Howl

This poem was pretty confusing for me. I had to read it a couple times to just understand what was going on. It looks like the entire first section is a description of how “the best minds” (1) descended into madness. Among other hardships, these “best minds” suffered from drug addiction, were homeless, and attempted suicide. They also had a lot of pretty unsafe sex. Usually, when you think of “the best minds” you think of philosophers, or highly educated people like doctors or lawyers. By describing the best minds as a very different group of people, is Ginsberg saying that these hardships are exactly what make these people “the best minds”?

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Source

In the next section, Ginsberg uses a lot of repetition to really get the message across. He repeats the word “Moloch” about a million times. According to the footnote, Moloch is a Semitic God to whom children were sacrificed. Yikes. And in addition to that, Moloch is just a pretty rough-sounding word. Ginsberg then compares “Moloch” to war, government, capitalism, and American culture. He emphasizes each statement with an exclamation point, really demanding the attention of the reader (or the listener). By comparing these aspects of America to the monstrous Moloch, he makes clear his dissatisfaction with the country.

In the final section, he addresses his friend Carl Solomon. He again employs repetition, by repeating the phrase “I’m with you in Rockland” after every statement. This section seems a little more optimistic than the previous sections. Rockland doesn’t seem like a very good place, but at least Carl is not completely alone. He stands in solidarity with the speaker, who has been in a similar situation and has an idea of what Carl is going through.

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Source

I liked watching part of the Howl movie in class. It was interesting to see how much controversy this poem sparked back in the day. It was also nice to see the poem actually being animated as it was read. I’m a visual learner, so I remember things better when they’re acted out like that.

 

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