Official Blog of Author MICHAEL THOMAS BARRY.
A blog which discusses varied topics that are related to the authors many books. Michael is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Allen Ginsberg Reads "Howl" for the First Time (October 7, 1955)
On this date in American literary history – October 7,
1955, poet Allen Ginsberg reads his poem "Howl" at a poetry reading at
Six Gallery in San Francisco. The poem was an immediate success that rocked the
Beat literary world and set the tone for confessional poetry of the 1960s and
later. Ginsberg was born in 1926 to a high school English teacher father and
Marxist mother who later suffered a mental breakdown. Her madness and death
were the subjects of Ginsberg's poem "Kaddish."
Ginsberg's father raised Allen and his older brother to
recite poetry by Poe, Dickens, Keats, Shelley, and Milton. Ginsberg attended
Columbia University, intending to study law. At Columbia, he met Jack Kerouac,
William Burroughs, and Neal Cassady, who would become central figures in the
Beat movement. Ginsberg was expelled from Columbia in 1945 for a series of
minor infractions, then bummed around, working as a merchant seaman, a
dishwasher, and a welder. He finally finished Columbia in 1948 with high grades
but was arrested when a drug-addict friend stored supplies in his apartment. He
successfully pleaded not guilty on the grounds of insanity and spent eight
months in the psych ward at Columbia.
After his arrest and trial, Ginsberg went through a
"straight" period, working as a successful market researcher and
helping to develop a successful ad campaign for toothpaste. He moved to San
Francisco and soon fell back in with the Beat crowd. In 1955, over a period of
a few weeks, he wrote his seminal work "Howl." It was printed in
England, but its second edition was seized by Customs officials as it entered
the country. City Lights, a San Francisco bookstore, published the book itself
to avoid Customs problems, and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested and
tried for obscenity, but defended by the ACLU. Following testimony from nine
literary experts on the merits of the book, Ferlinghetti was found not guilty.
Ginsberg was center stage at numerous milestone
counterculture events during the 1950s and 1960s. His name made it onto J.
Edgar Hoover's list of dangerous subversives. He wrote about his own
experiences as a gay man, experimented with drugs, protested the Vietnam War,
was clubbed and gassed at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, studied
Buddhism, toured with Bob Dylan, and recorded poetry and music with Paul McCartney
and Philip Glass. He became a popular teacher and lecturer at universities
across the United States. He won the National Book Award in 1973 and was a
runner-up for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He wrote and read poetry in
New York until his death from liver cancer in 1997.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that
includes the soon to be released America’s
Literary Legends: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. Visit
Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com
for more information. The book can be pre-ordered from Amazon through the