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Howl and Other Poems

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  93,506 ratings  ·  1,686 reviews
Hardcover, 56 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by City Lights (first published 1956)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  93,506 ratings  ·  1,686 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

Easy to overestimate Allen Ginsberg. Easy to underestimate him too.

There are—if you leave out the political, religious and major historical figures—only about two dozen or so 20th century cultural icons, and Ginsberg is one of them—right up there with Einstein, Bogart, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe. In the 60's, his face was ubiquitous, and the Ginsberg poster you picked out for yourself showed the kind of Ginsberg you aspired to be: Ginsberg in Uncle Sam hat, naked Ginsberg embracing naked Pet
Jul 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1974-2002
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.

Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
You will not like this. Like we use to say, vengan de a uno.

So, “Howl”. My rating is based mostly on my experience with that long poem.
I admire any work filled with sincerity and lyrically intense lines (when found). Powerful, raw images that expose an unknown world. I understand this book's historical context and what it represented at the time; storming in with a breath of fresh air, breaking the mold and dealing with some themes and views I also agree with. Well, except for the endless refere
Brent Legault
Apr 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
My god.

Reading Howl was like getting stuck for an hour in the brain of a rebellious, pubescent, sexist loudmouth. Between every sentence transpires the hubris of being THE NEW POET, and of being A COOL OUTCAST, and a member of that little BOYS CLUB Ginsberg brings up again and again although it weakens his writing every time.

There's a faint, insufferable music of puerility behind it all : most notably when Ginsberg brings up constantly the names of his famous friends, brings down women and (ew!
Steven Godin
Nothing like a bit of controversy to keep the establishment ticking over, and in "Howl" it's easy to see why as this was seen as a shocking and powerful piece of obscenity in the eyes of some, but for many more it's viewed as a celebrated manifesto of great importance for the beat Generation of the 1950s that helped to stick a big fat middle finger up to sexual repression and capitalism. This is a vital collection of Ginsberg's work that will always stand the test of time.
Timothy Urges
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ginsberg takes you there.
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
I feel similar ways about Allen Ginsberg and Adele. While I appreciate the skill behind both of their work, I find both of their material overwrought, contrary to popular opinion. Yes, I see how Ginsberg's poetry revolted against oppressive forces and mainstream, heteronormative America. Its lack of style and nuance still frustrates me. Props to him for lending fire to a revolution that uplifted marginalized voices, even if I myself find his writing unfulfilling and too frantic, despite the posi ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own
It took awhile for me to finally determine where exactly Allan Ginsberg sits in my book reviewer rating scale.

Truth is, I was lured in by all the hoopla this collection received in 1956 when it was seized by U.S customs. It's just not easy for me to review poetry.

Do I understand why AG set the world on fire in 56? Totally!

Was it the type of writing that made me HOWL ? Mmmm ..maybe more like a whimper?

Goodreads Review 24/06/19
Rakhi Dalal
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had goosebumps while reading Howl. It's like nothing I have ever read!
Scarlet Cameo
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, draggin themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dinamo in the machinery of night.”

Me pregunto ¿Quién no habrá leído las primeras líneas de “Aullido”? Un poema que influenció ampliamente la poesía norteamericana del siglo XXI, creado y disfrutado más recitado que leído , pero que sobre todas las co
Tom Quinn
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
So: a mi no me gusta poetry. I really really hate poems. I get it, on an analytical level: they're like ideas pared down into short little quick-fix portrayals and for all the amazing good they do with imagery and sharing the core of humanity, I really just don't like them. They're over too fast, they're too seemingly simple. And all that said, that is why I love "Howl" and Allen Ginsberg in general. "Howl" as a poem is long, longer than average, and yet still full of beautiful/ugly imagery - it ...more
Considered a masterpiece of the "beat generation" writers, it reads like the jumbled rambling of a drug crazed alcoholic, preoccupied with sex and spiritual enlightenment, while battling mental instability and depression. But I "get it", and I appreciate the significance of it's contribution to the history of the hipster generation, and how they and their writing influenced the culture of the 20th century.
Rania Attafi
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
mind blowing! i can't wait to read more of his poetry
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"America stop pushing I know what I'm doing. America the plum blossoms are falling. I haven't read the newspaper for months, everyday someone goes on trial for murder . . ." -- 'America,' on page 31

I'm guessing Ginsberg's Howl was shocking or celebrated / venerated back in early 1956 with its then-provocative small doses of raw language and implied sexual imagery, but 63 years later it now seems overwrought or sometimes pretentious. Occasionally there's a sharp or well-constructed verse, and som
Roy Lotz
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?

On my recent trip to San Francisco I was obliged to buy a copy of this book from the City Lights bookstore. Well, that isn’t the whole story. I visited the store without knowing anything of its history, left with a copy of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius, and then shamefacedly returned to pick up this book when my mother informed me, five minutes later, that it is famous for the “Howl” trial. I had heard recordings of Ginsb
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Uneven collection. "Howl" is good, while the rest is crap.
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 hy
Stephen M
Jan 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lexie by: Rory Gilmore
TBR jar pick for January 2016

It's easy to underestimate the Beats now, in this era (of which the better parts, one might argue, they helped bring about). It's easy to dismiss it all as "attempting to shock" and "deliberately aggressive/anarchist/lewd/[whichever other titles have been slapped on this collection over the years]". They're Holden Caulfield, they're Jim Stark, they're Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

But the truth is that the Beats, that Allen Ginsberg, that Howl, was revolutionary a
[Name Redacted]
Feb 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
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
I'm on a Beat experiment, of sorts, so bear with me. I'd read Howl a while back, but mostly because my then boyfriend was obsessed with Allen Ginsberg. He was prone to, er, herbaceous recreation, if you catch my drift. We were in a long distance relationship, and asking me to read vaguely psychedelic and experimental poems was his idea of foreplay. So I read Howl, I liked it. I didn't really care much about it beyond that, because I hadn't really wanted to read it then. I read Howl again after I ...more
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
It's been a fair few years since I read this, decided on a re-read because I'm going to read The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg soon, so thought it was best to have a refresh.

I read Howl and then listened to the main himself performing it, best way to do it. Everytime time he says "eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio" it gives me goosebumps.

One thing I noticed this time is that his poetry still angers people, still getting thumb dow
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, classics, fiction
If Allen Ginsberg's poems were a music style, it would be a mixture of psychedelic rock and grunge rock.
The rants in his poems are rebellious. He unloads his frustrations, rejects the standard narrative values, and explores an alternative emancipation through spiritual enlightenment and drugs.
"Howl" is undoubtedly the voice of a generation anxious for sexual liberation and exploration of new lifestyles. Ginsberg's main poem is, moderately, a hymn to society's misfits, to the misunderstood arti
Robert Hobkirk
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ginsberg spent years, hunched over his typewriter, working at poetry, sending out poems with little validation for his talent from the gatekeepers of poetry, poetry magazines and literary journals. Then around 1956 City Lights published this little, very little book Howl. A year later Ginsberg got lucky when a plain-clothes SF cop came into the City Lights book Store and bought a copy of Howl, arresting the store manager and subsequently the publisher for dealing in obscene material. Bingo! With ...more
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
2nd reading: I understood more references and it only got better.

what can I say? I'm apparently a sucker for beat poetry and anything Allen Ginsberg. this was a very short book of poems and the first one (Howl) was simply amazing. it made me feel so many things so suddenly. the rest of the poems are good as well but Howl was something else.
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
Apr 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
i would say "suck my dick" but even that's too much respect for a boring pedophile
Alfred Bates
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
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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

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