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Howl and Other Poems

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  57,633 ratings  ·  927 reviews
The prophetic poem that launched a generation when it was first published in 1965 is here presented in a commemorative fortieth Anniversary Edition.

When the book arrived from its British printers, it was seized almost immediately by U.S. Customs, and shortly thereafter the San Francisco police arrested its publisher and editor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, together with City Lig
Hardcover, 56 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by City Lights (first published 1956)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
6th out of 1,527 books — 1,672 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Best Books of the 20th Century
305th out of 6,204 books — 41,859 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Preface: Though I enjoyed this book as a whole, the focus this evening will be on Howl. Why this one alone? Simply put, I am writing these jumbled thoughts as a dedication to a friend. Rather, I am dedicating this to a cluster of friends, each of whom have chosen, in one form or another, to leave this earthly plain and shatter vehemently into oblivion. Suffice it to say that this series of words and interpretations will be highly personal, and therefore guided by inflated emotions which have for ...more
Brent Legault
Nov 23, 2010 Brent Legault rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the angelheaded, the negrostreeted
Muddled, addled and overrated. In fact, any rating, even a single star or half-moon, is too much for this amateur-hour of a "poem." It might have played well when shouted out to a roomful of arrogant drunks, but on the page it droops, it teeters under the weight of all of those ungainly adjectivies and finally collapses in a fog of its own flatulance. I saw the best minds of my generation ignore this long, long limerick. Now, only nostalgists and know-naughts still cling to its pages of ill-repu ...more
Allen Ginsberg, a sad and lonely man, wrote this to impress Kerouac, another sad and lonely man.

Over the years, a lot of sad and lonely people haven't gotten over the how much that first fucking line resonates with them.

The whole best minds/generation/destroyed/madness line.

Ten years ago, this was a 5-star poem. Ten years from now, it will be a 3-star poem.

That's just called growing up, folks.

Alfred Bates
Allen Ginsberg typifies the beat generation. Basically, a large amount of stoned/drunk pretentious hipsters who claimed they hated hipsters. And without much writing skill at that. The only exception to this is Jack Kerouac, who was actually a good writer, and did claim numerous times that he was not a beat. That being said, Howl is one of the longest, most terrible pieces of rubbish I've read in a long time. This deserves less than one star. I must admit, he does manage to incorporate a fair am ...more
Stephen M
Jan 21, 2011 Stephen M rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: poetry
"who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,

returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,

Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,

with mot
ah, ranty rants and beautiful language and a deep deep sense of the long poetic sentence. and madness writ large. and industrial dissolution. and that wasteland that is america.
Many say that this is nothing more than an overrated, incomprehensible bunch of words about sex, alcohol and drugs. And they are right. But poetry is not about words, it's about the feeling they are capable of evoke. And Howl evoke a lot of feelings, at least for me. The eternal search of the meaning of life, the conflicted relation between the fear and mystification of death, the wonders and terrors of growing old.
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysteric
[Name Redacted]
I have a problem with Allen Ginsberg.

It goes beyond how overrated I think he is, how mediocre his poetry seems to me. The titular poem of this volume in particular.

It goes beyond his adolescent fixation on the prurient and the vulgar.

See, I know for a fact that he was a pedophile.

I studied under one of his friends, someone who admitted that Ginsberg was sexually attracted to little boys -- to the extent that Ginsberg's friends all refused to let the poet be alone (or, in some cases, even aroun
the mad hatter
Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" was probably the dividing line between two Americas, two generations, two sexualities, two cultures. He was of course indicted and arrested and this poem barred from publication - of course again making it sell a lot more copies eventually - but in a way he was America's first great modern poet. The first line became a sort of countercultural national mantra:

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked"

"Howl" presents a view
Jul 19, 2011 Milo marked it as to-read
Shelves: poetry
The United States Supreme Court has said that obscenity is construed to mean: having a substantial tendency to corrupt or arousing lustful desires. Is the word relevant to what the author of Howl is trying to say? Or did he just use it to be dirty and filthy. He sees what he terms as
"an adonis of Denver. Joy to the memory of his innumerable conquests. Who went whoring through Colorado in myriad, stolen night cars. Neil Cassidy, secret hero of this poem, cocksman and adonis of Denver. Joy to the
Black Elephants
While trying to be more serious on the subject of any kind of literature that I happen to read (per a discussion with a friend), I found myself in Borders, browsing in the poetry section. Generally, I don't bother with bookstore poetry sections. They tend to be filled with "best poetry" anthologies, volumes of Dickinson, Frost and a handful of other great poets, and that's it. I don't have a problem with any of that, it's just that there's not a lot of variety, and I don't believe poetry can rea ...more
shana naomi
Wiki just taught me this:

The poem's ending is also highly optimistic, a promise to put his "queer shoulder to the wheel," although the original draft ended on a bleaker note: "Dark America! toward whom I close my eyes for prophecy, / and bend my speaking heart! / Betrayed! Betrayed!"

Which only makes me more excited about my long-ago decision to get "america I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel" inked on myself (today!). it's strangely reassuring to know that even in the middle of that dis
Laura Leaney
I just finished reading an essay about Ginsberg's "Howl," paused to reflect and decided to re-read the poem - as well as the others included in this little book. I like them. They're honest, saturated in Ginsberg's heart-wounds and the social concerns of the post-war generation (which, unbelievably, aren't now all that different from 1954). Reading "Howl" is a little bit like getting dragged into the underbelly of New York by one's peter pan collar and being forced to meet the "angelheaded" and ...more
Clark Phillips
I really wish I could give this piece of garbage less than zero stars. Unfortunately, 1 star will have to suffice. I don't really care what other poems are included in this book, the main offense is "Howl," a complete and utter waste of time. Supposedly one of the Beat Generation's greatest contribution to American literature, I believe the poem should have been renamed "Yawn." The poem itself is incomprehensible. I understand that the poem is MEANT to be incomprehensible, but behind this, there ...more
Tell me comparing your life as the son of two artists in a self-imposed sexed-up exile from the most affluent society on earth to that of a Holocaust victim isn't exorbitantly self-absorbed.

Now tell me this isn't a great line:

"in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night"

Ginsberg borrows the repetitive syntax of ancient poetry and cryptically personal references to mythologize his yawp, unaware that Voic
Today, I reread this book to teach it in my English 343 class. During lunch, I chatted up a first-year student about the book--she'd not read it nor heard of it, but emerged, out of my brief description, ready to cross the path to the bookstore and pick up her copy to read in her (all too brief) leisure time. On the way back to the office, I passed one of my students in the class, and asked him, "Excited about Howl tomorrow?" No, he told me. I don't really like the Beats. I kinda got over them i ...more
Minyoung Lee
Perhaps it was fate that brought me to this random hotel room in San Francisco, that happened to have a copy of Howl on the bedside table, in lieu of a Bible. And it was definitely fate that compelled to read this collection of poetry out loud, despite being tired and droopy eyed from the airplane that surely lives off passengers' livelihoods. I am glad that fate let me meet this collection of poetry and I am ashamed that I have not known this until now.

As a foreigner with very slim knowledge of
Mar 08, 2008 Jacob added it
The other night I was drinking in North Beach after reading at City Lights and Matt Rohrer bought a Howl t-shirt at City Lights and came to the bar and put it on. The first one he bought was too big and while it fit over his frame it still draped over him like a dress, or a rowboat, or a huge box, but maybe it wasn't that bad. Maybe it draped over him like a tight-fitting rowboat, one that he could use to row across the bay to Oakland for a punk show. The thing with rowboats is you have to make ...more
HOWL was amazing and I loved some of the other poems, but I didn't connect to them as well as I am in his other collection I am reading, which I loooooove. So due to comparison, this gets 4 stars instead of 5.
Boo hoo the plight of myself

and all my cool friends who are so brilliant here's some
literary references so you know

and disenfranchised

and we take drugs and wander about and dammit we're
iconoclasts and therefore don't have to write lines
that actually sound good or end poems before we overstate
our positions or anything because reading a poem should
feel like being stuck at bus stop with *that* dude

and so we Howl our dissatisfaction well at least as much
as you can even after you become a cla
Stephen P
the power and feverish writing overcomes whatever defects this great poem may have.
I can still remember vividly the first time (and currently the only time) that I ever heard a recitation of Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl'. It was at a comfortable New Music salon concert, a monthly get-together hosted by a professor of composition at my university. The night had been filled with improvisational new music, sound sculptures, and poetry recitations, and around the three-fourths mark, one of my music professors had humbly sat down in a comfortable chair in front of the small audience and ...more
Victoria Nicholson
Howl is about the interior life.Its a animalistic cry to the heavens.
Pollock painted emotions and what was inside of his mind instead of
anything to do with nature.The 1950s method actors and Pollock howl
like Ginsberg.This poem is prophetic .It anticipated the "tune in...
drop out of the 1960s"Some people still live this lifestyle today.
These animalistic artists have convinced me to not join the rat race.
Yet Im not going to get drunk and do illegal drugs.Im just going to
get a worthless fun find my
Emma Long
Allen Ginsberg's 1956 poem 'Howl' gives a voice to those who were dissatisfied and alienated in Eisenhower's America. 'Howl' became an anthem for the developing counterculture highlighting the high cultural gloom of human possibility at the hands of an imperial America with excess commodities where aesthetics are of great importance.

Written in three parts 'Howl' communicates scenes, characters and scenarios drawn from Ginsberg's own personal journals and experience. The opening line of Part One
The graphic history of the Beats inspired me to read this, of course, and in any case I was long overdue and would have been outstaying my welcome in this country had I not taken immediate action, so I did. Perhaps it would have been better if I'd read this poem before the graphic account though, because now I was all too aware of its history, how Howl made Ginsberg famous overnight after the now legendary public reading at City Lights in San Francisco, in 1955. So I couldn't hold my own horses ...more
My Review For The Howl by Allen Ginsberg

All I can say is WOW! If ever there WERE a person who

COULD be called as THAT kind of "spewer out of words" kind of person,

the sort who lets his words flow, just letting it ALL hang out, no holds barred, throwing

all sense of caution into the wind kind of person, well, THAT kind of person is

the only one who could— strike that—would have written "The Howl." Now THAT'S a

TRUE RANT, albeit, a rythymically, alarmingly poetical and ultimately coming to make

If I were only rating the title poem I'd give it 5 stars. Howl is by far the strongest poem in this collection and absolutely everyone interested in poetry should read it.
Η συλλογική εικόνα είναι ότι Γκίνγκσμπεργκ έχει δικό του feeling και touch με ωμότητα στη γραφή (όπως και οι άλλοι μπιτ), αλλά και με πολιτικό περιεχόμενο. Στον αντίποδα αυτού όμως τα πάμπολλα γεγονότα και πρόσωπα της εποχής που αναφέρονται σε κάποια από τα ''μεγάλα'' ποιήματά του, καθιστούν το περιοχόμενο καθεαυτού προτεινόμενο σε αυτούς που είχαν ζήσει/γνωρίσει την Αμερική του 1960 (και πολύ πιο πριν) και σε συγκεκριμένες περιοχές της -κατα την άποψη μου-. Ενδιαφέρουσες ήταν οι αναφορές σε άλλ ...more
Pavlina Radolavova
Страхотна + прекрасно издание
Erik Graff
Jun 06, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: Steve Hyde
Shelves: poetry
I believe we were introduced to Ginsberg and Howl by my best friend's older brother, Steve, when down in their parent's Courtland St. basement one evening. Some of it we read aloud. I liked it. It reminded me of Walt Whitman whose Leaves of Grass we had read in school. I obtained my own copy and finished reading the thing, both silently and aloud, in my own room.
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  • A Coney Island of the Mind
  • Mexico City Blues
  • Lunch Poems
  • The Portable Beat Reader
  • Selected Poems
  • Illuminations
  • Turtle Island
  • Gasoline & The Vestal Lady on Brattle
  • The Collected Poems
  • Time and Materials
  • Diving Into the Wreck
  • The Wild Iris
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was the son of Louis and Naomi Ginsberg, two Jewish members of the New York literary counter-culture of the 1920s. Ginsberg was raised among several progressive political perspectives. A supporter of the Communist party, Ginsberg's mother was a nudist whose mental health was a concern throughout the poet's childhood. According to biographer Barry Miles, "Naomi's illness gave A ...more
More about Allen Ginsberg...
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“Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an angel!” 160 likes
“Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy!
The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand
and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is
holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an
The bum's as holy as the seraphim! the madman is
holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is
holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!
Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien holy
Kerouac holy Huncke holy Burroughs holy Cas-
sady holy the unknown buggered and suffering
beggars holy the hideous human angels!
Holy my mother in the insane asylum! Holy the cocks
of the grandfathers of Kansas!
Holy the groaning saxophone! Holy the bop
apocalypse! Holy the jazzbands marijuana
hipsters peace & junk & drums!
Holy the solitudes of skyscrapers and pavements! Holy
the cafeterias filled with the millions! Holy the
mysterious rivers of tears under the streets!
Holy the lone juggernaut! Holy the vast lamb of the
middle class! Holy the crazy shepherds of rebell-
ion! Who digs Los Angeles IS Los Angeles!
Holy New York Holy San Francisco Holy Peoria &
Seattle Holy Paris Holy Tangiers Holy Moscow
Holy Istanbul!
Holy time in eternity holy eternity in time holy the
clocks in space holy the fourth dimension holy
the fifth International holy the Angel in Moloch!
Holy the sea holy the desert holy the railroad holy the
locomotive holy the visions holy the hallucina-
tions holy the miracles holy the eyeball holy the
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours!
bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent
kindness of the soul!”
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