Thursday, April 18, 2013
Howl and Other Poems - Allen Ginsberg
"Howl" is without question the premier poem of the Beat Generation, simultaneously establishing what it means to be a beatnik (Characterizing a homosexual beatnik counterculture as opposed to the heterosexual mainstream culture which worships "The one eyed shrew / of the heterosexual dollar" (125-126). Homosexuality and heterosexuality being largely, but not entirely, figurative in this usage) as well as what beatnik literature should feel like. And yet it isn't even my favorite poem in this book.
"America" is the best thing Ginsberg will ever write, especially seeing as how the man is dead. At any rate, "America" is a brutally honest conversation between poet and nation and is one of the most distinctly American works of poetry this side of Frost and Whitman.
Howl and Other Poems has a few prickers and thorns which never sit right with me when I read it, but it was one of the most influential books I read in high school (Gasoline by Gregory Corso and A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti being two of the others. I had a beatnik phase) and it still feels highly significant today, even though I am well past an age in which I can feel like any sort of a revolutionary. I drive a minivan. The end.