Reading "Howl", 1966.
with Bob Dylan.
June 3, 1926: Allen Ginsberg is born.
Allen Ginsberg, along with Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, defined the Beat Generation of postwar America. Ginsberg was born in New Jersey to a poet father and a Communist mother (for whom he wrote the poem Kaddish). He met Kerouac and Burroughs while studying at Columbia University, and the three soon-to-be literary pioneers soon found that they shared similar critical views on the growing conformity of post-war American society. Later in his life, Ginsberg also befriended other figures like Timothy Leary (the famous proponent of psychedelic drugs) and Bob Dylan (pictured above with Ginsberg in front of Jack Kerouac’s grave).
In 1956, Ginsberg published his most famous work, “Howl”, which began with the famous lines:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…
The poem spoke frankly of illegal drug use and sexuality (and homosexuality); in 1957, Ginsberg came to international fame when “Howl” came under scrutiny in a well-publicized obscenity trial, which it subsequently won. Over time, it became the most popular poem to have been produced by the Beat writers.
“Howl” was written to be performed, not merely looked at - listen to the poet himself read it on YouTube.