makes me wanna howl

October 4, 2007

ginsberg_howl.jpgThere’s an interesting post over at if:book that seems appropriate during Banned Books Week. A New York City radio station wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Allen Ginzberg’s Howl. Their lawyers talked them out of it, though. It’s not that anyone thinks poetry is dangerous anymore; it’s just that if you say a naughty word on air, the FCC might fine you to death. And they’re more prone to do that then before the famous wardrobe failure reminded them that they must be eternally vigilant against . . . well, against this:

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 machin-
ery 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,

who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
ment roofs illuminated,

who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
among the scholars of war,

who were expelled from the academies for crazy &;
publishing obscene odes on the windows of the
skull . . . .

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
their skulls and ate up their brains and imagi-
nation?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unob
tainable dollars! Children screaming under the
stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men
weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the
loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy
judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the
crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of
sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment!
Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stun-
ned governments! . . .

You can read the entire poem, naughty bits and all, here, or listen to it with comments from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, here at Pacifica Radio.


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