Wordplay In Howl, By Allen Ginsberg

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“I don’t think there is any truth. There are only points of view.” Allen Ginsberg’s famous quote is one that inspires the continued analysis and explication of poetry. Poetry is so important because much like jazz, it has a form all of its own. Poetry has no boundaries and can be created on the fly. And without the continued analysis and emphasis on great poetic works, like “Howl,” young writers would be dissuaded to take up the art form. To this day, scholars and students alike have continued to analyze “Howl’s” meaning and cultural significance as a work that was a game-changer for jazz poets. Ginsberg dedicated “Howl” to Carl Solomon, who was a writer he met during an eight month stay he had at the Columbia Presbyterian Psychiatric …show more content…
“Howl” is presented in three distinctive sections. Within the first line of the poem, Ginsberg tells the reader that he has observed the destruction of "the best minds"(1) of his generation. The remainder of the first section is a meticulously thorough description of who these people were and what they did. Ginsberg’s wordplay is meaningful as each line begins with the word "who," identifying the great minds that he’s referring to. The reader quickly learns that these "best minds"(Ginsberg, 1) were not lawyers, doctors or professionals, in the traditional sense of brilliance. The “best minds”(Ginsberg, 1) were not people whom the average working-class American of the mid-twentieth century would have ever identified with the best and brightest of their time. This is exactly the point Ginsberg was trying to portray. According to Ginsberg, the great minds of his time are the drug users “with radiant cool eyes hallucinating”(Ginsberg, 6), delinquents and dropouts “expelled from the academies”(Ginsberg, 7), jetsetters “suffering Easter sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings”(Ginsberg, 21), the homeless “who lit cigarettes in boxcars”(Ginsberg, 23), nonconformists “who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets”(Ginsberg 32), and writers “waving genitals and manuscripts”(Ginsberg, 35). As Leon Lewis describes, “Ginsberg uses the first part of “Howl” to tell, in compressed form, the life …show more content…
Ginsberg decries “Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!”(79) to paint the picture that the only good things left, like people’s dreams and ability to believe in whatever religion they want are all being sold now to the highest bidder for profit. What should always remain as something sensitive and dear to someone’s heart now has a price, and that drives Ginsberg mad. Ginsberg needs “Howl’ to be crass and rude for it to have the impact he intends. The immoral principles of the time, represented by “Moloch” in the second part of “Howl”, are the very ideas which Ginsberg is so outspokenly criticizing. Without the lewd imagery of “loveboys to the three old shews of fate”(Ginsberg, 40) referring to all-male threesomes or “sweetened snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset”(Ginsberg, 42) as reference to the true sexual nature of young women, our stomachs would not turn to knots, our reactions would not peak, and we would not be put out of our comfort zone enough to react with the fervor that Ginsberg does. Further, the imagery produced by the language in “Howl” are true to form with the reality of the Beats, as vulgarity is as common as a jazz quartet having a trumpet player. Afterall, Frank Casale explains how “(the term “Beats”) came to represent an entire sub-culture of

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