Ginsberg, Allen. Howl and Other Poems. San Francisco: City Light Books, 2001.

Ginsberg, Allen. Howl and Other Poems. San Francisco: City Light Books, 2001.

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Ginsberg, Allen. Howl and Other Poems. San Francisco: City Light Books, 2001.

Capitalizing on Capitalizing in Ginsberg’s Howl

Ginsberg was a literary revolutionary as can be seen in his poetry. He pushed form and genre, theory and confrontation, confession and controversy right to the threshold and over the doorway of societal standards. In pushing and pushing, Ginsberg creates a new vocabulary for certain words by capitalizing them and giving them the significance of the ‘proper noun.’ By capitalizing the first letter of certain words, Ginsberg gives a solid identity to intangible things and redefines their role in a corrupted society that has destroyed the “best minds” of his generation.

Heaven, Terror, Time, Zen, Eternity, Capitalism, Absolute Reality and Space find their niche among the cities and events in section one. None of the words begin a sentence and some are used multiple times, giving them even more validity in their existence. Somewhere along the line the “best minds of [Ginsberg’s] generation” “bared their brains to Heaven,” “cowered…listening to the Terror,” in the midst of “poles…illuminating all the motionless world of Time” and “vanished into nowhere Zen,” “followed a brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity,” “burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,” or “were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality” (9-13, 16).

Despite Ginsberg’s rants towards hysteria and chaos, there is some hope in the vulnerability of men who “bared their brains to Heaven.” There is a strong sense of redemption in the Eternity that is continuously referred to page to page. This also gives the minds some validity and a sense of ownership of...


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...ey tie in with the Absolute Reality way of approaching the world. At the same time that he devalues Visions and Dreams, calling them, “the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit,” he also seems to feel that way because they have been devalued by America, rather than by be devalued in their own right (22). The few remaining capitalized words maintain that strand of hope that Ginsberg gave in section one. Even if America has devalued Dreams, Visions, and Epiphanies, they are still there for the taking in some sense.

By the third section, Ginsberg has found some middle ground and solidarity. There is hope for the destroyed minds and corrupted America. Ginsberg attaches his own meaning to these words to set up the minds vs. society and provides some eternal hope that stands outside of society’s domination and gives everyone some ultimate answers and consistency.

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