Friday, 10 April 2009

Howl - Allen Ginsberg

Read: Boxing Day (December) 2007

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked”

So begins one of the most alive poems I have ever read. Howl is one long, howling, furious, diatribe against the Cold War paranoid Red Terror and empty materialist culture of 1950’s America, one of the most powerful examples of lyrical, face slapping poetry ever written. I am not versed or well read in poetry but from the moment I picked Howl from the floor of my brother’s bedroom and began reading it I was hooked. Never before had I encountered such a powerfully continuous and absorbing collection of enraged imagery, sparkling on the page. It is a bitter celebration of the obscurity of writers, and all those other hopeless souls lost to the mainstream world. Its frank portrayal of homosexuality even led to an obscenity trial on publication.

And such a perfect title: you can picture Ginsberg himself howling at the full moon, screaming these hypnotic words for all he’s worth, because there is nothing to do but howl. While writing this I have been overcome by a frenzy of bleak, frustrated, melancholy that only reading Howl can remedy. As others have said, this is a work of poetry to keep forever in your pocket, bag or glove compartment. Take it out every now and again, for there is something within these words to have you howling too, and it is liberating to be so passionately angry every once in a while.

7.5 out of 10

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