Blog 5: Howl

This week for my 5th blog I decided to cover Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”. I picked “Howl” because of the significance it represents due to the fact that it was key in helping change the literary community. Through Ginsberg’s unconventional writing, “Howl” was able to do something successfully no other poem could, which was be different. It also happens to be a key theme that helps shape the poem. I believe this idea of challenging either what is considered normal or the rules set by society is the foundation which this poem builds upon. He shows the reader exactly how different his poem is by the stark contrast in perception held towards what a poem is supposed to be like, and not what it could be.  Ginsberg accomplishes this through very vulgar and intense description of all the characters and their lifestyles in his poem. For example Ginsberg says “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”. This quote is meant to show the disdain for being different in a tight knit society where anything that may be different is inherently bad, and should be labeled as such.  Another example of challenging the rule set by society is seen when Ginsberg says “who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,”. Here I feel that Ginsberg in his own way is applauding people who smuggle drugs for their effort in challenging the social order, and even feels that is a shame they got caught for daring to do so.

When it comes to using literary tools, Ginsberg did a great job in packing his poem full of symbols. One of the techniques employed quite frequently by Ginsberg is his use of religion symbolism. This is seen when he says “who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,” In this line he refers to motorcyclist as saintly. He uses religion as the symbol of good to help describe and praise the motorcyclist, who in “normal” society is considered a rebel. This is also something commonly seem in the poem where this symbol of morality given by religion reverses role. Instead of symbolizing those who are considered “normal” in Ginsberg’s actual society by those who deem fit. He perverts it by giving all that moral authority to those who are not seen as being worthy to fill the label, which also gives great incite into the mind of renegades in society.

30 thoughts on “Blog 5: Howl”

  1. Nice observations about how Ginsberg is thematizing anti-conventionality, and also performing it with his poem. And YES, he does see this sort of rebelliousness as a kind of saintliness — a religious function.

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