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, …
I welcome you to this week’s Flik with the opening lines of one of my favorite works – the longish poem Howl by Beat godfather Allen Ginsberg.
Howl is a modernist poem written for Carl Solomon in 1955-56. It was originally written as a performance piece, but can hold it’s own (and then some) in written form as well. The poem is divided into three parts; the first concentrating on lamenting the American youth, the best minds of his generation – the outcasts, who were poets, artists, political radicals, drug addicts, psychiatric patients, who Ginsberg had met in the decade before writing Howl.
Part two continues the lament, and puts the blame on the monster of industrial civilization and materialism, personified as Moloch (a devilish idol found among others in old Jewish tradition).
Part three of Howl is directly addressed to Carl Solomon, for whom the poem was written, and who Ginsberg met at a psychiatric facility in 1949.
The poem still stands today as one of the most renowned works of the Beat Generation, and is a beautiful, raw mix of anger and vulnerability. It will take you less than 30 minutes to read, and you can do so here. But beware of this poem, it tends to be addictive – I cannot tell you how many times I have had to return to it and mull over it some more. It is magnificent.