Howl And Kaddish By Allen Ginsberg

As you read the first lines of "Howl" and "Kaddish", the overall tone of
the poem hits you right in the face. Allen Ginsberg, the poet, presents these
two poems as complaints and injustices. He justifies these complaints in the
pages that follow. Ginsberg also uses several literary techniques in these works
to enhance the images for the reader. His own life experiences are mentioned in
the poems, the majority of his works being somewhat biographical. It is said
that Allen Ginsberg was ahead of his time, but in fact he was just riding the
wave of a literature revolution. The decade of the 1950’s was a time of
change. America and the world was experiencing a transition from innocence to a
more knowledgeable society. Revolutions in all aspects of life were going on:
civil rights, sexual, rock and roll and the introduction of new experimental
drugs in the communities of San Francisco and Greenwich Village. Out of all of
these revolutions came the beat generation, a group of young Bohemian writers
who wrote and thought about the things that Americans used to "throw under the
rug". Names can be mentioned: Jack Kerouac, Philip Whalen, Lawrence

Felinghetti. Perhaps the most famous and most criticized of these "beatniks"
is Allen Ginsberg. Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926 in Newark, New

Jersey. His mother, Naomi, was a Russian immigrant, and his father Louis was a
poet and Paterson, NJ teacher. Allen’s childhood was not always a happy one;

Naomi went back and forth from mental hospitals and endured the physical abuse
of Louis. She also had Communist leanings, thinking that spies were out to get
her and that Hitler was on the way. All of these are mentioned in some of

Allen’s works, the topic of many of them. After being dismissed from Columbia

University, he joined the merchant marines and sailed to the West Coast. In San

Francisco he befriended young men just like himself: angry, pessimistic about
the future, confused about their sexuality, and not knowing what their place in
life really was. After he was released from the merchant marines, he went back
to the Bay Area. These young men began to hold meetings where they would read
poems and share ideas. They also formed a sense of friendship, because they were
all that they really had. "Howl" is a three part poem written in 1955 to his
friend Carl Solomon. In it he talk about the "best minds of my generation
destroyed by madness" "It destructively catalogues evils of our time from
physical deprivation to madness" (Eberhart, Page 25). The first part of

"Howl" is a list of the atrocities that have allegedly been endured by

Ginsberg and his friends. These atrocities accumulate to form a desperate
critique of a civilization that has set up a power structure that determines
everything people do. This power structure is dictated by the conservative
society of America. The theme of the poem is given in the first part: it is one
of question, seeing the things going on and hoping things get better. By"burning their money in wastebaskets" he shows that anyone who does not fit
into societies mold is made to feel that life is hopeless. The imagery used here
is very well placed- dark "Negro" streets give a picture of gloominess,

"angry fix" deals with the consumption of drugs. He really blames society
for his friends going "mad" when in fact they are not, they are just
different. So much pain and pressure is put on them that they are "demanding
instantaneous lobotomy" Ginsberg is also aware of the fact that these
atrocities are not just occurring in San Francisco and New York but in all of

America, big and small. He mentions Houston, Chicago, Denver, North Carolina,
etc. No one is excluded from the changes that are happening. The allusion in the
first part of the poem reflects the tone and the way that Ginsberg feels about
the future of the world. You can be "listening to the crack of doom on the
hydrogen jukebox" which is of course in reference to the hydrogen bomb. The
ever growing threat of nuclear war loomed over the 1950’s and Ginsberg was no
exception to the rule. "Howl is the confession of faith of the generation that
is going to be running the world in 1965 and 1975, if it is still there to
run" (Rexroth, Page 32) "The sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down and
wailed down wall, and the Staten Island Ferry also wailed". In this he
mentions wails and walls,