Friday, October 07, 2005

HOWL: The 50th Anniversary of a Fucking Masterpiece

Todays Inquirer has a story on the op/ed page about the 50th anniversary of Alan Ginsberg's first public reading of his epic poem, Howl

This happened when Ginsberg was 29, an unknown artist who along with several other poets read at a small gallery on Filmore Street in San Francisco.

I wonder if when Ginsberg uttered that first line, I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.., did the world shift, did heaven quake?

More than likely, or at least it should have.

Howl has always been my favorite poem; it is one of the few poems (maybe the only poem) that I can quote from (though I still do not have all of it commited to memory; my brain is not that advanced).

Howl is the kind of piece that needs to be read out loud, like Poe's The Raven; there is a beat to this poem. It starts at a break neck pace and continues like a runaway train ... to be frank, and crude, and truthful; Howl's rhythm reminds me of fucking. I dont mean making love, I mean fucking...

...angry, animal-like, stress busting fucking. For instance:


who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight
in policecars for committing no crime but their
own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were
dragged off the roof waving genitals and manu-
scripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly
motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim,
the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean
love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose
gardens and the grass of public parks and
cemeteries scattering their semen freely ...

...I need a cigarette.

Beyond the carnal aspect of Howl, is the view of America that Ginsberg seemed fixed upon. A view of a corrupt, frustrated, society on the verge of something horrible not unlike these days of terror threats and puppet presidents. Consider these lines:


who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits
on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse
& the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments
of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the
fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinis-
ter intelligent editors, or were run down by the
drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually hap-
pened and walked away unknown and forgotten
into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley
ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,

I think Ginsberg was something of a prophet.

If you are up to it,
read this poem today, read it out loud. Scream it, yell it, HOWL IT! And then thank the poet, the genius who gave us this ode...Alan Ginsberg, a Fucking Genius!

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