starts with a story about Ginsberg "disrobing" at an MLA conference. Hyde Lewis. "Howl and Other Poems" _On the Poetry of Allen Ginsberg_. Brief summary of the publication of "Howl and Other Poems." The emphasis on the humorous, satirical qualities that the poem has and change that has taken place not only in Ginsberg since the early 60's but also in the way that society has changed as well. The poem is analyzed in three parts, the first being a list of atrocities of the modern world, the second is an accusation, and the third is addressed directly to Carl Solomon and is a darker version of Donne's "Seventeenth Meditation". Knight, Arthur and Kit. "John Tytell talks with Carl Solomon". _ The Beat Vision_. New York: Paragon, 1987. Discussion of Carl Solomon's relationship to Allen Ginsberg, and how he felt about personal instances that came about in "Howl" On a whole, the book is an attempt to point out the importance of the "Beat Generation" to modern literature. Mermann, James F. "Allen Ginsberg: Breaking Out." _ Out of the Vietnam Vortex: A Study of Poets and Poetry Against the War_. Lawrence: Kansas UP, 1974. 31-35. Discussion of "Howl" and its stance against war. It is more than just a poem, or a part of the literary world, but rather it is a historical document that records the pressures of society and the inescapable escelation towards war. Miles, Barry. _ Allen Ginsberg, Howl: Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript and Variant Versions_, Fully Annotated by Author, with Contemporanious Correspondence, Account of First Public Reading, Legal Skirmishes, Precursor Texts and Bibliography. New York: Harper, 1986. Collection of poetic reactions to "Howl" from Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Louis Ginsberg, and William Carlos Williams. It gives a bibliography of "Howl" including translations and recordings. It attempts to present "Howl" not as a spontanious burst of thought but rather a methodical and carefully crafted work. O'Neil, Paul. "The Only Rebellion Around." _ Life_. Nov. 30 (1959). Article that made the "Beats" famous. It discusses the relationship

between those people associated with the Beat Generation, and the effect that they have on society. It gives a brief history of Ginsberg's childhood and his education. It describes the poem and the effect that it had on the public since the "Obscenity Trial" The "Beats" appear to be, carefree rebel rowsers, without much literary substance. Perloff, Marjorie. "A Lion in Our Living Room: Reading Allen Ginsberg in the Eighties." _ Poetic Licence_. Analysis the treatment of Ginsberg's poetry in the eighties, and how Collected Poems (1985) places each poem in a linear fashion, creating an autobiographical summary of Ginsberg's life. The poet uses humor, drama, and visionary tactics to reveal his personal thoughts and feelings. But, this kind of confessional poetry has received much controversy over the years and in the eighties, scholars criticized "Howl" for lacking in theme and being "over simplified". Portuges, Paul. _ The Visionary Poetics of Allen Ginsberg_. Santa Barbara: Ross-Erikson, 1978. Discussion of "Howl" and other poems and the development of the poetic vision that dominated most of Ginsberg's work. There are major thesis in "Howl" which reflect Ginsberg's facination with death, and his use of raw material written in a natural voice. Many of these themes came from Ginsberg's visionary experiences which were influenced greatly by William Blake.

Tytell, John. "Allen Ginsberg." _ Naked Angels_. New York: McGraw, 1976. 79-107. Description of the personal experiences that lead up to, and eventually became the driving force in "Howl". The essay contains pertinent exerts of Ginsberg's letters to Jack Kerouac which describe his sexual frustrations and his love for Neal Cassady that was never fullfilled. It was one of the first major works written about the Beat Generation. Thurley, Geoffrey. "Allen Ginsberg: The Whole Man In." _The American Moment_. New York: St. Martin, 1978. A Look at Ginsberg's use of the "one line breath", and the flexability of tone in Howl. The essay also discusses how "Howl" broke away from the ironical tradition of earlier poems and presented a new kind of irony that combined the serious and the satirical

PUBLICATION HISTORY The first edition of "Howl" was printed in Villiers England and arrived safely at the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, where it was published in the Fall of 1956. The second printing, however, was seized by the collector of customs and the San Francisco police on March 25, 1957 because, the collector stated, "the words and the writing is obscene." The ACLU defended "City Lights Books in a long public trial, and won the case, bringing Allen Ginsberg and his poem "Howl" instant fame. The trial itself was more like a comical courtroom drama, rather than a serious

trial. The Defense brought in poets, professors and artists from around the area to comment on the importance of Howl, not only in the literary arena, but for society as a whole. What is so ironic and so important about this trial is that it gave the "Beat Generation" a chance to confront the very core of the "oppressed" society that Ginsberg "howls" about in the poem. The trial only made Ginsberg's words all the more lucid-- and convincing. Lawerence Ferlingetti, owner of City Lights and publisher of "Howl" stated in the "San Francisco Chronicle", "It would have taken years for the critics to accomplish what the good collector did in a day." (Miles 169) Now fifty-one editions later, with over 745,000 copies sold, "Howl" has become one of the most significant poems in modern American poetry, and has been reprinted in Ginsberg's Collected Poems, as well as numerous anthologies. It has been translated into Albanian, Chinese, Czech, Dansih, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hugarian, Italian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Macedonia, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Rumanian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish. Howl Editions Howl for Carl Solomon. (25-50 copies). San Francisco: Ditto mimeograph, May 16, 1956

Howl and Other Poems. San Francisco: City Lights Books, November 1, 1956. Reprinted 33 times; unexpurgated edition beginning with the 8th printing. Howl for Carl Solomon. San Francisco: Grabhorn-Hoyem, 1971 (275 copies). Kraus Reprint Co.. 1973

The Pocket Poet Series, Vol. 1. Moloch. Lincoln, Mass.:

Millwood, N.Y.:

Penmean Press, 1978 (300 copies). New York: Harper and Row, 1985

Collected Poems: (1947-1980). Howl. New York:

Harper and Row, 1986. New York: New York: Harper and Row, 1987. Harper and Row, 1988.

Collected Poems: (1947-1980). Collected Poems: (1947-1980). Howl Translations

"Howl" has been translated into the following languages: Albanian, Chinese Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hugarian Italian, Japansese, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Rumanian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish. Recordings San Francisco Poets. rpm, 12" mono. San Francisco Poets. 12" mono. New York: Evergreen Records, 1958. LP no. EVR-1, 331/2

New York:

Jampver Records. 1959.

LP no. M-5001, 331/2 rpm,


HMG 117. Berkley Cal.: Fantasy

Allen Ginsberg Reads Howl and Other Poems.

Records, 1959. LP no. V-5998-1854/1855. Howl and Other Poems. 1 cassette.



rpm, 12" mono.


Wupperta;, West Germany:

S Press Tapes, 1981.

CURRENT EDITIONS IN PRINT Howl and Other Poems. San Francisco: City Lights Books, November 1, 1956. Reprinted 33 times; unexpurgated edition beginning with the 8th printing. Presents "Howl" in a volume with other poems that he wrote in 1955. Includes, "A Supermarket in California", "America", and "Sunflower Sutra". For teaching purposes this edition is the cheapest for students, and it also includes his other poems, which put it in a historical context. (745,000 copies sold) Howl. New York: Harper and Row, 1986. Contains the original manuscript as well as illustrations, exerts from letters, a bibliography, legal history, and significant poets who influenced Ginsberg. Although interesting and informative, I would not use this for a class because it takes away from the poem itself. I would possibly bring in my own copy.

Collected Poems: (1947-1980). New York: Harper and Row, 1988. This is like an autobiography of Ginsberg's life. Howl is the first in the volume and which suggests the poems importance not only for Ginsberg, but also gives a kind of introduction to Ginsberg's work. The Pocket Poets Series, No. 4 (San Fran: City Lights Books, October 1956). Intro William Carlos Williams: "Howl for Carl Solomon." Uncredited title p. quotation ("Unscrew the locks from the doors!/ Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!") from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself". Contains poems 1955-56, and four earlier poems, 1952-1954. The first and second editions (c.1500 and c.3000 copies) were letterpress printings done, and "saddle stitched" (stapled) at Villiers Publications Ltd., England; all subsequent editions were offset-printed in the United States from plates photographed