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Nicole V.

Vicente

Sir Victor Felipe S. Bautista

Lit 14 R13

27 February 2015

Howl
Poetry is not wholly understandable and translatable. Because of this, it is more
mysterious and exciting; given that there is no one way of reading it. Nonetheless, each persons
interpretation of different poems is credible and valid, since each persons thinking is also not
wholly understandable and translatable. Allen Ginsbergs
Howl
proffers this very idea. Maybe
poetry does not need to be grasped and solved. Maybe a poem is not about one thing only.
Maybe it can be about nothing at all. Maybe it can be about everything that is known to the
poets world.
Howl
explores what Ginsberg saw as he saw it, written in his words from his mind.
The world and people in
Howl
is how Ginsberg saw them through his eyes, interpretation, and
understanding. This, in itself, is already good enough reason to say that the poem speaks of a
true and valid world.
As valid and true this world may be,
Howl
was written in a way that is not easy to fathom
and puzzle out systematically. As evidence, the flow of words, thoughts, and ideas is presented
almost hypnotically and without direction. However, although it may seem like a poem that is all
over the place and without structure, the poem actually gestures toward the subject of the people
in Ginsbergs lifetime the best minds of [his] generation (1). The people talked about in the
first line of the poem can be presumably doctors, lawyers, politicians, and people of great
importance if one was to read only until I saw the best minds of my generation (1) and no
further. However, the poem continues, ...destroyed by madness, / starving hysterical naked
(1-2). Doctors, lawyers, and politicians are not known for being [mad] (1) or starving
hysterical naked (2). It is later learned that these best minds are those people who are on the
other side of life the expelled students, the marijuana smokers, the drunkards, the prisoners,
the ecstasy users, the lovemakers, the poets. These are Ginsbergs people and these are the
people like Ginsberg mad.
Howl
was not written by a person in the right and normal state of
mind. It can be assumed that Ginsberg was, like the people he describes in the poem,
hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking (7), or under certain influences. Because of this, the
poem was not fastidious and focused, yet was able to evoke emotions through its usage of
flowing, rhythmic words. Like the jazz music often mentioned in the poem,
Howl
has a certain

beat to it when read. The jazz music in the 1950s, the decade the poem was written, had the
same beat feel. In the 50s, jazz music evolved from a tense and edgy sound to a relaxed and
more easy sound, while also encouraging experimentalism.
Howl
is similar to this, because the
form of lines and words produced a certain intense, yet relaxed and sure, continuous beat. The
poem is structured so that words are flowing, but at the same time every line contains a series of
unexpected thoughts and ideas as if in an experiment. Like jazz music,
Howl
does not betray early
on what is it about to expose later unpredictable and unstructured.
The surprises found throughout the whole poem that some people may think as obscene
or unusual, such as with drugs, with waking dreams, alcohol and / cock and endless balls"
(25-26), "who loned it through the streets of / Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were
visionary / indian angels" (67-69), "who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged
off / the roof waving genitals and manuscripts, / who let themselves be fucked in the ass by
saintly motorcyclists, / and screamed with joy" (95-98), are the lines that give the poem its
intriguing unwholesomeness and indecipherability. These surprises explain the insanity and
madhouse-esque aliveness that happens in what Ginsberg observes in his lifetime. However, in
his involved observation, he is also apart from all that happens, since everything he sees is within
his power and within the scope of his life for him to write about. It is not Ginsberg who is the
only one set apart, but also the people he writes about, for they are the ones who are, together,
alienated from what is supposed to be or right or the only way. This shows the paradox of
being alone together and how those who are alone together find that in their being disconnected,
they are also connected. The connect they find is the community in being
a generation of crazy,
illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, bumming and hitchhiking
everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way (Kerouac). They are
connected, because they are the same. Ginsbergs generation was a generation about a great
many things and one of these is being totally exposed to the machine-like figures of law,
government, war, politics, conformity, capitalism and in their being exposed, there is a feeling
of being used, of being raw (Holmes). How are they being used and how are they raw? They are
undefended from the control and power of those who want to dominate them, those who are
willing to make everybody conform to what is right and normal. It can be said that these
powers are the government or the war or anything else that takes violent and destructive
measures to create what they want to a world machine, where there is a solid right and a solid

wrong and nothing in between. A world with limits, where one is not supposed to be just what
they feel like being, where gayness is wrong, where sex is wrong, where drugs are wrong, where
masturabation is wrong, where insanity is wrong, where one is reduced to the bedrock of
consciousness (Holmes), where everybody will not leave somebody as he or she is, where
everybody must change for everybody.
Howl
is not about everything in Ginsbergs life, but about one thing that led to the
everything of his life, the people of his life, the generation of his life, the jails of his life, the
loves of his life, himself, and his life itself. There is a depression in his work that cannot be easily
understood and translated, as how poetry is. Ginsberg was able to turn the sphere of ruin of his
and his peoples lifetime into a poem that expresses their yearning for freedom and love and
youth without being told off for it.