Friday, August 28, 2009
Ginsberg, Allen. HOWL and Other Poems. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1956.
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love
HOWL is the first book of poetry I’ve ever tried reviewing. This collection contains work by Ginsberg while he was in Berkeley, California and some from his earlier years as well. Originally meant as performance pieces, his poems explore themes of nature, love, God, spirituality, sex and sexuality, industrialism, materialism, and politics. HOWL’s publisher was actually put on “obscenity” trial because of the text’s graphic nature.
His poems are written in a Walt Whitman-esque style and in the poem “A Supermarket in California”, Ginsberg actually addresses Whitman directly. It is quite obvious that he was inspired by Whitman’s long and repetitive phrases. If you are a Walt Whitman fan, you will probably be able to appreciate this text.
My personal favorite poem from this collection was “America.” In “America” Ginsberg’s voice drips with ironic sadness, disappointment, and confusion. There is a certain intimacy about it that I greatly appreciated.
This text is worth a read if you are at all interested in poetry or queer writing and writers. He celebrates bodies and sex as something holy and doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of life in America in the 1950’s.
3 darts out of 5.