Composing “HOWL”

Here’s Allen Ginsberg talking about the process of writing HOWL, which is reminiscent of Natalie Goldberg’s project in Writing down the Bones, to free the writer within:

I thought I wouldn’t write a poem but just write what I wanted to without fear, let my imagination go, open secrecy, and scribble magic lines from my real mind—sum up my life—something I wouldn’t be able to show anybody, write for my own soul’s ear and a few other golden ears.

–Allen Ginsberg, from Jason Shinder,  HOWL Fifty Years Later: The Poem That Changed America


who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous
picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of
China under junk-withdrawal in Newark’s bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wonder-
ing where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward
lonesome farms in grandfather night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah
because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels
who were visionary indian angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural
ecstasy

from Allen Ginsberg, HOWL

Once Allen Ginsberg actually came into your life, he settled there—intimate, indispensable, and so familiar that you could not imagine your life before him.
–Jane Kramer, author of Allen Ginsberg in America

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