Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Howl

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,"

Howl by Allen Ginsberg, 1955.







I don’t read much poetry. I struggle with the density of meaning in verse and find it hard to hear the correct stresses and syllables that give meter. Each line needs long digestion and examination to expand the imagery and intent out of it, something I feel ill equipped for and takes more energy than I usually have.

Song lyrics are easier, even if they are almost identical to poetry. The performance, delivery and music makes the meaning and inflections much clearer, so it doesn’t leave me so uncertain about what’s being said or take as much energy to decipher.

I can’t remember where, but a few weeks ago I saw the first line of Allen Ginsburg’s Howl and was drawn in to read the rest of it. I was surprised at how engaging, vivid and energetic it was, especially Part I. Of the few poems I’ve read, mostly under duress in school, they’ve always seem aloof and self-knowing. This is more raw and therefore seems more real and genuine because of it. I know it took many years, many revisions and much self-examination, but it doesn’t feel self-conscious. There’s less of the usual air of smugness and self-knowing smartness that I’ve usually associated with poetry.

Try it, take ten minutes. It’ll probably be the best thing you read today.