Friday, October 21, 2005

Still Howling After All These Years

It's fifty years this month since one of the most influential and widely read poems ever was written:

by Allen Ginsberg.

A poem he intended as an "emotional time bomb that would continue exploding". And has.

A song of spiritual liberation, a homage to art, an ode to gay love and a lament for his mentally ill mother.

A great turning point for poetry. Capturing the rebellious, hungry, anguished voice of disillutioned youth. Capturing the vernacular speech of the people. Talking straight to the heart.

Performed. Not dead on the page. Not consigned to ivory towerdom. At a time when poets just didn't read their work aloud.

Provoked a storm of moral outrage in America. Was the subject of an obscentity trial.

That's an awful lot for one poem to do.

So celebrate.

Go print off a copy.

Go into the bathroom.

Read it aloud to feel the energy bouncing off the tiled walls.

Vibrating off bathtaps.

Feel it reverberate in the words you pen after. Writing from the deep and dangerous and angry and true place inside yourself. Which is the only place you have any right to write from.

In a strange attack of synchronicity I came across Ginsberg's essays Deliberate Prose by the bread counter in Cold Storage (RM9.90!) a few days ago. This is what he said about writing Howl.
I thought I wouldn't write a poem, but just write what I wanted to without fear, let my imagination go, open secrecy and scribble magic lines from my real mind - sum up my life - something I wouldn't be able to show anybody, writ for my own soul's ear and a few other golden ears. ... the first section typed out madly in one afternoon, a tragic custard-pie comedy of wild phrasing, meaningless images for the beauty ...

You can read more about the poem and the waves it created here.

You can listen to NPR's programme about Howl here and hear Ginsberg read his lines.


Chet said...

Hey, I have a copy of Howl that I bought from the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco.

I just took it out to have a look and saw that I'd bought it on 19 October 1990, so my copy is 15 years 0 month 2 days old!

I remember viewing a video of him at some reading. One of the poems he read was "Mind Breaths" - like it a lot.

His "Black Shroud" is powerful, too. Years after, he wrote "White Shroud" - have you read it?

Oh, I recently found a copy of Deliberate Prose from the Cold Storage book corner that you mentioned (yes, I finally found the corner).

Anonymous said...

"Capturing the rebellious, hungry, anguished voice of disillutioned youth. Capturing the vernacular speech of the people. Talking straight to the heart."

"I said this in English, yes I did, and you understand this, I ran in Barrio Logan, you’re from Sun Set, you know Barrio Logan? It’s where you’re mamma told you not to go! Because, if you go in there all they would have is a lot of lil missing white girl flyers tacked on poles. So you better F-ng back off white girl. Even tho I left the Barrio it doesn’t mean the Barrio left me, one call and you’re a piece of rotting paper in the wind for the next three months, do you get my message??"

Allen Ginsburg has nothing on Solana D'Cruz.

bibliobibuli said...

What I love about my blog is that the nice folks who drop by tell me about other stuff I've missed. I have a lot to discover. Chet, I was looking longingly at a collection of Ginsberg's poems in KinoKuniya today and may well buy it when I feel less bookguilt at the number of unread books I possess. I've heard of Kaddish but not Black Shroud or White Shroud. There's clearly a lot of ignorance to be banished.

Anonymous - who is Solana d'Cruz - I could not find anything on the web - just a link to a site that I couldn't enter.

Chet said...

Sharon, there are some books by and about Ginsberg at Popular Ikano, too, that I've been looking at longingly, too!

Check out the following:
Kaddish, White Shroud, and Black Shroud by Allen Ginsberg, with art by R. B. Kitaj

After I found it online, I went searching for a copy at both and Couldn't find any, and then I went back to the above page, scrolled down and learned that it's a limited edition of only 200 copies, each costing $600/-, and out of print.

Anonymous said...

Here :

This might work better. Ginsburg is, IMHO, very tame for this day and age. I suppose he did cause a stir way back then, but times have changed and so have the people. What was considered scandalous back then is probably quite normal now. AG has always seemed to me a bit theatrical, like a play someone puts on to highlight that sort of life, but just to hint at it, sort of stop at the very fringes of the darkness because to fully enter it would result in some sort of demonic soul-possession or something. This girl's been there.. you can hear the ring of truth in her words.

If you still can't get there I'll have to mail you the link, and maybe you can type it in manually.. it deserves to be read, if only to see writing from the heart is really like.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks a lot for the link anonymous (hey is this the anonymous formerly known as porty??) - i found the site and will go read ...