Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Birthday in June ~ Get Ready to Howl!

“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does.” 
Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was born on 3 June 1926. He was admitted to Columbia University, and as a student there in the 1940s, he began close friendships with William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, all of whom later became leading figures of the Beat movement. As an icon of the Beats, Ginsberg was involved in countless political activities, including protests against the Vietnam War, and he spoke openly about issues that concerned him, such as free speech and gay rights agendas. Read more on

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“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...”

Opening lines of Howl, by Allen Ginsberg
To listen to an audio reading, click HERE.

"This is perhaps the most famous line in all of Ginsberg's poetry. From his poem "Howl," it first describes the subject of the poem - the 'best minds' - figures who have been rejected by society for their unwillingness to conform to its institutions and ideals." Read more HERE. Ginsberg was concerned with the state of creative thinking in the 50s - how it was bound by conformity and laws preventing freedom of expression, if the ideas being expressed were deemed inappropriate. Howl itself was considered obscene and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who published it under City Lights Press, was arrested and brought to trial in 1957.

However, times have changed. Here we are in the second decade of the Twenty First Century, and I'm wondering if we have anything to howl about... If you do have a rant, then let us hear it. The form is prose-poetry or free verse, inspired by that of Ginsberg and in honour of his innovation and enormous contribution to the poetic movement of the 20th Century.


Grace said...

What a writer, what words ~

Thank you for the lovely post Kerry ~

Have a lovely weekend everyone ~

Anonymous said...

Kerry, you want a RANT? From ME? How unseemly.., ha ha. Going off to write, now... howling at Monsanto, like it does any good... Amy

Ella said...

Thank you Kerry! He was ahead of his time~

Can it be a personal rant..anything goes?!
I'm so ready to howl...

Fireblossom said...

Oh gosh, now you've egged on Amy! ;-)

I love Ginsberg! "Howl" (and Ferlinghetti's "A Coney Island Of The Mind") were two of the first books of poems I ever bought.

I met Allen Ginsberg! He signed my copy of "Howl", and also my copy of "Iron Horse", a limited edition I had picked up while traveling in California many years ago. He was quite tickled to see it and asked me how I had come to have it.

Just to show you how schizoid this Gemini is, my favorite two signed books I have are "Howl" and Mary Tyler Moore's autobiography "After All." Hey, they were both subversive in their own way!

Maude Lynn said...

I had fun! Hope that I didn't screw up the "form" aspect of it, though.

Susie Clevenger said...

A powerful voice, thanks for prompting us with Ginsberg Kerry! I chose one of the many things I could rant about, big oil. :)

Kay L. Davies said...

Wow, to think I had forgotten about Ginsberg. But of course I remember now...very much a hero in the 60s.
And nothing to howl about these days? Oh, Kerry, hear me howl...right after we do some shopping and dog-walking!

Helen said...

My outrage is showing .... could not hold it back.

hedgewitch said...

A great challenge Kerry. I only wish my mind were flexible enough to take it on--not that I can't rant, but the Ginsberg touch is one I doubt I could emulate atm. It's been a nervewracking week with the tornadoes--I think my muse is somewhere hiding in a storm shelter. ;_)

Shay that is neat about the book signing. Coney Island of the Mind was in my early collection, which also had those Brautigan volumes we've talked about before. Poets like that just got you amped up about the craft.

Margaret said...

Stay safe, Joy! I've been thinking of all you in Oklahoma.

I stayed away from a political rant as I am in a minority view point with a few things - but I did (I hope) come up with a bit of a personal "howl".

Kerry O'Connor said...

Every viewpoint is valid! I see I am way behind the rest of the pack on this one.

My thoughts are with those in tornado alley. Keep safe.

TCPC said...

Linked an old one here, Hope its fine. But it came ringing . Hopefully the voice in that piece is loud enough to howl

Marian said...

gosh Kerry, this is super-intimidating. not that i can't or don't rant, but Ginsberg? love. we'll see.

cool that you met him, Shay!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kerry - a very nice post. When I first moved to New York City, I lived about ten blocks from Ginsberg and we would see him and also Peter Orlovsky fairly often, as well as William Borroughs and Gregory Corso. Burroughs lived around the corner from my apartment. I thought they were all very cool, but I have to say there was a kind of (to my mind) obliviousness to women - that felt a bit difficult to me. This may be because the people I spent time with who all adored the Beats - were a bit that way.

I was able to take a workshop with Ginsberg once although I honestly do not remember much, except that he was mainly interested in the young male poets - I did get an inscribed book though, and he had the most beautiful sonorous voice, both speaking and singing. I admired and admire him a lot, but there seemed, at that time, to be such a strong male focus, I found it all kind of exclusive.

I wrote a rant for dVerse Yesterday but do not like to double-up since this came afterwards and I do not think it is particularly Ginsbergian - he has a very cool style though and will think of it.

LLM Calling said...

Do you hear me howl?
Now I've started I feel the need to continue, this could get loud and messy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Shay for reminding me I had not placed my link on Toads site!!

Also, Akila, if you read this, pls email me at sharplittlepencil (at) gmail because I have a comment for your HOWL that your site would not "take."


Hannah said...

Hello everyone!! Thank you for this feature, Kerry!

I'll have a link from my sister, Jessica up very shortly, too!


Susan said...

Can a sonnet howl? Hmmm. I'm posted on Monday, but came here to read. Wow. These poems are knock-yer-socks-off out there! I love how this prompt brought us all out, Kerry!

Kerry O'Connor said...

I was off-line yesterday - so sorry to be behind on my reading - and writing. I have to admit that I have only one line of my rant written...
You have all put me to shame with your powerful vocalizations on things that really bother you.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Jennifer @ full cup of tea, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your response to this challenge. I didn't leave a comment on your blog because it always skips over to google+ and I am not signed in there. My apologies.