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Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression
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Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  89 ratings  ·  15 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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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
Nov 29, 2007 Venessa rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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.
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
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 5 of 5 stars
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

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.
More about Bill Morgan...
I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation Beat Generation in New York: A Walking Tour of Jack Kerouac's City The Beat Generation in San Francisco: A Literary Tour Beat Atlas: A State-by-State Guide to the Beat Generation

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