In Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, the idea of resistance is present in multiple forms. On a thematic level, Ginsberg exploits the reasons the “best minds” of his generation are being destroyed (9). On a formal level, Ginsberg uses lengthy sentences to resist traditional styles of writing. Ginsberg was successful in his rebellion and gained substantial recognition; further supported by the fact he even had to fight for his freedom of expression in the court of law. As a whole, “Howl” has been a controversial poem (and eventually film) ever since the public laid eyes on it. Ginsberg was very proactive with the idea of self-expression and freedoms. His work tends to portray his personal views, and resisting higher powers and societal expectations is a large part of those views. Whether it is sex, drugs, rock and roll, crime, war, or the government, Ginsberg demonstrates a strong sense of resistance to “social norms” by pushing the boundaries of what is ‘acceptable’ using theme and form.
“Howl” is broken into three seemingly unrelated parts, which further exemplifies resistance on a formal level. The dividing of the poem into sections is a form of resistance, because in 1956 when it was published, poetry and writing was all very predictable. Beneath the title “Howl”, it says “For Carl Solomon”(Ginsberg 9). This formal dedication seems almost to be a mockery of traditional poetry once the reader manages to finish reading the entire poem. The content of the poem, which speaks of “cock and endless balls” (Ginsberg 10), isn’t something you would typically think to dedicate to someone. This contrast in the formalness compared to the somewhat vulgar content is resistant in its hypocrisy. In all three portions of the poem, Ginsberg uses the repet...
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... that can be taken as direct dedication to Carl Solomon. The poem once again exhibits resistance by slowly losing focus and becoming more vague and more open to interpretation. By the second last “I’m with you in Rockland” there are more than seven lines that follow. This lack of consistency throughout the poem can be seen as resisting predictability. As a whole, Ginsberg’s “Howl” has the idea of resistance in all forms. On a contextual level, Howl is pushing boundaries with themes and thoughts that are typically never said aloud. On a formal level “Howl” oozes with originality and resistance against what typical poetry is defined as. Lastly, on a personal level, Ginsberg himself has to resist against the court and fight for what he believes in.
Ginsberg, Allen. Howl, and other poems. San Francisco: City Lights Pocket Bookshop, 1956. Print. P.9-26.
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