I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked
“In the Bay region there are several poetry readings each week. They may be called at the drop of a hat. A card may read ‘A Celebrated Good Time Poetry Night. Either you go home bugged or completely enlightened. Allen Ginsberg blowing hot; Gary Snyder blowing cool; Philip Whalen puffing the laconic tuba; Mike McClure his hip high notes; Rex Roth on his big bass drum. Small collection for wine and postcards … abandon, noise, strange pictures on walls, oriental music, lurid poetry. Extremely serious. Town Hall theater. One and one final appearance of this apocalypse. Admission free.’
“The most remarkable poem of the young group, written during the past year, is ‘Howl,’ by Allen Ginsberg, a 29-year-old poet who is the son of Louis Ginsberg, a poet known to newspaper readers in the East. Ginsberg comes from Brooklyn; he studied at Columbia; after years of apprenticeship to usual forms, he developed his brave new medium. This poem has created a furor of praise or abuse whenever read or heard. It is a powerful work, cutting through to dynamic meaning. Ginsberg thinks he is going forward by going back to the methods of Whitman.
“My first reaction was that it is based on destructive violence. It is profoundly Jewish in temper. It is Biblical in its repetitive grammatical build-up. It is a howl against everything in our mechanistic civilization which kills the spirit, assuming that the louder you shout the more likely you are to be heard. It lays bare the nerves of suffering and spiritual struggle. Its positive force and energy come from a redemptive quality of love, although it destructively catalogues evils of our time from physical deprivation to madness.”