Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Poetry Spotlight: Howl by Allen Ginsberg

In my second year of college I took an Introduction to Poetry class and I fell in love with reading poetry. Before then, poetry was always a little intimidating and a medium that I didn't have much experience with. But after that class, I became addicted to reading poetry, and during the class I actually found myself thinking in and expressing myself in poetry- which I never would have guessed would happen in a million years. So, with this series I'm here to share some of my favorite poems in a way that I'm sure will turn out rambley and unorganized.

Before reading about this poem, it may be helpful to read this short introduction to the Beatnik Literary movement I made in the form of my Literary Look: The Beatnik Movement post.

Howl by Allen Ginsberg is on of the most well known pieces of literature from the Beatnik movement which occurred in the late 1950's- 1960's in America. The poem became an anthem of sorts for the rebellious and fed-up youth. This poem was first published in 1956.

Read the Poem Here  Well just the first two parts of the poem since it's not in the public domain yet.
Listen to Ginsberg Read the Entire Poem Here

Some basic info on Ginsberg and his works:
Ginsberg is a"founding" member of the Beat generation. He met Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University. Ginsberg was always a trouble maker and was suspended from Columbia twice. Ginsberg had a very strong fear of the atomic bomb, which was a recurring idea in his works and he battled bouts of depression and mental illness. His best known works are his poems Howl, and Kaddish a poem in six parts which he wrote in the course of forty-eight hours under the influence of multiple drugs. Howl is also well known for the controversy that followed the poem's publication when it faced an obscenity trial, which only helped sell countless copies of the poem. Ginsberg is also well known for his activeness in the fight for equal rights for same-sex couples, as he himself was gay, and had possible sexual relations with many members of the Beatnik writers including Kerouac and Burroughs.

Thoughts on the poem: 
Howl is quite an angry and angsty poem. The first line of the poem, I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness... is quite well known and starts off the poem's powerful and disturbing imagery. The poem is dived into three parts and provides commentary on just about everything you can imagine. Throughout the poem Ginsberg has some very breathtakingly beautiful phrases, and his capitalization is interesting and something to look out for while reading. The poem is quite pessimistic and you can taste the anger, bitterness and resentment that Ginsberg is harboring. Part I of the poem contains some very interesting commentary on art and poetry specifically, and contains some very disturbing images of his friend Carol Solomon, to whom the poem is dedicated, in a mental institute. These two images together are very jarring and very interesting to read. 

Ginsberg deals with a lot of abstract and concrete concepts in this poem and he does it very beautifully. First he will present you with the image of a Drunken taxicab of Absolute Reality and then he presents you with the image of someone who Presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy. This poem speaks on the wasted potential of his generation and the fine line between madness and genius.  

If you do give this poem a go, I recommend reading it a few times, well I recommend that with all poems actually but this one especially, so you can catch all of Ginsberg's beautiful and horrific images and see them contrast.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this poem if you have read it!  

No comments:

Post a Comment