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HOWL AND OTHER POEMS. Edition français-anglais Broché – 26 novembre 1993
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With all this talk of anger and rage, I should also mention that Ginsberg's sense of joy is a component of his poetry that too many critics either fail to mention or ignore all together. Whatever you may think of his talent, it is obvious that Ginsberg loved poetry and found his greatest happiness through the discovery of new forms of poetic expressions. For all of its apocalyptic ragings, Howl never grows shrill because one can sense the fact that Ginsberg had a lot of fun composing (and performing) the poem. A few years before his own death, I was lucky enough to attend one of Allen Ginsberg's readings. Though he read mostly from Kaddish and his shorter poems (perhaps, understandably, trying to make sure we understood he actually had written other poems beyond the one everyone kept citing), he also read a bit from Howl. He proved to be an amazing reader, going over these words he must have seen over a million times past, with an almost childlike enthusiasm and joy. As he did this, I looked out at the others in the audience and basically, I saw rows and rows of identical looking "intellectuals," all posessing the same dead-serious expression on their face, nodding at each relavent point as if to make sure everyone understood that they understood genius. Contrasting their forced seriousness with Ginsberg's uninhibited joy, I realized that there was only one true tragesy as far as Allen Ginsberg was concerned and that was the fact that his self-appointed acolytes always took him for more seriously then he did himself. To consider Howl and Ginsberg without joy is like considering language without words.
This poem is transcendence itself. It demonstrates that when you plunge into the deepest pit of hell it either kills you, or perhaps it burns out your insides so that you become a soulless zombie, OR you transcend it and rise howling to become a Mad Poet Saint who can truely encompass the Sacred in the Profane.
Read this poem, and the others like America, A Supermarket in California, Sunflower Sutra, Wild Orphan, and In Back of the Real. It's almost frightening how relevant to daily life it is. If you didn't know it, you would never guess that it was written in the 50's. Of course Ginsberg does invoke, holy eternity in time holy the clocks in space the fourth dimension, in the Footnote. Maybe that's why it's timeless. As Cassady used to say, we know time, yes, we know time....
I wish I would have been there for that first public reading in San Fran with Kerouac running around the audience passing the wine jug. On all the planes, the Gods themselves must have jumped back in shock as a flaming monkeywrench of living poetry was jammed through the spokes of the great quivering meat wheel of conception....
-GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
In my sophmore year of high school, my English teacher read "America," a vicious commentary on tha views of the majority in this country contained in this book, to my class.
I didn't think about this peom again until senior year (though it had stunned my fellow classmates and I). Picking this great pocket edition up at my local bookstore, I had no way of realizing what kind of effect it would have on me.
This book is full of some of Ginsberg's most classic works. His unorthodox style bleeds through the poems whether they are shorter, narrative odes to important figures in his life or sprawling, staggering, frenetic pieces which pull the extremes of life itself into the lines.
Because of this book I am now persuing poetry in college.
This should be required reading for Life in general.
As for comparisons, Howl follows in the tradition of Walt Whitman (who is given a strange but touching ode in Howl), with it's yelps and ecstatic screams. Like Whitman's "Leaves of Grass", "Howl" expands the boundaries and concepts of what poetry is.