Review by Choice Review
Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" has managed to achieve classic status in spite of its calculated offensiveness and unorthodox style and tone. Shinder (Bennington College) offers here the first-ever reproduction of Ginsberg's mimeographed version created for his friends, a CD of the first recorded public reading of the poem, and a rich collection of pertinent documents. The latter range from early responses to the poem and its obscenity trial to current thinking about the poem by practicing poets of every aesthetic persuasion. One of the most interesting inclusions is John Cage's "Writing through Howl," a text Cage constructed from words of the original. A full chronology of Ginsberg's life is included. This poem, which first appeared in a 75-cent paperback from City Lights, has clearly endured. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All readers; all collections. B. Almon University of Alberta
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
If the opening lines of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" aren't seared into your brain, they will be by the end of this collection of 26 essays compiled by Shinder, a poet (Among Women) who learned much of his craft as Ginsberg's pupil. It's a shame the poem isn't included, though it feels as if it's quoted in its entirety at various points (the hardcover edition does come with a Ginsberg reading on CD). This collection juxtaposes reflections by writers such as Rick Moody and Andrei Codrescu about the impact of "Howl' on their lives; Billy Collins writes, "...it wasn't a waste of time for a Catholic high school boy from the suburbs to try to sound in his poems like a downtown homosexual Jewish beatnik." Robert Pinsky writes that he was initially elated by the poem's linguistic freedom even more than by its raw emotion. Though everybody gives the poem its due as an American classic, personal reactions dominate, and nearly everyone has a Ginsberg story to tell, even if it's just about being blown away by hearing him read. For those who have been moved by Ginsberg's words, this collection serves as a stirring confirmation. Photos. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Poet and anthologist Shinder (Tales from the Couch, 2000) rounds up two dozen literati to reflect on the revolutionary impact of Allen Ginsberg's most famous work. "Howl" has been outraging the squares and enrapturing the alienated ever since Ginsberg first read portions of it at a San Francisco gallery in 1955. Published in the famous City Lights paperback edition in 1956, it overcame obscenity prosecutions to spread its subversive message overseas (Andrei Codrescu recalls reading it in Romania as a teenager) and across the generations (Alicia Ostriker, Marge Piercy and Eileen Myles are among the younger poets who write here of being inspired by it to break free from literary constraints). "Allen Ginsberg is responsible for loosening the breath of American poetry," Helen Vendler once wrote; Shinder's introduction points out that it loosened up a whole lot more. Amiri Baraka captures--in jazzy Beat prose--the poem's status as a quintessential Beat document; Mark Doty investigates it as an expression of queer sexuality (but not an icon of the gay movement); Rick Moody proclaims its relevance to the punk-rock crowd; and Eliot Katz rather drably explains its political relevance, then and now. Thank goodness for Marjorie Perloff's excellent explication of its formal qualities, or we might forget that "Howl" is, first and foremost, a truly great poem. (Doty also does a nice job of reminding us how funny it is.) But Ginsberg's cry of revolt and embrace of excess has always burst the bounds of literature, promising ecstasy and liberation to all kinds of people, from Robert Lowell to Bob Dylan, 1960s radicals to New Age spiritual seekers. It was, perhaps, "the last poem to hit the world with the impact of news and grip it with the tenacity of a pop song," as Luc Sante notes with characteristic acuity. Variable in quality though they are, taken as a whole the essays here offer a plethora of reasons why. A moving tribute to Walt Whitman's truest heir. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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