My Weekly Wishlist – March 3/3 – Howl by Allen Ginsberg

My love of the poets of the Beat Generation cannot be put into words. Well, I will anyway probably try to do it, at some point. But today, I just want to talk about why Howl is on my Wishlist. Howl was once on my bookshelf. Once upon a time. It no longer is. I gave it to a relative who misplaced it – a fact for which I hated myself. Partly because I had just read the first 2 pages of it.

So, technically, I don’t own a copy of Howl anymore, and I desperately want one. The only reason I haven’t picked up one as yet is because a copy of Howl will cost me 3 other books on my reading list for the next month. And I’m not ready to sacrifice those books because they are aligned with my reading theme for next month, and Howl is not.

But now, let me get on to the reasons why I’m keen to buy my own copy of Howl and read it. Howl is a landmark event in the history of American literature. Yes, it’s an event because the book happened, and a lot happened around the poem – it was criticized (as it should have been), it was bullied, it was taken to court, and it came out a victor.

It was noisy, loud, uncouth and brash. It was torn apart as much as it tore apart the haze around the society. It spoke of the insanity and incredulousness of a drug addled brilliant mind (Carl Solomon, who transformed Ginsberg’s mind), and offset it against the insanity and incredulousness of a society that was sober. It is one line of poetry that rants in pages.

Howl has this ability to pull the reader up by the collar, and slowly but surely drag him across the floor, and then the rough streets, and fling him off the rooftops, just as the best minds of Ginsberg’s generation did. It’s very rarely that a writer can affect the reader the way he intends. And if the uproar around Howl is to be believed, it did just that.


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