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,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
*Ginsberg wrote his seminal poem “Howl” in 1955. It was utterly radical, a complete break from everything that had come before, and it became an emblem of the counter-culture, a lyrical and hallucinatory rant against consumerism and conformism.
*Most of the poem was written in Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, California.
*Ginsberg showed an early draft to the poet Kenneth Rexroth, who said it was too stilted and that Ginsberg needed to loosen up.
*Each line of the poem is based on a single breath unit.
*The poem has been banned, at one time or another, pretty much all over the U.S. because of its inclusion of drug references and sexual references. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, of City Lights Press, was arrested for publishing it. Ferlinghetti won the obscenity trial when an enlightened judge decided the poem was “of redeeming social importance.”
*In 2010, a film starring James Franco as a young Ginsberg was released depicting the obscenity trial.
*The poem was first performed on October 7, 1955, at Six Gallery, in San Francisco. Several recordings of Ginsberg reading the poem still exist.
*Ginsberg, one of the great figures of the Beat Generation and the counter-culture of the 1950s and 60s, died in 1997.