Fiver's Reviews > Howl and Other Poems

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
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Jan 05, 2012

really liked it
Read on January 05, 2012

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 read aloud 'Howl'. I could never forget the experience. Twenty minutes of endearing, enticing, and shocking poetry, seeming to cover the entire range of human emotions in a way that I honestly had not experienced before.

'Howl' was written by a classically struggling and suffering young poet in the late nineteen fifties. Following a unique four-part structure and depending on breath patterns rather than rhyming to give musicality to the poem, it is meant to be a mourning eulogy, primarily for the author's personal acquaintances, but more broadly for the state of society as a whole. Those who read the poem and enjoy it might benefit from an annotated version which explains all the obscure references which Ginsberg includes, but I personally find the poem stands on its own even if to the common listener.

It's a good poem. It's an important poem. It's a long poem. And you should read it.
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