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From “Howl”, by Allen Ginsberg

September 28, 2010

Today, lines that demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury.

Something that hard to read, I want to stop it at the border and confiscate the copies.  Something that vital and breathtaking, I want to stand up in court and declare its redeeming social importance.  At least.  Maybe I want to go all the way and suffocate the thing until it completely stops twitching.  Maybe I want to go all the way and incant it at every graduation, press conference, and plenary session in America.

Either way, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”  That’s what judge Clayton Horn asked at the end of Ginsberg’s 1957 obscenity trial.  And it’s a good question for Banned Books Week.

You may have seen by now that a new movie’s out, called Howl, telling the story of that trial.  It stars James Franco who–I was about to type–is an actor not a writer, but take a look at this: he studied creative writing at Warren Wilson College and has a long list of favorite poems.

I read the first part of “Howl” from Modern Poems: a Norton Introduction (2nd ed.), edited by Richard Ellman and Robert O’Clair.  Oh, and here’s a link to the full text of “Howl.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter permalink
    September 29, 2010 1:51 pm

    I was hoping I’d see Ginsberg featured. When my school celebrated Banned Books week I read his poem “America” at reading session on campus. I must say it’s a favorite of mine.

    • September 29, 2010 3:50 pm

      Thanks, Peter. A reading is a great idea–a risky one for the faculty advisor maybe–but a great idea. What were some of the other selections people read?

      Curiously, KP

  2. Peter permalink
    September 30, 2010 12:49 am

    From what I remember people read from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Tango Makes Three , The Jungle, Uncle Tom’s Children, the Goosebumps series, Catcher in the Rye. Those are all that I can remember.


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