“Howl”, by Allen Ginsberg, a poem ahead of its time

MIAMI— “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,” he read Allen Ginsberg the beginning of his poem Howl (howl), at the Six Gallery, in San Francisco, California, on October 7, 1955, while performing it theatrically.

The extensive poem, published by the Anagrama publishing house in a careful bilingual edition, caused a stir due to the strength of its images, the crudeness of a confessional poetry and too descriptive for the taste of the modest.

In this way, he shook American poetry and gave way to the countercultural maelstrom of the sixties. Its title attests to that groundbreaking, screaming, tearing energy contained in this poetic body that has become a cult text. Indeed, howls run through this poem: howls of young people protesting, of patrol cars, ambulances, of the terror of cities that seem to eat their children. Here people were “howling for them and howling down Wall Street, and the Staten Island Ferry was howling too.”

As the editorial note explains, Ginsberg shows his way of “representing poetry with songs, melopeas, crying, shouting and lamentations” that qualify his “apocalyptic verses of total denunciation of a tame way of life” and also implant “a new way of make totally sincere and authentic literature”.

The publisher clarifies that howl and other poems It was Allen Ginsberg’s first book, and even before it was published it was a famous poem that was passed from hand to hand or was recited as best it could from one of the fifty copies in multicopy, when photocopies did not yet exist .

The popularity he gained thanks to this poem allowed him to boost his friends from the so-called Beat Generation. In addition to dedicating this book to writers Jack Kerouac, William Seward Burroughs, and Neal Casady, he dedicated it to Carl Solomon, a poet who ended up in an asylum.

Here are the nightmares of a society that consumes itself, the broken dreams, the alienation, the consumption, the horror of war, the uncertainty of the young, the injustices, the masks, the hypocrisy, the diatribe of the disconnected man of which really feeds the spirit. This is the song of the crazy, the relegated, the poor, the misunderstood and the censored.

the verses of Howl they are calls to action and at the same time powerful actions. His strength and honesty have led to it being translated into dozens of languages ​​and printed millions of times since its first edition in 1956 by City Lights Books. Although it must be remembered that that first edition was “cursed” in some way, since the publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was accused of spreading obscenities, which led to the book being banned. But the case was cleared up in 1957 after a trial that helped increase interest in the book.

Ginsberg dedicated her lengthy song to those “who walked all night with bloody shoes on the snowbanks on the docks waiting for a door to open on the East River into a room filled with hot steam.” Also to those who “fell to their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other’s salvation and light and breasts”, or those who “wandered hungry and lonely in Houston in search of jazz or sex or soup.”

He wrote it thinking that the “poor and ragged and haggard and stoned spent the night smoking in the unearthly darkness of cold-water apartments, floating on the city tops watching jazz.” Or those who “wandered the streets of Idaho alone looking for visionary Indian angels who were visionary Indian angels.” And the enumeration continues in a vibrant landscape of a country wounded in its essence and described in an amazing way by a poet.

More about the author

Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) was one of the most emblematic figures of American alternative culture. Soul of the Beat Generation, he gathered around him Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and even the elusive William S. Burroughs and fought tirelessly for the writing and publication of his works. He was a prominent figure in the so-called “Flower Revolution” and the hippies of the sixties, he fought against war and racism, he spread rock, the chemical and mystical alteration of states of consciousness as a cultural element and he always stood in first social and literary line, promoting libertarian ideas and notions of spirituality and authenticity, for which reason he was always in the crosshairs of the authorities. His collections of poems have appeared in Anagrama Howl Y Kaddishthe epistolaries The ayahuasca cards (with William S. Burroughs) and Letters (with Jack Kerouac) and the comprehensive anthology ginsberg essential.

He exerted an enormous influence on musicians like Bob Dylan or Patti Smith, with whom he also collaborated. He lived in New York with his partner Peter Orlovsky until he died of cancer in 1997.

You can find the book at this link.

“Howl”, by Allen Ginsberg, a poem ahead of its time