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Howl and Other Poems (City Lights Pocket Poets, No. 4) Reissue Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 206 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0872860179
ISBN-10: 0872860175
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The epigraph for Howl is from Walt Whitman: "Unscrew the locks from the doors!/Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!" Announcing his intentions with this ringing motto, Allen Ginsberg published a volume of poetry which broke so many social taboos that copies were impounded as obscene, and the publisher, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was arrested. The court case that followed found for Ginsberg and his publisher, and the publicity made both the poet and the book famous. Ginsberg went on from this beginning to become a cultural icon of sixties radicalism. This works seminal place in the culture is indicated in Czeslaw Milosz's poetic tribute to Ginsberg: "Your blasphemous howl still resounds in a neon desert where the human tribe wanders, sentenced to unreality". --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Lately, Ginsberg hasn't always been in top form, but "Howl" remains a masterpiece. White Shroud is the best of his later works.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Pocket Poet Series, Number Four (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 57 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers; Reissue edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872860175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872860179
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.2 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Ellis on October 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of self-appointed critics who, in order to try to convince others of their own individuality and intellectual honesty, feel the need to let everyone know that they consider Ginsberg (and every other so-called "Beat" for that matter) to be an overrated hack and more of a celebrity than a poet and blah, blah, blah, blah. It is true that Ginsberg's style has been imitated by far too many lesser poets who, obviously, don't posess anything close to the man's talent and it is also true that there's an equal number of people who claim to love Ginsberg but have never actually bothered to sit down and really read anything beyond the first page of "Howl." Inetivably, one wishes that all of these presumed literary critics (regardless of where they stand) would just shut up, read the poems for themselves, and form their own opinions regardless of what the current trend is. For if they did, they would discover a very talented poet who, even if he occasionally seemed to be repeating and parodying himself as he got older, still created some of the strongest American poetry of the latter 20th Century. While Kaddish remains his strongest work of poetry, his much more famous poem "Howl" still carries more of a raw, exhilirating anger. Written to be read aloud, Howl is basically a cry against the conformity of 1950s America but the anger found within still reverberates almost half a century later. Certainly, his vision of a drug-abusing community of outcasts wandering along darkened city streets remains as relavent as ever. Like any apocalyptic poem, it can be credibly charges that at times, Howl is superficial and there's not much beyond shocking images.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I reread this little book before attempting to review it. I remembered that it was a mad mantra of transcendent power from the heart of hell, but I didn't remember how nondated it was. This work is fresher and more relevant than 99% of what passes for poetry today. How can something last nearly 50 years without going stale or becoming trite? How can it be even more real now? Maybe it is because Ginsberg ripped it live, screaming, and bleeding from a place beyond time and beyond space. He tore it from the living bowels of MOLOCH itself and showed it to HIM. After all, what does divine madness know of time?
This poem is transcendence itself. It demonstrates that when you plunge into the deepest pit of hell it either kills you, or perhaps it burns out your insides so that you become a soulless zombie, OR you transcend it and rise howling to become a Mad Poet Saint who can truely encompass the Sacred in the Profane.
Read this poem, and the others like America, A Supermarket in California, Sunflower Sutra, Wild Orphan, and In Back of the Real. It's almost frightening how relevant to daily life it is. If you didn't know it, you would never guess that it was written in the 50's. Of course Ginsberg does invoke, holy eternity in time holy the clocks in space the fourth dimension, in the Footnote. Maybe that's why it's timeless. As Cassady used to say, we know time, yes, we know time....
I wish I would have been there for that first public reading in San Fran with Kerouac running around the audience passing the wine jug. On all the planes, the Gods themselves must have jumped back in shock as a flaming monkeywrench of living poetry was jammed through the spokes of the great quivering meat wheel of conception....
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Format: Paperback
This book is totally amazing. I have read a lot of Ginsberg's work and I love it all. I am only 14 and I don't get why people think this is so inapropriate! I mean sure, it can get racey at times and maybe for some people it could be too much but it is art! Art is beautiful so why does profanity matter if it is written in an elegant way. And he isn't just swearing for fun, Ginsberg and all his peers were trying to get a message across. That message is a good one, one we should all pay a little more attention to because it applies just as much to today as it did back then in the 50's. The Beat style of writing is inspiring and beautiful, the way the words flow on the page and the rhythm to it all. This collection of poems totally rocks, from his classic and most famous poem Howl, to his firery America, and the wonderful Sunflower Sutra. When I was first introduced to the Beat generation work I thought, oh, okay, this looks sorta interesting... but as soon as I started reading I became utterly imersed. Because of the work of poets like Ginsberg I have been inspired. These writings are what made me want to become a writter and a poet when I am older. Ginsberg was right when he said, "Poet is Priest."

-GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
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Format: Paperback
Before starting, allow me to mention the fact that I am reviewing solely the poem "Howl" in Howl and Other Poems.

I read "Howl" this summer as a 16 year old and was absolutely stunned and amazed. As far as enjoying the poem I was entirely too confused by it the first time I read it to actually enjoy it; so let me start by giving the reader of this and prospective buyer of Howl and other Poems the advice to read "Howl" several times before forming a concrete opinion about it. To best describe it shortly, "Howl" is the story of a man that has been through and survived and recognized the horrors of the post war 1940's and the 1950's. "Howl" shows the oppression that people faced during this era and gives a ghastly description of the government and institutions in general at this time. The main strength of Ginsberg's poem is to expand the mind of the reader, even if that means confusing the reader. Take for example the stanza:

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,

This is an absolutely mind boggling sentence. It attacks the areas of fashion and advertising and the powers of editors in newspapers. Stanzas like that are why I enjoy this poem, it is a critique of the time that Ginsberg lived in and allows one to see parallels in the current day and age.

Howl was written over the course of 1955-1956, and is truly a product of its time. This was the beginning of the beat generation, with other writers such as Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey.
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