Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Mind-exploding poem!

Back in 1977 I was teaching in Yorkshire. I had a great class of punk kids. One of them won a prize on Speech Day and asked me what book he thought he should have the school award him. I recommended a William Burroughs. The RE teacher went bonkers when he saw it among the prizes. He took it home and cut out all the ‘offensive’ parts. By the time Stephen was presented with his book there was only half of it left!

I hope he still has that book. It was a slightly different cut-up technique to the one Burroughs used. I’d have loved to have gathered all those offensive bits together!!

Opher's World

This is the poem that I discovered when I was seventeen that turned me back on to poetry. For once I felt that a poem had been written for my generation, a poem I could relate to.

Howl – Allen Ginsberg

For Carl Solomon

I

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,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of…

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