Synopses & Reviews
The epigraph for Howl is from Walt Whitman: "Unscrew the locks from the doors!/Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!" Announcing his intentions with this ringing motto, Allen Ginsberg published a volume of poetry which broke so many social taboos that copies were impounded as obscene, and the publisher, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was arrested. The court case that followed found for Ginsberg and his publisher, and the publicity made both the poet and the book famous. Ginsberg went on from this beginning to become a cultural icon of sixties radicalism. This works seminal place in the culture is indicated in Czeslaw Milosz's poetic tribute to Ginsberg: "Your blasphemous howl still resounds in a neon desert where the human tribe wanders, sentenced to unreality".
"[Ginsberg's political] actions make him a significant cultural figure, but it is the poetry that makes him a significant literary figure." Helen Vendler, The New Yorker
"The reissue of this classic in its small hardcover form assures that new generations will have access to the prophetic words of this 1950s beat poet. This is the poem which reflected and launched a generation of rebels: its new form assures expanded readership." Midwest Book Review
Originally published in 1956, this poem was subsequently seized by US customs and the San Francisco police. It was the subject of a long court trial at which a series of poets and professors persuaded the court that the book was not obscene.
About the Author
Allen Ginsberg was born June 3, 1926, the son of Naomi Ginsberg, Russian émigré, and Louis Ginsberg, lyric poet and school teacher, in Paterson, N.J. To these facts Ginsberg adds: "High school in Paterson till 17, Columbia College, merchant marine, Texas and Denver copyboy, Times Square, amigos in jail, dishwashing, book reviews, Mexico City, market research, Satori in Harlem, Yucatan and Chiapas 1954, West Coast 3 years. Later Arctic Sea trip, Tangier, Venice, Amsterdam, Paris, read at Oxford Harvard Columbia Chicago, quit, wrote "Kaddish" 1959, made tape to leave behind & fade in Orient awhile. Carl Solomon to whom "Howl" is addressed, is a intuitive Bronx dadaist and prose-poet."