Adverse / Averse
0 Adverse means harmful or unfavorable.
0 Adverse reactions to this medication have
been noted in 40% of patients.
0 Averse means reluctant or opposed to.
0 He was not averse, however, to taking
chances for himself.
0 The Beats
0 Author Introduction: Allen Ginsberg
0 The literary movement called the Beat Generation burst
into American consciousness with two books published
in the late 1950s. The first, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and
Other Poems (1956), stirred both controversy and an
obscenity trial for Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who offered
copies for sale in his San Francisco bookstore.
0 The second book, Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957) had
a profound cultural effect when it was published. It was
the Beat Generation’s manifesto.
Forms and Devices
Q: Is there any kind of a unifying structure holding “Howl” together?
Why does Ginsburg use a chaotic verse that has a severe lack of form?
In the first part, according to Ginsberg, he used the repetition of the word “who”
to keep the beat. He built “longer and shorter variations on a fixed base,” elaborate
images that were written for both their meaning and “the beauty of abstract
poetry.” He created energy in “awkward combinations … disparate things put
together.” The repeated “who” operates as a ground beneath each “streak of
Ginsberg believed that his “concentration and compression of imagistic
notations” such as “hydrogen jukebox” or “bop kaballa” would function like a
haiku, in which juxtapositions stimulate the brain to stir connections in burst
of energy: he called this “lightning in the mind.”
To establish pace, he used “primitive naïve grammar,” which condensed phrases
by removing unnecessary words, eliminating “prosey articles” that dampened
The goal of his efforts was to “build up large organic structures,” avoiding any
loose or dead areas that would leach energy out of the poem.
The second part calls forth the series of images of Moloch—
Ginsberg’s ultimate symbol of the evil and damaging forces of
the modern world.
Each line functions as a separate stanza, the line itself broken
into “component short phrases” or “exclamatory units”; the
repetition of the word “Moloch” acts as a “rhythmical
The section works toward a climax, presenting individual
concepts as exclamations (“Dreams! Adorations!
The conclusion of part 2 is an explosion of energy that sets a
mood of abandon stirred by a chant designed to stimulate
Part 3, according to Ginsberg, is a “litany of affirmation” that
restores the tranquility that the Moloch passages disrupted.
Ginsberg’s repetition of a phrase base (“I’m with you in
Rockland”) anchors the section; the individual units are
surrealistic, and Ginsberg works to express the imaginative, often
oblique sense of existence for which Solomon stands.
The final unit is purposefully too long for one breath unit, and its
textual density is developed to carry the weight of Ginsberg’s last
revelation (“where I open out and give the answer”). This final
unit has no rigid punctuation device, as if to suggest the beginning
of a journey “in the Western night” that replaces the initial
journey into nightmare that was introduced as the poem began
with animage of “streets at dawn.”
Ginsberg thought that his subject (“queer content my
parents shouldn’t see”) would probably prohibit
publication, so he felt free to compose without
preconception or limitation. Guided by what he called his
“Hebraic-Melvillian bardic breath”—a version of Old
Testament prophetic proclamation, modified by Herman
Melville’s conversions of those rhythms into the syntax of
American prose narrative—Ginsberg worked out an
effective, original formal structure which was completely
missed by most critics at the time of publication.
Ginsberg depended on repetition of the word “who” to keep
the beat, an approach influenced by Jack Kerouac’s ideas
about improvisation akin to modern jazz. He then built “longer
and shorter variations on a fixed base,” elaborate images
lifting off each basic measure that were written for their
meaning as well as “the beauty of abstract poetry” and the
latent energy found in “awkward combinations … disparate
things put together.” The repeated “who” operates as a ground
beneath each “streak of invention,” but even with this
technique, Ginsberg worried that it would be difficult to sustain
a long line in a long poem. To put “iron poetry back into the
line,” Ginsberg believed that his “concentration
and compression of imagistic notations” such as “hydrogen
jukebox” or “bop kaballa” would function like a haiku, in which
juxtapositions encourage the brain to make a connection in a
leap of energy, which he called “lightning in the mind.”
0 Ginsberg’s attention to radical activists, outrageous
artists, sexual “deviants,” and experimenters with
forbidden substances prefigured the explosion of
variance and defiance of the 1960’s. “Howl” presents this
nascent counterculture and attempts to explain its
meaning and importance, extoll its values, celebrate its
moments of beauty, and defend its seemingly aberrant
and rebellious behavior. The thrust of the poem is an
insistence on the importance of plurality and tolerance
as components of an ideal America—an America in
which examples of individuality and eccentricity would be
accepted so that a society built on greed and
materialism might be transformed and redeemed.