Allen Ginsberg's Poetry
Literary Value in Ginsberg's "Howl" 12th Grade
Michael Runmaker argued that Ginsberg’s "Howl" espoused “hysterical language” and “non-exact vocal,” making this poem antithetical to qualities such as “resonance, historical associations, beauty, or rightness for the particular context” which give a piece literary value. While contentious in nature, Runmaker’s statement is arguably a consequence of the stigma at the time that surrounded Beat writers and their work. In retrospect, "Howl" can be seen as a heroic outcry against America’s politically conservative climate. Runmaker later on affirms that the piece is an “Unknown voice howling out loud. What I, and many others of the time, only mentioned in oblique and cynical whispers,” thus cementing the idea that "Howl" is a piece aberrant from others. Its contentiousness enables it to resonate not only with Beatniks and critics at the time, but throughout history, affirming its value in the literary field.
It is debatable whether "Howl" is aesthetically pleasing due to the seeming vulgarity of its subject matter, yet it’s not true that a piece must bear beautiful language to have value. In fact, Ginsberg employs raw, emotive language, combined with descriptions of mental illness, to unveil the degradation of individuals repressed...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 861 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 6549 literature essays, 1777 sample college application essays, 268 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in