Allen Ginsberg's Poetry

American Dystopia; American Spaces and Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl' College

In his 1956 poem ‘Howl’ Allen Ginsberg portrays a vision of America that is simultaneously both apocalyptic and somewhat hopeful of the future. Ginsberg, one of the primary figures of the counterculture of Beat Writers during the 1940s and 50s, presents America as a land in the grip of a capitalistic conglomerate which smothers the individual spiritually, artistically and economically. For Ginsberg, the spaces of America are ones full of disillusion, malcontent and dystopian ideals. There is, however, a sense, that Ginsberg provides, that this could change under the right conditions and thus deliver America into a state far kinder and sympathetic than the one it is in currently.

The poem, separated into three sections and a footnote, mixes autobiography with philosophy and an illusion of prophetic insight. The first section, for example, acts as a form of record of the exploits of Ginsberg and his friends, mostly other Beat Writers, in New York during the early post-war years. These personal descriptions, often deeply sensitive and at times even going as far as confessing to criminality, are a contrast to the highly apocalyptic and prophetic second section where Ginsberg attempts to explore the level of capitalistic greed and...

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