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Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  102 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Howl and Other Poems, with nearly one million copies in print, City Lights presents the story of editing, publishing, and defending Allen Ginsberg’s landmark poem within a broader context of obscenity issues and censorship of literary works.

This collection begins with an introduction by publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who shares his me
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 1st 2006 by City Lights Publishers
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Nov 29, 2007 Venessa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: intellectual freedom advocates, ginsberg fans
If I hadn't been in school, this book would have maybe taken a night to read. It's small, concise, yet packed full of information on the Howl trial, taken from when it happened as well as reflections of it nearly fifty years later. Essays, letters, newspaper articles, an excerpt from the trial itself and more fill this great book.

The only thing that got a little tedious were Allen's letters himself. In Europe during the trial, he seemed less concerned with that than with money money MONEY. I mea
Apr 26, 2014 Luis rated it really liked it
Shelves: san-francisco
Once upon a time, in a country far, far away, you could still ban books of poetry because they were "obscene". Not that long ago, and of course for San Franciscans, literally around the corner at City Lights bookstore. While this is on my San Francisco shelf, I'm not sure I'd call it an SF book per se - more a book about the trial and speech issues that happen to take place in SF. Still, a good read, particularly for anyone interested in poetry, the Beats, or civil liberties/speech issues; and g ...more
Jennifer Kelly
Jan 03, 2016 Jennifer Kelly rated it really liked it
For the essays, newsclippings, and court documents - I'd give the book 5 stars. Including Ginsberg's letters seemed like a waste of space. They added nothing to the discussion of Howl or free speech and were rather tiresome (basically they were entreaties for cash).
Jennifer Lavoie
Jul 11, 2015 Jennifer Lavoie rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look at the obscenities trial for Howl, this book includes transcripts from the trial, letters to and from Ginsberg leading up to and after the trial, and clippings from articles. A must read for anyone who wants to learn more on the subject.
Jen Funk
Feb 21, 2016 Jen Funk rated it liked it
Reminded me of what it may have been like listening to Lenny Bruce read his court documents as an act instead of preforming his comedy. But it was very informative. The DA was a nimrod.
May 26, 2014 Deirdre rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2014
If you're into Beat Generation stuff, you'll enjoy it, but some of the content (especially the transcript from the trial) is a little dry. LOVED the essays though.
Jeffrey St.
Jun 11, 2007 Jeffrey St. rated it it was amazing
How did you know when poetry matters? When the feds try to censor it, naturally. Allen Ginsberg's Howl is not an erotic poem. It's not pornography. It's an all-out assaul, to the rhythms of Walt Whitman and the prayers of the Talmud, on every tender spot in the repressed psyche of 50s Amerika. This riveting book tells the story of the poem, the crazed crack down by the censors, and the courage of one of the nation's great publishers and owner of a small corner bookstore in the heart North Beach- ...more
Feb 02, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it
While I would have organized the book a tad differently (I prefer things in a chronological order) I found this book to be fascinating. I might not enjoy the poem Howl by Ginsburg, but the trial was precedent setting. As Judge Horn said in his decision " The freedoms of speech and press are inherent in a nation of free people.... These freedoms must be protected if we are to remain free, both individually and as a nation." (Pg 207)
Feb 01, 2012 Cari rated it liked it
An interesting read about an important piece of history for the arts and free speech in America. Perhaps the most interesting part, however, is that if one were to judge solely from Ginsberg's letters during the obscenity trial, one would get the impression that he was just about the only person who didn't understand how important the outcome of the trial actually was and the place it would have in American history.
Meg Cain
Oct 30, 2012 Meg Cain rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Great book following the obscenity trial of howl as well as the broader push for book banning in this country under the guise of "public decency." Puts the poem and author in a historical context in which they are as much an example of a broader whole as they are the subject of the book. Highly recommended to anyone who loves literature and free speech.
Dec 19, 2007 Cherie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A Oh, how I love Allen. This book examines the trial for freedom for Howl--I love how Lawrence Ferlinghetti (great poet, btw) is so excited about changing history and censorship with the Howl trial. Includes some letters by Allen and others; really interesting. A must for any Ginsberg fan.
Donna Davis
Apr 02, 2013 Donna Davis rated it really liked it
Shelves: pol-sc, poetry, reviewed
The poem itself is a primary source, if you are studying free speech in the United States. Beyond that, there is an interesting view of pop culture in contemporary history. The text is a little dense in places; this could be a more fluent read, but I still think it's worth having.
Feb 26, 2011 Tim rated it really liked it
Saw this in the poetry section at Border's Books and took it straight to the check-out counter... every bit as compelling as I thought it would be. Makes me want to sit down and write a "children's" book of my own.
Rena Holcomb
Jan 01, 2011 Rena Holcomb rated it really liked it
Interesting history and insight into a critical time for the search for free expression and the idea of free speech. I choose this as a resource for my final paper in my final class of my MA of Min program at ESR.
Oct 06, 2010 Haylee rated it it was amazing
Loved this. It has the whole trial transcript, letters from Ginsgberg during the trial, etc. Long live free speach.
Jan 28, 2008 Chante rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
I love this book! The research done for the book is excellent. It's one of my favorites...
May 15, 2009 Sarah added it
Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression by Bill Morgan (2006)
Shannon Richardson
Jan 06, 2015 Shannon Richardson rated it it was amazing

such a valuable source for my EPQ project
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Bill Morgan is a painter and archival consultant working in New York City. His previous publications include The Works of Allen Ginsberg 1941-1994: A Descriptive Bibliography and Lawrence Ferlinghetti: a Comprehensive Bibliography. He has worked as an archivist for Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, and Timothy Leary.
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