Howl – Allen Ginsberg and the birth of the Beat Generation!
Allen Ginsberg single-handedly rescued poetry for me. I had it destroyed for me in Primary School. The teacher’s view of poetry was to get us (nine and ten year olds) to learn a poem by rote each week. We had the delights of Tennyson and Wordsworth to memorise. We would have to stand in turn and recite a verse on request. She would point to you and you would have to comply. If you did not know it then you had to miss PE (Physical Exercise), which we all loved, to stay in and learn it. I spent a number of afternoons peering longingly at the rest of the class outside. It instilled hatred. There was no attempt to look at meaning or appreciation. Poetry was merely a task, a pain, a punishment. In Secondary School all I can remember is the class reciting ‘The Jumblies’. Great though it was it did not fill me with joy. It was only when I read Howl that I really felt I had found something that related to me personally. I felt like that outsider stumbling through the starry night looking for some kindred spirits and a real connection to the universe. I was only fifteen and I felt like an outsider in this conforming society. I wanted reality. I craved reality. I wanted honesty, connection and passion. I hadn’t found it anywhere else. Ginsberg led me to Kerouac and I was away. The Beat Generation rekindled a love of poetry. They were honest!
By Allen Ginsberg 1926–1997 Allen Ginsberg
For Carl Solomon