Dear holy classmates,
1.) I’ve read Howl yet again and have only recently come to the realization, nay the epiphany, that there’s no understanding it, and yet, I feel I know the poem more thoroughly and intimately than I’ve ever known any poem. It’s this juxtaposition that’s brought me to the knowledge of the brilliance of Allen Ginsberg as a revolutionary of expression, and I say that in the most poetic and meaningful use of the idea/word. As I was reading through the poem initially, I felt this subtle angst that I was incompetent and out-of-touch with the higher levels of consciousness, and why, because every other line seemed to be virtually incapable of providing me any concrete sense of meaning or fixed image that I could deconstruct and understand at its foundation. Were there lines that I could digest? Sure, I’d have to be missing a few chromosomes to say otherwise, but there wasn’t that cohesive, traditional beginning, middle, and end that I so desperately wanted, not really anyways. And I had a problem with that at first, because I wanted to make sense of something that could only be understood when you realize that you can’t make sense of it per se. I wanted to finish the last line with a grim on my face saying, ‘I’ve read a fine piece of literature and fully understand its meaning.’ I wanted to do a lot of things that didn’t work out in relation to understanding Howl, but let’s not be negative; instead, I’d like to share some further thoughts I’ve had about the poem.
2.) Did anyone get that vague feeling that the poem was a work of genius equal in its madness and immortality? I certainly did! I wouldn’t have re-read it multiple times if I thought otherwise, and I’ll tell you what, about the second of third time reading it, I was hit with this strange, dark peace, as if I’ve finally connected with something higher, but not anything supernatural-like, just something powerfully natural— something powerfully human! I attribute this feeling to Ginsberg say-anything-that-comes-to-soul approach in writing poetry. Although this has led to some debatable questioning on the necessity of some of the more vulgar elements, it’s also led to some of the, what I and many licensed experts consider, brilliant lines in all of poetry. I find the brilliance in his ability to combine multiple aspects of life, ranging from religious imagery and spiritual themes, to drugs, alcohol, and sex. With Ginsberg these elements mix and are what life is at its most basic element. This incorporation of that which is holy and profane makes for poetry that I believe tears down walls, poetry that re-unites parts of humanity that have conservatively been separated by centuries of traditionalism.
3.) On that note, I must say that I was saddened upon hearing that Howl had to undergo an obscenity trial, but was also happy upon learning that it was judged permissible or allowable based off of its redeeming social importance! And to that I say amen! I say amen a thousand times more, too! What I’ve never understood about those who oppose what they deem to be morally corruptible material, is how they can think that it’ll prevent or even save those who otherwise would have been ‘corrupted’ had they gotten access to it. It’s my belief that if someone genuinely wants something, then they’ll search for it and generally find it.
4.) It’s interesting how the case actually had the reverse effect the prosecutors intended for it to have. They wished to shut it up, so to speak, but instead aided in the publicity and popularity of the City Lights published poetry book. I think it’s important here to point out how often times certain societal advocates desire to make taboo, and consequently, as the defense attorney of the film Howl remarked, “ fuel the fire of ignorance,” that which should not be so. If there’s an issue or aspect of life that is troubling, then I believe artists should have every right to express their feeling and not have to suppress them and subsequently feel like a social misfit. Artists like Ginsberg didn’t feel the need to censor their writings and in the process only communicate certain aspects of their thoughts, instead they freely wrote it all, and as a result, as my mom comically puts it, ate the whole enchilada!
5.) Furthermore, I’ll never forget the day I first read Howl! The day when every emotion in my body was rattled and roused at every line of the work. Was the use of allusion and imagery masterly solid and greatly artistic? Absolutely, but that’s not why my emotions acted the way they did, rather they acted so because I knew that I finally had before me someone who experienced life the way I do. Someone who, despite the frowns of the traditionalist, spoke what was on their heart and wasn’t afraid to let it all out, or to leave any stones unturned!
Sincerely, Enlightened Egghead