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Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Powerful Essays
"Howl": How the Poem Came to Be and How it Made Allen Ginsberg Famous

When Allen Ginsberg sat down at a secondhand typewriter in 1955 and began the first of his many subsequent drafts of "Howl," he had no idea of the controversy it would cause. I fact, he didn't even set out to write a formal poem and especially not one that he would consider publishing. Instead, what the 29 year old began would materialize into his most famous literary work and the cause of a much publicized trial debating the first amendment right to freedom of speech. The events of Ginsberg's life and the events going on in the world around him inspired and prepared him to write "Howl," but perhaps one of the most important factors contributing to the poem and the author's fame was the surge in interest in writing, reading, and listening to poetry, which came to be known as the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance.

The poem that caused the great controversy over obscenity in literature is a four part series of separate works, written mostly at different times that complete a series of ideas, which Judge Clayton Horn considered to have socially redeeming value. In the author's own words, the poem

is an 'affirmation' of individual experience of God, sex, drugs, absurdity etc. Part I deals sympathetically with individual cases. Part II describes and rejects the Moloch of society which confounds and suppresses individual experience and forces the individual to consider himself mad if he does not reject his own deepest senses. Part III is an expression of sympathy and identification with C.S. [Carl Solomon] who is in the madhouse -- saying that his madness basically his rebellion against Moloch and I am with him, and extending my hand in union. This is an affir...

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...ibliography

Cassady, Carolyn. Off the Road. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990.

Cherkovski, Neeli. Ferlinghetti: A Biography. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1979.

Eberhart, Richard and Allen Ginsberg. To Eberhart from Ginsberg. Massachusetts: Penmaen Press, 1976.

French, Warren. The San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, 1955-1960. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991.

Gifford, Barry, ed. As Ever: The Collected Correspondence of Allen Ginsberg to Neal Cassady. Berkeley: Creative Arts Book Company, 1977.

Ginsberg, Allen. Howl and Other Poems. San Francicso: City Lights, 1956.

Miles, Barry, ed. Howl. New York: Harper Perennial, 1995.

Schumacher, Michael. Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Simpson, Louis. A Revolution in Taste. New York: Macnillian Publishing Company, Inc., 1978.
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