“Howl”

Howl (part 1)

On this date in 1955 Allen Ginsburg read his poem Howl in public for the first time in San Francisco.

Frye in “The Renaissance of Books”:

The great poets of the first half of this century — Eliot, Yeats, Pound — had the somewhat aloof authority conferred by their erudition, even though they often felt the pull of the desire to be genuinely popular.  We have the Eliot of Sanskrit quotations and the Eliot of practical cats; we have the Yeats of Rosicrucian symbolism and the Yeats of the luminously simple ballads of the Last Poems.  Allen Ginsburg’s Howl is usually taken as the turning point towards a neo-Romantic poetry which has been popular in a way hardly known to previous generations.  Much of this poetry has turned back to the primitive oral tradition of folk song, with the formulaic units, topical allusions, musical accompaniment, and public presentation that go with the tradition.  (CW 11, 145-6)

Howl (part 2)

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