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...

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