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This forward see’s actor Johnny Depp recite his experience first meeting the great Allen Ginsberg during the filming of “The United States of Poetry” in 1995. “I had the honor of meeting and getting to know Allen Ginsberg for a short time. The initial meeting was at a soundstage in New York City, where we were both doing a bit in the film The United States of Poetry. I was reading a piece from Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues, the “2nth Chorus,” and as I was rehearsing it for camera, I could see a familiar face out of the corner of my eye: “Fuck me,” I thought, “that’s Ginsberg!” We were introduced, and he then immediately launched into a blistering rendition of said chorus, so as to show me the proper way for it to be done. “As Jack would have done it!” he emphasized. I was looking straight down the barrel at one of the most gifted and important poets of the twentieth century, and with all the truth and guts I could muster up, I said in response, “Yeah, but I’m not reading it as him, I’m reading it as me. It’s my interpretation of his piece.” Silence -- a LONNNGG silence. Ticktock tickrock ticktock I was smiling nervously, my eyes sort of wavering between his face and the floor. I sucked down about half of my 5,000th cigarette of the day in one monster drag and filled the air around us with my poison. It was at that point that I remembered his “Don’t Smoke!” poem ... oops ... too fucking late now, boy, you done stepped in shit! I looked at Ginsberg, he looked at me, and the director looked at us both as the crew looked at him, and it was quite a little moment, for a moment there. Allen’s eyes squinted ever so slightly and then began to twinkle like bright lights. He smiled that mystic smile, and I felt as though God himself had forgiven me a dreadful sin.” Rolling Stone Magazine, 07/08/99. An excerpt from “The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats: The Beat Generation and American Culture,” edited by Holly George-Warren and published by Hyperion.


“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, angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night�

CONTENTS DISCOVERING HOWL ............................................................................... 6 MY GENERATION ....................................................................................... 24 THE BEATS ................................................................................................... 44 RADICAL BELIEF ........................................................................................ 54 TRAVELLING MIND ................................................................................... 68 NIGHTMARE OF MOLOCH ....................................................................... 78 MADDER THAN I AM ................................................................................ 88





HOWL FOR CARL SOLOMAN BY ALLEN GINSBERG 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 war, who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull, who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall, who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York, who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls, incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between, Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind, who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,


allen ginsberg Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey, and eventually became one of the founding fathers of the Beat Generation with his revolutionary poem “Howl.” Ginsberg was a prolific writer who also championed gay rights and anti-war movements, protesting the Vietnam War and coining the phrase “Flower Power.” Even with his countercultural background, he became recognized as one of American’s foremost writers and artistic icons. He died on April 5, 1997, at age 70. Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in the city of Paterson. His mother Naomi had immigrated from Russia to the states while his father Louis was a poet and teacher. The young Ginsberg, who kept a journal from his pre-teen years and took to the poetry of Walt Whitman in high school, went on to attend Columbia University. While there he met former Columbia student Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, whom would all become literary icons of a revolutionary cultural movement. Ginsberg started to focus on his writing during the mid-1940s while also exploring his attraction to men. Ginsberg graduated from Columbia in 1948, but in the following year was involved as an accomplice in a robbery. To avoid jail time, Ginsberg pleaded insanity, spending time in the university’s mental health facilities. Upon his release, he started to study under poet William Carlos Williams and worked for a time at a Manhattan ad agency. In 1954, Ginsberg moved to San Francisco and became part of the countercultural gathering that would come to be known as the Beat Movement, which used a number of artistic and sensory modes to eschew rigid rules of society. It was also in the Bay Area where Ginsberg met model Peter Orlovsky, who would become his companion. Then in 1955, Ginsberg read excerpts from his poem “Howl” at a gallery, which became a key manifesto of the Beat Generation and was published the following year by City Lights Bookstore in the form of Howl and


Other Poems. “Howl” was an eye-opening work in its explorations of sexuality, anguish and social issues in non-traditional poetic form, relying on a freewheeling mix of influences. The poem was deemed as being obscene and Ginsberg was tried for its content, though he was vindicated once the presiding judge ruled the work had merit. The resulting publicity placed Ginsberg and his work in the spotlight and as icons of anti-censorship. During this time Ginsberg experienced deep loss as his mother, who had suffered from a history of severe mental health issues, died in 1956, two days after receiving a lobotomy. Ginberg’s next published work, Kaddish and Other Poems 1958-1960, featured the poem ‘’Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956),’’ which explored his mother’s past and his feelings about their relationship. It is regarded by many as one of his strongest, most affecting works. Ginsberg was prolific with his writing during the ‘60s, with some of his published titles including Reality Sandwiches (1963) and Planet News 1961-1967 (1969), and also worked with musical forms as well. Biography taken from







the beat generation In America in the 1950s, a new cultural and literary movement staked its claim on the nation’s consciousness. The Beat Generation was never a large movement in terms of sheer numbers, but in influence and cultural status they were more visible than any other competing aesthetic. The years immediately after the Second World War saw a wholesale reappraisal of the conventional structures of society. Just as the postwar economic boom was taking hold, students in universities were beginning to question the rampant materialism of their society. The Beat Generation was a product of this questioning. They saw runaway capitalism as destructive to the human spirit and antithetical to social equality. In addition to their dissatisfaction with consumer culture, the Beats railed against the stifling prudery of their parents’ generation. The taboos against frank discussions of sexuality were seen as unhealthy and possibly damaging to the psyche. In the world of literature and art, the Beats stood in opposition to the clean, almost antiseptic formalism of the early twentieth century Modernists. They fashioned a literature that was more bold, straightforward, and expressive than anything that had come before. Underground music styles like jazz were especially evocative for Beat writers, while threatening and sinister to the establishment. To many, the artistic productions of the Beats crossed the line into pornography and therefore merited censorship. Some dismissed the Beat Generation’s literature as mere provocation – a means to get attention, not serious art. Time has proven that the cultural impact of the Beat writers was far from short-lived, as the influence of their work continues to be widespread. Extract taken from



howl and ginsberg in modern cinema Both Howl, Ginsberg and the beat generation have become re-popularised in recent cinema. The fashion of the 60’s hipster has been filtering into our current trends for the past few years. Coupled with the “geek chic” glasses and tweed look the “hipster” and beatnik has been re-invented for our modern society. Three films including; 2010’s “Howl” starring James Franco as Ginsberg. 2012’s “On The Road”, an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic beat novel and lastly 2013’s “Kill Your Darlings” staring Daniel Radcliffe as a young Ginsberg. In this extract James Franco discusses what it was like to play Ginsberg and his responsibility in the role: Question: It struck me, when I knew you were going to be doing this and knowing your recent academic foray, that this is almost the perfect character for you. The perfect marriage of artist and character. Would you agree with that? Franco: Yeah. Well, as you know, I’m at several schools right now. And so Ginsberg went to Columbia. Started there as an undergrad. Studied with one of the Van Dorens, and also Lionel Trilling. Then at the end of his life, he taught at Brooklyn College. So, I’m connected to both of those and then I’m also getting a Masters in poetry so this is material that’s right up my alley. Question: So did you think it was ironic and fortuitous that this came along at this time for you, playing Ginsberg in a movie like this? Franco: Well, I didn’t realize all the connections that were gonna be made, at the time that they brought it to me. I was still in LA, going to UCLA. I mean, I knew that I was a huge fan of Ginsberg’s. I had been reading him and the other Beats, since I was, like, 15 or 16. So I was excited about that. But I didn’t realize, like – how close it would be to a lot of the stuff I’d be studying in the next year. Interview continues at


HOWL ANIMATION 2010 In the 2010 Howl film, animators were brought into to try and visualise the scenes in which actor James Franco recites the poem. The excecution of which is brilliant and leads to a vivid dream like journey in which we follow both a physical and metaphorical bohemian figure through his struggle in America.


breaking down howl’s sections Howl appears to be a sprawling, disorganized poem. But it’s not. It consists of three sections. Each of these sections is a prolonged “riff” on a single subject. You could even think of the poem as three enormous run-on sentences. The first section is by far the longest. In the first line of the first section, the speaker tells us that he has been a witness to the destruction of “the best minds” of his generation. The rest of the section is a detailed description of these people – specifically, who they were and what they did. He doesn’t tell us what destroyed them quite yet, though we get plenty of hints. Most lines begin with the word “who” followed by a verb. These are people “who did this, who did that,” etc. We quickly learn that these “best minds” were not doctors, lawyers, and scientists. They were not people whom most middle-class folks in the 1950s would have identified with the best America had to offer. And that’s exactly Ginsberg’s point. According to the speaker,

they are drug users, drop outs, world travelers, bums, musicians, political dissidents, and, yes, poets. If the key word of the first section was “who,” the second section asks “What?” As in, what destroyed the best minds of his generation? Ginsberg provides the answer immediately: Moloch. In the Hebrew Bible, Moloch was an idolatrous god to whom children were sacrificed by placing them in fire. In other words, not a friendly god. The religious context and history of Moloch is extremely complicated, so it’s better to stick to the poem’s own definition. For Ginsberg, Moloch is associated with war, government, capitalism, and mainstream culture, all of which might be summed up by one of the poem’s most important concepts: the “machine” or “machinery.” Moloch is an inhuman monster that kills youth and love. The third section is addressed to Carl Solomon, Ginsberg’s close friend from the Columbia Presbyterian Psychiatric Institute. The speaker refers to this psychiatric hospital by the shorter and more evocative fictional name of “Rockland.” He reaffirms his solidarity with Solomon over and over again by repeating the phrase “I’m with you in Rockland.” The central question of this section is “Where?” The speaker uses this question to explore Solomon’s existence within the walls of the institute. The poem ends with the image from the speaker’s dreams, in which Solomon is walking from New York to the speaker’s “cottage” (in Berkeley, California), where they will reunite. Extract taken from “Howl Summary” from the website





the mad minds of ginsberg’s generation The first lines of Howl; “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”. These lines begin the start of a long list of who these “best minds” are. As the reader we presume that these best minds what we would consider best minds of our current generation. The doctors, lawyers and scientists. In fact, Ginsberg is using quite the contrary as his “best minds” and speaks of drug takers, homeless, poets, writers, musicians, protestors and even the mentally ill as who he considers the most important factors in the fibres of America. In a 1990 interview with John Lofton Ginsberg discusses this opening theme. Here is the transcript; JOHN LOFTON: In the first section of your poem “Howl” you wrote: “I saw the best young minds of my generation destroyed by madness.” Did this also apply to you? ALLEN GINSBERG: That’s not an accurate quotation. I said the “best minds,” not “the best young minds.” This is what is called hyperbole, an exaggerated statement, sort of a romantic statement. I suppose it could apply to me too, or anybody. People who survived and became prosperous in a basically aggressive, warlike society are in a sense destroyed by madness. Those who freaked out and couldn’t make it, or were traumatized, or artists who starved, or whatnot, they couldn’t make it either. It kinda cuts both ways. There’s an element of humor there. LOFTON: When you say you suppose this could have applied to you, does this mean you don’t know if you are mad? GINSBERG: Well, who does? I mean everybody is a little mad. Extract taken from the website


Ginsberg considered regular drug users one of the greatest minds of his generation because he felt drugs were a way of freeing the mind, although not a regular drinker, Ginsberg openly admitted to trying “nearly all of them” in reference to narcotics. Howl it’s self is said to be written after Ginsberg experimented with payote. Musicians and specifically Jazz musicians were very important to the beatniks. It represented the freedom of the mind the beats were always searching for but with a sense of beauty and the two went hand in hand.

Travellers and the homeless had their place too. Travelling was a huge part of the beat generations culture, travel broadening the mind was a method the beats used to become more spiritual and most importantly intellectualised.

Ginsberg was well known to protest and campaign for various anti war and LGBT causes. He talks about the rise of the protestor within Howl and how “his best minds” were fighting against the capitalist “man”. Ginsberg was not afraid to attach himself to the phrase counterculture.

In the last section of Howl, Ginsberg talks about how even the minds perceived by society as “Mad” were people he considered to be the best! We know from the dedication at the beginning of Howl that he considered Carl Soloman to be one of the greatest minds, the man whom he met in a asylum. And lastly of course are his peers. Ginsberg spent his whole life around writers and poets alike. He had the upmost respect for their minds and ideas and celebrated both their and his own “madness”.



howl and it’s substances 1






Many different forms of narcotics and substances are mentioned in Howl for different reasons. On the left here we can see the drugs that Ginsberg talks about in the poem.

1: The beat generation was 7 certainly not one to shy away from marajuana, mentioned several times in howl. 2: Although not a drinker himself, Ginsberg talks about the beats consumption of alcohol a lot throughout Howl. 3: Payote, was a drug that Ginsberg supposedly experimented with before writing Howl. 4: “The narcotic tobacco haze of captalism”. 5: Opium, an ingredient of heroin, users of which Ginsberg refers to as “Junkies”. 6: “Insulin, metrazol” are both drugs used on the mentally ill. 7: Benzedrine, an inhaled drug commonly referred to by various beat writers.




who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox, who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge, a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon, yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars, whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement, who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall, suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark’s bleak furnished room, who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts, who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night, who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas, who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels, who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy, who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain, who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa, who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago, who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets, who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,


marijuana in the fifties The effects of marijuana are more diverse than those of alcohol and nicotine. Yet there are a number of things that can be said about its effects in general. The effects of marijuana are more subtle than the two drugs mentioned thus far. In fact, there are some people who cannot feel the effects of marijuana; and very often it takes several times of using it before one begins to realize its effects. Yet it is not an ineffectual or weak drug by any means. The reasons why some people cannot feel marijuana’s effects appear to be related to their having very defended personality types, or, one might say they have a great deal of repression. The reason this would affect their ability to feel the drug’s effects are easy to understand when we consider the fact that repression of feelings of trauma would include repression of the ability to feel things in general. A repressed person is a more neurotic, more defended person; and more defended persons are basically defending against painful feelings. But feelings cannot be separated and to repress feelings of Pain means also to repress the ability to be sensitive to other feelings. Hence highly defended or repressed persons can smoke a great deal of marijuana and yet not “get off” or they may just feel feelings of relaxation. Janov has said that marijuana acts to kind of “bend” defenses, which allows repressed feelings to surface, for those who are not in the category described above, which would include the majority of people. Since we all have some degree of primal pain, we all


have defenses to being fully feeling, so the effect of marijuana for the majority of people is to open them to some of the pleasurable feelings that have gotten repressed along with the repression of Pain. Therefore some widely noted effects of marijuana concern its enhancing sensory ability and therefore pleasure. Listening to music, being in Nature, watching a movie, or sex can all be quite enhanced and different while experienced under the influence of marijuana. Aspects of these experiences that were always there but were never noticed can be explored. One can seem to be experiencing something on many levels at once, or to be fully immersed in the experience so that aspects of it that formerly seemed more “walled off” from one can seem almost tangible in one’s ability to experience it; one can become so immersed in experience that complexities of it can be taken in and enjoyed, which one never even noticed before. Part of the reason for this type of effect of “pot” is that it lowers blood sugar and thus causes the normal cortical defenses to be less effective in blocking out experience. Related to this is a feeling of timelessness—a feeling of being in the Now—which can also be related to the diminished cortical functioning which is goaloriented and related to linear time. Extract from


a n a u j . i t r e a G M I e t k a s o h y T m a e S D c I " r n o a F h s C e e s y s u r o o e R H v E e y h M T n t I A t " i . e t S r e I a s t 6 o 5 S l 9 1 C d " a n e c i A h r e T m In erg, "A b s n i G



jazz in the fifties A tune title from 1949 accurately describes jazz at the beginning of the 1950s--- “Bebop Spoken Here.” Great musicians who stretched the limits of the music in the 1940s--alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk and others--continued to be at the forefront. Younger musicians, such as trumpeter Clifford Brown, alto saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderley, bassist Charlie Mingus and drummer Art Blakey, built on the foundation laid down by the bebop innovators, creating what is now known as “hard bop.” Another extension of bebop was a lighter, cooler style introduced partly by Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool session in 1949. This music became known either as “Cool” or “West Coast” style jazz, and its practitioners were players like trumpeter Chet Baker, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan. Beginning in the mid-fifties tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, whose early career included work with the rhythm ‘n blues band of alto saxophonist Eddie ”Cleanhead” Vinson and with Miles Davis, began exploring a more avant-garde style of jazz. Alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman and cornetist Don Cherry took this stylistic exploration even further. In 1954 jazz musician and producer George Wein founded the Newport Jazz Festival, the template for what has since become a popular way of presenting a number of jazz artists in an informal (oftentimes outdoor) setting over a number of days. Extract from


floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz


post war travellers Hobos have been traveling the US and riding the rails since the Civil War. The romanticized image of the hobo peaked during the depression of the 1930’s, when many took to the rails in a desperate search for work. It must be noted that a hobo differs from a tramp or a bum. Most hobos would agree that a hobo works and wanders, the tramp dreams and wanders and the bum drinks and wanders. Hobos were often welcomed in areas of under employment or when their labor was required. They were also viewed as a menace when unemployment was high or when the hobo’s labor was no longer needed. Many times they were literally driven out of town by the local police who would meet incoming freight trains and take the hobos to the county line. For the hobos the train is their primary method of transport as they roam the country in search of work. Because of this, hobos have an intimate connection and knowledge of trains and railroading in general. In the early 20th century, the increasing use of cars and trucks brought a reduction in the number of passengers and freight to be transported. This would ultimately lead to decreasing rail network upon which the hobo could travel. The nearly total replacement of steam engines by diesels in the 1950’s also contributed to the decline of the


hobo. Steam engines had to make regular stops to take on water and this allowed hoboes to get on or off trains at these points and many hobo camps were located beside water tanks. The 1930’s was a decade of mostly tolerance towards the hobo. For example some railroads would attach empty box cars to freight trains to accommodate the large numbers of hobos. It’s not certain if these were acts of charity or an attempt to stop hobos from breaking into sealed cars.


Extract from

I don’t remember if we called them “hobos,” but I do recall occasionally seeing “hobo marks” made in chalk or charcoal on walls or the sides of houses, when I was a child growing-up in Scotland. The marks were mainly lines, circles, or arrows, and rarely anything elaborate.I thought there was something exciting, even romantic, about these simple marks, mainly because I knew here was a secret code that denoted some act of kindness or, gave a warning to others who followed. Extract from


fifties lobotomy In the 1950s, people began getting upset about the prevalence of lobotomies. Protests began, and serious research supported the protesters. The general statistics showed roughly a third of lobotomy patients improved, a third stayed the same, and the last third actually got worse! There have been a few famous cases over the years. For example, Rosemary Kennedy, sister to John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy, was given a lobotomy when her father complained to doctors about the mildly retarded girl’s embarrassing new interest in boys. Her father never informed the rest of the family about what he had done. She lived out her life in a Wisconsin institution and died January 7, 2005, at the age of 86. Her sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics in her honor in 1968. Extract from





u.s. peace movement The death of Roosevelt and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 marked the end of an era as well as the end of the war. Roosevelt and his Vice President Henry Wallace had made plans for cooperation with the Soviet Union after the war in the framework of the United Nations. But the new President Truman took the opposite position of confrontation. Meeting with liberal leaders while the war was still raging in April 1945 Truman banged his fist on the desk and exclaimed, “We have to get tough with the Russians...We’ve got to teach them how to behave.” As a lesson to the Russians, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and opened the age of nuclear terrorism. As the Cold War was heated up by the Truman administration, many of the liberals and Leftists who had supported Roosevelt fought back by forming the Progressive Citizens of America in 1946. By mid-1947, it had 25,000 members with chapters in 19 states of which 15 had paid staff members. When Wallace barnstormed America in 1947, 200,000 people turned out to hear him speak against the Cold War and call for cooperation with the Soviet Union. And by the end of the year, Wallace announced his candidacy for President, running on a peace platform under the banner of a new third party, the Progressive Party Extract from


ginsberg the peace maker “Back in ‘66 or ‘67, we took the bus up to Berkeley for Vietnam Day. The day before the big rally, the Hell’s Angels said they were going to protest Vietnam Day by pounding the shit out of the protesters, and they were serious. Since we kind of knew the Angels, we went over to Oakland, to Sonny Barger’s house. Ginsberg went with us, right into the lion’s mouth with his little cymbals. Ching, ching, ching. And he just kept talking and being his usual absorbing self. Finally they said, “OK, OK. We’re not going to beat up the protesters.” When he left, one of the Angels, Terry the Tramp, says, “That queer little kike ought to ride a bike.” From then on, he had a pass around the Angels. They had let all the other Angels know, “He’s a dude worth helping out.” They were absolutely impressed by him and his courage.” Extract from Words by Ken Kesey




dadaism and early pop art Dada was, officially, not a movement, its artists not artists and its art not art. That sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Of course, there is a bit more to the story of Dadaism than this simplistic explanation. Dada was a literary and artistic movement born in Europe at a time when the horror of World War I was being played out in what amounted to citizens’ front yards. Due to the war, a number of artists, writers and intellectuals -- notably of French and German nationality -- found themselves congregating in the refuge that Zurich (in neutral Switzerland) offered. Far from merely feeling relief at their respective escapes, this bunch was pretty ticked off that modern European society would allow the war to have happened. They were so angry, in fact, that they undertook the time-honored artistic tradition of protesting. Banding together in a loosely-knit group, these writers and artists used any public forum they could find to (metaphorically) spit on nationalism, rationalism, materialism and any other -ism which they felt had contributed to a senseless war. In other words, the Dadaists were fed up. If society is going in this direction, they said, we’ll have no part of it or its traditions. Including... no, wait!... especially artistic traditions. We, who are non-artists, will create non-art -- since art (and everything else in the world) has no meaning, anyway. Extract from





who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed, who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons, who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication, who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts, who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy, who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love, who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may, who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword, who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman’s loom, who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness, who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake, who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver—joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses’ rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too, who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung-over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,


jack kerouac and ginsberg For anyone who has ever felt drawn to the Beat Generation, yet has never fully comprehended its history, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters provides a long-awaited context for the lives, loves, and poetry of its founders. Beginning in 1944, Kerouac and Ginsberg’s correspondence stretched nearly 20 years, spurred by a murder and sustained by a mutual love of the written word. In Viking’s new publication, the depth and cultural significance of the two writers’ works takes on a new perspective. Their letters chronicle the authors’ complex relationship, including Ginsberg’s early admiration of the hyper-heterosexual Kerouac, as well as their numerous publication rejections, and the establishment of a literary movement that defined a generation. As Kerouac once wrote to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Someday ‘The Letters of Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac’ will make America cry.” “I am neither romantic nor a visionary, and that is my weakness and perhaps my power; at any rate it is one difference. In less romantic and visionary terms, I am a Jew, (with powers of introspection and eclecticism attendant, perhaps.) But I am alien to your natural grace, to the spirit which you would know as a participator in America.” — Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac, July, 1945 “A line from my diary: ‘We are sealed in our own little melancholy atmospheres, like planets, and revolving around the sun, our common but distant desire.’ Not so good, perhaps, but if you steal that line of mine, I’ll actually kill you, for a change.” — Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg, August, 1945 Extract from


on the road In the winter of 1947, the reckless and joyous Dean Moriarty, fresh out of another stint in jail and newly married, comes to New York City and meets Sal Paradise, a young writer with an intellectual group of friends, among them the poet Carlo Marx. Dean fascinates Sal, and their friendship begins three years of restless journeys back and forth across the country. With a combination of bus rides and adventurous hitchhiking escapades, Sal goes to his much-dreamed-of west to join Dean and more friends in Denver, and then continues west by himself, working as a fieldworker in California for awhile, among other things. The next year, Dean comes east to Sal again, foiling Sal’s stable life once more, and they drive west together, with more crazy adventures on the way at Bull Lee’s in New Orleans, ending in San Francisco this time. The winter after that, Sal goes to Dean, and they blaze across the country together in friendly fashion, and Dean settles in New York for awhile. In the spring, Sal goes to Denver alone, but Dean soon joins him and they go south all the way to Mexico City this time. Summary from


ginsberg inteviews william burroughs AG: How did you feel emotionally or psychologically during the exorcism ceremony? That was quite moving, I thought, all those people really wishing you well. WSB: Oh, that’s what I felt too. They were really great and I just felt, you know, sort of . . . laying myself open, just completely, undirected thought, undirected thought. I did nothing, no sort of intellectualizing. AG: What occurred to me is that we were focusing on your well-being, but also, I was realizing at the time. . . . I don’t know if you realize how many people really love your work and feel a great deal of affection, but it must be hundreds of thousands or millions of people. WSB: Yes. Well, yeah I feel it. I feel it very deeply. I like the shaman very much, the way he was crying. AG: Later, in conversation with the shaman, you were agreeing that, in order to get a spirit, you have to see it. WSB: Oh yes. If you see it, you gain control of it. It’s just a matter of, well, if you see it outside, it’s no longer inside. AG: In other words, unless error were allowed enough play so that it manifested itself visibly— WSB: You would never see it. In exorcism, a verbal argument can never do anything. You can’t ever beat the entity in a verbal argument because that’s what he wants. It’s only through a confront, a non-verbal confront, that anything happens. It has to be non-verbal. Otherwise, they’d argue and argue going around and around and around for a hundred thousand years. But the arguing has nothing whatever to do with what they’re really doing. Interview from


ginsberg writes to neal cassady Dear Neal: Whyn’t you answer my last letter? Too flip? I have your manuscript beginning of novel from Carl. I would send it to you but I think there’s a chance of publishing the section beginning with your own remembrances (excluding the historical preface) in the New Directions annual anthology. I’ll give it to them, they may not take it, or they may—we’ll see. I reread it incidentally. I thought the parent’s intro was too tight and in a way dull, except for moments like the porch—or Harper’s dump house. Maybe it’s the strain of point of view or strain of writing; and maybe as it is it would still be appropriate for a beginning when the whole thing is done. Interview continued at




ginsberg’s muse peter orlovsky Peter Orlovsky, who inspired Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg, with whom he had a romantic partnership for decades, and who wrote emotionally naked, loopy and occasionally luminescent poetry of his own, died in Williston, Vt., on Sunday. He was 76, and lived in St. Johnsbury, Vt. The cause was lung cancer, said Charles Lief, Mr. Orlovsky’s guardian. Mr. Orlovsky had diabetes and had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for much of his life, Mr. Lief said. Mr. Orlovsky was just 21, recently discharged from the Army and working as an artist’s model when he met Ginsberg in the San Francisco studio of the painter Robert LaVigne in December 1954. The famous story of their meeting, the Ginsberg biographer Bill Morgan said in an interview, was that Ginsberg saw Mr. LaVigne’s portrait of Mr. Orlovsky and had already fallen in love with the subject when Mr. Orlovsky walked in. They moved to a North Beach apartment shortly thereafter, and within two years Ginsberg had published “Howl and Other Poems”, the jazzed-up song of a vibrant, raucous, alienated American spirit that established his place in the poetry canon. That work’s open celebration of eroticism and homosexuality caused Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who published it, to be tried on obscenity charges. (He was acquitted.) Ginsberg and Mr. Orlovsky wrote and spoke openly about their relationship, which they deemed a marriage. Because of Ginsberg’s prominence, the two men were social pioneers, the first gay “married” couple that many people had ever heard of. They traveled to Paris and North Africa together and spent two years in India, where they absorbed the Eastern philosophy that showed up in Ginsberg’s poems and influenced Mr. Orlovsky, who became a Buddhist, for the rest of his life. Ginsberg and Mr. Orlovsky also lived together on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and, for a time, on a farm in Cherry Valley in upstate New York. Like Ginsberg, Mr. Orlovsky became a central figure in the Beat movement, teaching at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, founded by


Ginsberg and others in 1974, at the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) in Boulder, Colo., and figuring in Kerouac’s books. Kerouac called Mr. Orlovsky George in “The Dharma Bums” and Simon Darlovsky in “Desolation Angels.” The relationship was not without its problems: both men had other partners, and Mr. Orlovsky was interested in women as well as men. But their bond remained until Ginsberg’s death in 1997. It was Ginsberg who encouraged Mr. Orlovsky to write poetry, and though he published only a few slim volumes, his voice was singular, and his early work was admired by the likes of William Carlos Williams and Gregory Corso. It had an outsider-ish originality (the spelling and phrasing were eccentric), a blunt, innocent earthiness, especially about bodily functions, and a Whitmanesque exuberance that communicated glee in the process of making poetry itself. “A rainbow comes pouring into my window, I am electrified,” he began his first poem, which he titled “Frist Poem,” in 1957. It continued: Songs burst from my breast, all my crying stops, mistory fills the air. I look for my shues under my bed. A fat colored woman becomes my mother. I have no false teeth yet. Suddenly ten children sit on my lap. I grow a beard in one day. I drink a hole bottle of wine with my eyes shut. I draw on paper and I feel I am two again. I want everybody to talk to me. Peter Anton Orlovsky was born on the Lower East Side on July 8, 1933. His father, Oleg, was an immigrant from Russia who tried starting several businesses, including hand-painting and selling neckties. Extract from




who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steam-heat and opium, who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliffbanks of the Hudson under the wartime blur floodlight of the moon & their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion, who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of Bowery, who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music, who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts, who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology, who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish, who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom, who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg, who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade, who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried, who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality, who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer, who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,


MCCARTHYISM McCarthyism begin with the practice of making accusations of disloyalty in a pro-communist environment. It is also classified as making unfair allegations or using unfair techniques to restrict political criticism. The McCarthy era began in 1950 when McCarthy lead an anti-communist witch hunt and used his power to subpoena people to call in front of the United States Senate.



mccarthyism American liberals approached the end of World War II with high hopes that the postwar era would bring a new flowering of liberal reform. In many ways, conditions appeared ripe for liberal success. Many of the ideologies of the extreme right wing—white supremacy foremost among them—had been adopted by the Nazis, and were thus seriously discredited. Meanwhile, the unusual demands of wartime production had wrought dramatic socio-economic changes within the United States. Women and racial minorities had crossed traditional boundaries by entering the industrial workforce in unprecedented numbers. Labor unions had enlisted within their ranks a greater proportion of the country’s workers than ever before or since. The high wages paid by wartime industries had combined with the rationing of consumer goods to dramatically, if temporarily, reduce disparities in wealth between the rich, middle class, and poor. Most Americans supported heavy government intervention in the economy to help prevent a new Depression as the nation converted its industrial production from wartime to peacetime uses. Franklin Roosevelt’s heir as president, Harry S. Truman, declared even before the war ended that “We


want to see the time come when we can do the things in peace that we have been able to do in war. If we can put this tremendous machine of ours... to work for peace, we can look forward to the greatest age in the history of mankind.”7 Within weeks of the Japanese surrender in August 1945, Truman proposed to Congress an expansive 21-point agenda that included a higher minimum wage, expanded Social Security system, new public works programs, full-employment guarantees, and universal national health insurance. Truman’s proposals, if enacted, would have pushed far beyond the limits of the New Deal to begin to create something like social democracy in the United States. We now know, however, that the end of the Second World War brought not a new age of social reform but rather one of grave international peril—the Cold War. The fallout from the atomic bombs that ended World War II had barely settled before Americans came to fear that a new mortal enemy—Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union—had become as great a threat as Hitler or Mussolini had ever been. The Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union raised an especially awkward problem for American liberals committed to domestic reform— the Communist Problem. Communists had always been a tiny, despised minority within the American population; the Communist Party USA’s membership peaked during World War II at far less than 100,000 members nationwide. Still, Communists took on a more prominent role in American society in the late 1930s and early 1940s than ever before or since. During the Great Depression, Communism and other radical alternatives to capitalism gained at least a small measure of legitimacy through the seeming collapse of the nation’s economic system; Communist organizers commonly recruited among the unemployed and on federal work-relief projects. During World War II, when the Soviet Union became our ally in the battle against fascism, Communists were among the most enthusiastic supporters of the American war effort. Extract from



ginsberg interview on mccarthyism INTERVIEWER: Could you tell me how you personally experienced the restrictive Cold War atmosphere that came through the Fifties? ALLEN GINSBERG: Well, part of that atmosphere was the sort of anti-Communist hysteria of McCarthyism, but culminating in ‘53 or so, with the execution of the Rosenbergs. It was a little harsh. Whatever they did, it wasn’t worth killing people, you know, killing them. I remember sending a wire to Eisenhower and saying: “No, that’s the wrong thing.” Drawing blood like that is the wrong thing, because it’s ambiguous; and especially, there was one commentator on the air, called Fulton Lewis, who said that they smelt bad, and therefore should die. There was an element of anti-Semitism in it. But I remember very clearly on the radio, this guy Fulton Lewis saying they smelt bad. He was a friend of J. Edgar Hoover, who was this homosexual in the closet, who was blackmailing almost everybody. Interview from


ginsberg and judaism Ever feel like a Jew out of water?The other day in the late afternoon, I felt like that — here, in the fair city of San Francisco. In the exciting and eclectic vicinity of North Beach no less. One of my favorite neighborhoods, where I get tons of pleasure from bookstores and urban insanity. But amid the European tourists, Asian shoppers and Italian signs, I felt strangely melancholy and alone. I stopped and looked at myself — what was this really about? And then I realized I was looking in the window of the bar Vesuvio, which is next to City Lights Books. Of course! This wasn’t about just feeling out of place now; it was really about when I was really a Jew out of water, and Allen Ginsberg ironically became my anchor to Judaism. Allen Ginsberg, the famous beat poet who made City Lights infamous and controversial. Ginsberg lived just blocks from here in the late ‘50s when he composed “Howl” and other poems that put him on the map. I, however, associate the queer socialist Jewish Buddhist beat-hippie bard with a time in my life where I was bereft of everything Judaic — my three years in Boulder, Colo. I was a creative writing graduate student at the Naropa Institute. The school at large was created by a Tibetan Buddhist guru and his followers — including Ginsberg, who co-founded the writing program with other beats like Anne Waldman and William Burroughs. Boulder is a thick stew of alternative spirituality. New Age practices shine like neon signs that obscure any trace of traditional churches, mosques or synagogues. The few Jews around me were so involved in their non-Jewish practices that even their cultural Judaism seemed diminished. It’s not like I was looking for someplace to daven, but I moved to Boulder from Los Angeles, where I always felt some comfort driving down Fairfax and having corned beef at Canter’s Delicatessen, with the judaica store on the corner. Boulder wasn’t quite a Christian dominion as, say, Utah, but I occasionally felt like a Jewish alien. Extract from



pro gay 1950’s protest This new visibility provoked latent cultural prejudices.... Firings from government jobs and purges from the military intensified in the 1950s. President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an executive order in 1953 barring gay men and lesbians from all federal jobs. Many state and local governments and private corporations followed suit. The FBI began a surveillance program against homosexuals. The lead taken by the federal government encouraged local police forces to harass gay citizens. Vice officers regularly raided gay bars, sometimes arresting dozens of men and women on a single night. ‌Under these conditions, some gays began to organize politically. In November 1950 in Los Angeles, a small group of men led by Harry Hay and Chuck Rowland met to form what would become the Mattachine Society. Mostly male in membership, it was joined in 1955 by a lesbian organization in San Francisco, the Daughters of Bilitis, founded by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. In the 1950s these organizations remained small, but they established chapters in several cities and published magazines that were a beacon of hope to the readers. Extract from


Who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of atlantic and Caribbean love...

howl’s obscenity trial When U.S. Customs released the paperback version of Howl that had been printed in London, Ferlinghetti and his partner, Shigeyosi Murao, were arrested by San Francisco police on obscenity charges. One newspaper headline read: “Cops Don’t Allow No Renaissance Here.” After a long trial (covered in a Life Magazine picture story) in which poets, critics, and academics testified to the redeeming social value of Howl, it was ruled not obscene and City Lights was exonerated. The decision that was handed down in the Howl obscenity trial led to the American publication of the previously censored Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. The trials publicity brought the San Francisco Beat Movement into the national spotlight and inspired many would-be poets and seekers to make their way out to the West Coast. Howl is a poem that embodied the state of America and of the individual as Ginsberg saw it. It is divided into three sections. The first has been described as a sometimes hysterical lament about the political and cultural conservatism that has destroyed the best minds of the poet’s generation. The second is a poetic tirade against Moloch, the symbol of human avarice that creates a society of dehumanized, desensitized, mechanized conformists. Ginsberg claims to have seen the image of Moloch in the silhouette of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel at Union Square. (Whether drugs were involved is uncertain.) The third part of the poem is addressed to his friend in a mental institution--a victim of the mad society around him. In Howl the sacred and the profane are weighed equally. Lines such as “The asshole is holy!” probably had something to do with people taking offense. But they just didn’t get it. Ginsberg, in fact, exalts the perceptions of the irrational visionary immersed in an insane world. Howl is a rage against conformity, inhibition, censorship, puritanism, and everything else that restricts and limits the realization of one’s true self. It is both a howl of defeat from a living hell and a howl of defiant laughter. Extract from





who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other’s hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation, who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity, who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes, who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other’s salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second, who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz, who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave, who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury, who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy, and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia, who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia, returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East, Pilgrim State’s Rockland’s and Greystone’s foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon, with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—























ginsberg’s new york Although born in New Jersey, Ginsberg spent a lot of his adolescent life in New York City. Their are many part of New York mentioned in Howl including the famous landmarks “Brooklyn Bridge” and “Empire State”. Many of the beat writers stories featured New York as it was a Hub of arts, poetry and of course one of Ginsbergs greatest loves Jazz. Although he is speaking in a greater scheme than literal space, New York is the place that readers will probably think of when Ginsberg writes lines such as “dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn” or “ sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats”.


new jer sey 74

allen’s new jersey SW: Speaking of Newark, many of your poems give us intimations of what Newark and Paterson were like. I’m thinking of “Aunt Rose” and parts of “Kaddish.” AG: There’s another poem called “Garden State.” NS: “Garden State,” right. AG: And then there’s some description of the landscape around Paterson in “Don’t Grow Old,” a poem from 1976. And the “Garden State” poem is around 1977 or so -- ‘78, ‘79. NS: Can you say a little more about growing up in Newark and Paterson? AG: Well, I did -- not enough of it actually comes into my poems. For having lived there most of my early life, there isn’t that much in my poetry. There’s some descriptions that charmed Williams in the “Empty Mirror” section, about “Negroes climbing around rusted iron on the river.” And there’s some reference in “Sunflower Sutra” to the poem of the riverbank, “condoms and pots, steel knives, nothing stainless,” which actually is drawn from a walk by the Passaic River that I took with William Carlos Williams, looking at the riverbank. There are a number of mentions, but I don’t know if you’ve asked a very specific question. If you could ask a specific question, I could give you an answer. Interview from


memories of denver Jack Kerouac’s writing doesn’t mention Boulder as a place he visited in Colorado, yet there’s a school named after him there. Founded in 1974 by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman it’s Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Kerouac became disembodied in 1969 at the age of 47. Neal Cassady, who inspired Kerouac’s best known novel, “On the Road,” did so a year earlier. Unlike his two friends who lived faster and died younger, Ginsberg almost made it into the new millennium. He died in 1997. The newly released movie, “Howl,” starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, takes place during the Beat era — an era that owes its name to Kerouac. Who were the Beats? Where does Colorado fit in? The group of writers who would later be called, the Beats, adopted William S. Burroughs as their mentor. Burroughs, who was fascinated by life’s seamy side, learned the word “beat” from Herbert Huncke, a Chicago junkie. Hunke used the word as a synonym for poor. It was Kerouac who modified its meaning, making “beat” a combination of poor and beatific, “like sleeping in the subways … and yet being illuminated and having illuminated ideas about apocalypse and all that.” Extract from





ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time— and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipsis catalogue a variable measure and the vibrating plane, who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head, the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death, and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America’s naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years. II What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks! Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men! Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments! Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb! Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs!


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MOLOCH If the key word of the first section was “who,” the second section asks “What?” As in, what destroyed the best minds of his generation? Ginsberg provides the answer immediately: Moloch. In the Hebrew Bible, Moloch was an idolatrous god to whom children were sacrificed by placing them in fire. In other words, not a friendly god. The religious context and history of Moloch is extremely complicated, so it’s better to stick to the poem’s own definition. For Ginsberg, Moloch is associated with war, government, capitalism, and mainstream culture, all of which might be summed up by one of the poem’s most important concepts: the “machine” or “machinery.” Moloch is an inhuman monster that kills youth and love. Extract from




POST WAR CAPITALISM The 1950s saw the beginning of a new period in the development of capitalist society. It was a time when American soldiers, newly returned from World War II, would follow the American Dream as it was sold in advertisements, of moving to the suburbs and starting a family with a house, a car and a steady income. It was the end of the turbulence that had defined the last two decades, and the beginning of seemingly endless prosperity and upward mobility. With increased living standards, broad layers of the working class were now able to achieve decent standards of living, and buy products that had previously been reserved for the upper classes – hence the phenomenon of so-called “consumerism” – the idea that working class families could buy happiness with their disposable incomes. It was the beginning of the dominance of American cultural, economic and political imperialism, and in a sense the rebirth of capitalism after the crisis of the 1930s and the destruction of World War II. However, it was also the time when a young poet named Allen Ginsberg published a poem called “Howl”, which criticized all these phenomena, and at the same time foreshadowed the student and left movements of decades to come. The film Howl that came out in 2010 tells the story of Ginsberg and his poem, and the trial that sought to censor and silence his social critique. Living as a homosexual and a socialist and documenting this in his style-breaking poetry in the period of McCarthyism, Ginsberg was not afraid of being different. The feature film Howl, written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, portrays Ginsberg through a combination of an interview with the poet, a reading of his most famous poem “Howl”, and the trial against Ginsberg, in which the prosecutor attempted to get the publisher of the poem, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, censored for obscenity. It is a captivating, yet not unproblematic, portrayal of Ginsberg and his poetry. Extract from




GINSBERG VS CAPITALISM Good writing is often persuasive, convincing the reader to see the author’s point and even believe it. Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is an example of this type of extremely cogent writing. Ginsberg’s choice of language and punctuation particularly function to really drive his point home. His point, to over-simplify, is that “the best minds of [his] generation” have been demolished by the evils of society, such as industry and capitalism. What specifically struck me was the Christ-like imagery and allusions that Ginsberg associated with the Beat Generation, such as quoting Jesus’ finals words on the cross, “Eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani,” while he used the image of Moloch and words such as “filth,” “ugliness,” “soulless,” and “monstrous” to be associated with industry and capitalism-focused aspects of society. In this case, the juxtaposition of heaven and hell seems almost more manipulative than subtly persuasive. Perhaps having read too much Ayn Rand, the capitalist objectivist is surfacing in me and I am left to wonder exactly why Ginsberg is blaming industrial progress and monetary gain for the destruction of the most intelligent of his generation. It seems contradictory and illogical more than anything. He does not offer any concrete explanation for why he makes this assertion, which should raise some automatic suspicion in the reader’s mind, if he or she has not already been manipulated by the associations Ginsberg sets up. Overall, I would be more willing to accept Ginsberg’s point if he delved further into his reasoning. His language is certainly effective in conveying his point, but personally left me wishing for more content.




Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities! Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind! Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch! Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky! Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs! They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us! Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river! Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit! Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years’ animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time! Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street! III Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Rockland where you’re madder than I am I’m with you in Rockland where you must feel very strange I’m with you in Rockland where you imitate the shade of my mother I’m with you in Rockland where you’ve murdered your twelve secretaries I’m with you in Rockland where you laugh at this invisible humor


Howl, for Carl Soloman


carl soloman Ginsberg entered the institution, believing that he brought this situation upon himself. He faced a premature midlife crisis, wondering whether or not he could be a poet and whether or not he was homosexual. Although his days were routine, Ginsberg was able to write some poems that would later be published in his works The Gates of Wrath and Empty Mirror. At the institution, Ginsberg met Carl Solomon, a fellow poet, and the two isolated themselves from the doctors and other patients to discuss literary matters. On February 27, 1950, Ginsberg was discharged. His stay at the psychiatric institute had immediate effects upon his lifestyle. Although he had distanced himself from the caretakers at the institution, Ginsberg still left the place desiring a more balanced, productive, and sociable life, as the doctors had encouraged. For a short while, Ginsberg appeared to be another success story from Columbia Presbyterian. In any case, he held intentions to become a labor journalist and to have sexual relationships with women in order to find a life of normalcy. Extract from





For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956 “Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village. downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I’ve been up all night, talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues shout blind on the phonograph the rhythm the rhythm--and your memory in my head three years after-And read Adonais’ last triumphant stanzas aloud--wept, realizing how we suffer-And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember, prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of Answers-and my own imagination of a withered leaf--at dawn-Dreaming back thru life, Your time--and mine accelerating toward Apocalypse” Beginning stanzas of Kaddish - Allen Ginsberg, 1959


naomi ginsberg Ginsberg, Allen (3 June 1926-6 Apr. 1997), poet, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the younger son of Louis Ginsberg, a high school English teacher and poet, and Naomi Levy Ginsberg. Ginsberg grew up with his older brother Eugene in a household shadowed by his mother’s mental illness; she suffered from recurrent epileptic seizures and paranoia. An active member of the Communist Party-USA, Naomi Ginsberg took her sons to meetings of the radical left dedicated to the cause of international Communism during the Great Depression of the 1930s. In the winter of 1941, when Allen was a junior in high school, his mother insisted that he take her to a therapist at a Lakewood, New Jersey, rest home, a disruptive bus journey he described in his long autobiographical poem “Kaddish.” Naomi Ginsberg spent most of the next fifteen years in mental hospitals, enduring the effects of electroshock treatments and a lobotomy before her death at Pilgrim State Hospital in 1956. Witnessing his mother’s mental illness had a traumatic effect on Ginsberg, who wrote poetry about her unstable condition for the rest of his life. Extract from


u o y h t i w m I’ . . . d n a l k c o R n i 96

I’m with you in Rockland where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter I’m with you in Rockland where your condition has become serious and is reported on the radio I’m with you in Rockland where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses I’m with you in Rockland where you drink the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica I’m with you in Rockland where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the harpies of the Bronx I’m with you in Rockland where you scream in a straightjacket that you’re losing the game of the actual pingpong of the abyss I’m with you in Rockland where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse I’m with you in Rockland where fifty more shocks will never return your soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void I’m with you in Rockland where you accuse your doctors of insanity and plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha I’m with you in Rockland where you will split the heavens of Long Island and resurrect your living human Jesus from the superhuman tomb I’m with you in Rockland where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale I’m with you in Rockland where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won’t let us sleep I’m with you in Rockland where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls’ airplanes roaring over the roof they’ve come to drop angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls collapse O skinny legions run outside O starry-spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here O victory forget your underwear we’re free I’m with you in Rockland in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night 97


The legend After his death on April 5, 1997 Allen Ginsberg left us a final gift, his legacy. Allen Ginsberg has gone on to move and inspire generations after his passing. The proof, lies here in these very pages, from discovering Howl back in 2011 to exploring all aspects of the poem it’self and this incredible man’s life I have found countless reasons to gain creativity from everything this man did. Vive La Ginsberg.





Howl by Allen Ginsberg - A book by John Conlon