Howl And Other Poems
(Written by Allen Ginsberg, 1956)
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”
So begins “Howl”, the poem that would immortalize poet / Beat co-founder Allen Ginsberg into the lexicon of poetry and literature, a jetting stream-of-consciousness prose that remained personal to Ginsberg’s own life, yet defined a generation. Its performance by Ginsberg on October 7th, 1955, as part of the “Six Gallery Reading”, created such a stir it was published shortly after. This event was a culmination of two powerful creative forces growing in the underground art world, and this occurrence fused the like minded, but starkly different San Francisco renaissance movement and the New York beats, their destinies forged in the pages of art history forever. It was at this event where some of the greatest artistic minds of the youth brazenly spoke out against war, McCarthyism, xenophobia, mindless patriotism, racism, labor rights, and many other products of the post-WWII American culture, causing young minds to shatter outward due to its wanton rebellion, against establishment and literary form. With Ginsberg on the map after the performance, publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti (a beat figure in his own right), collected it with several other works by Ginsberg, since “Howl” barely filled the book. Many of the works combine Ginsberg’s own experiences of trauma seeing the mental breakdown of his schizophrenic mother and the collapse of the American culture under the weight of its own tyranny, greed, exploitation of the working class, corruption of the education system, and imperialism.