I commented in my review of Howl that I had never read the poem, regarded as one of the great works of the 20th Century. With that said, several of my bookish friends have all commented likewise. It feels sort of odd (I really should change my name to “snail the odd” or “snail the odd one” hmmm) as it feels like part of my growing up environment, yet it was written before my birth (by more than a decade). It is ingrained in my psyche, or at least a few quoted morsels, in some respects like 80s music is, though that is probably a poor, if not insulting, comparison :-) The 80s were when I grew up, started to get to know the world on my own terms…somewhat. Though it wasn’t til the 90s (mid to late at that) that I really came into a sense of myself.
Howl was written in the 60s, my father’s era. The Beat generation has been talked about in the media my entire life, as one of the defining movements of the 20th Century. Ginsberg died in 1997, and I think I recall being aware of it at the time. I am 41, I am more than halfway through my allocated time of three score years and ten.
Howl predates me.
The events around Howl can only be an historical recreation for me. It is history though it informs the life I’ve led (a curiously placed typo as I initially typed “read” then changed to lead before realising I meant “led” – I need more coffee today) as folk I’ve known as I’ve grown up have been part of the history that Howl speaks to. That older generation passing things down. We are two generations past Howl now; there are people my age who have adult children only a few years younger than Ginsberg was when he wrote Howl.
Howl is easily found online, though I sense it’s a poem to be heard or spoken, rather than simply read. A performance piece.