I’ve wanted to post a recording of Howl on this site ever since we first started – I can think of few poems that demand to be read aloud, preferably from a high rooftop, as violently as Ginsberg’s beat epic.
Every time I read this poem I am reminded of the Whitman line about sounding your “barbaric yawp across the roofs of the world”. Not since Whitman has poetry been this glorious, this incantatory, the heft and weight of Ginsberg’s grandiose cadences making this a soaring manifesto for a generation and a way of life. Demented, hallucinatory, and in-your-face outrageous, Howl is a work of raw, savage beauty, the ultimate sermon of social revolt, a poem that combines the atmosphere of beat with throwaway lines of exquisite jazz. This is an opportunity to hear one of the twentieth century’s most unique and undeniable voices, the voice of a “madman, bum and angel beat in Time”. If you do nothing else to commemorate yesterday’s National Poetry Day, you should listen to Howl.
October 3rd 2007 marked the 50th anniversary of a court ruling that allowed Howl to be published – declaring it a poem of “redeeming social importance”. The podcast linked to here comes to you courtesy of Pacifica.org which ran a special program to commemorate the occasion (the recording of Howl starts some three minutes into the program), as well as to protest the ironic fact that today, 50 years later, it is still impossible to broadcast Howl on public radio or television without having to fear fines and reprisals from the FCC .