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Mandy McCurdy EN 372 3 May 2001 Angelheaded Hipsters What living and buried speech is always vibrating here what howls restraind by decorum -Walt Whitman When Allen Ginsberg wrote his poem Howl in 1956 there were many reactions To many it was shocking and profane involving words and subjects that simply were not spoken about To others it was a literary breakthrough of modern poetry full of vitality and desire In a three-hour effort Ginsberg had created a poem that would stand against everything that the 1950s represented- a poem that would become an unignorable voice of the non-conformist Beat movement Ginsbergs unabashed stance is clear In Poetry Violence and the Trembling Lambs he writes Recent history is the record of a vast conspiracy to impose one level of mechanical consciousness of mankind the suppression of contemplative individuality is nearly complete The only immediate historical data that we can know and act on are those fed to our senses through the systems of mass communication America is having a nervous breakdown Because of this Howl received the criticism of the multitudes with accusations of its only substance being mad rantings and drug-induced gibberish Nevertheless Howl has succeeded not only in changing modern poetry but also in representing an important voice of non-conformity and self-exploration in America in the Fifties At the publishing of Howl shock ran through the literary community like the aftershocks of an earthquake It was seen as a vile drug-induced ranting containing profanity homosexuality drug and alcohol abuse and the complete rejection of organized religion and establishment One critic wrote We have had smoking attacks on the civilization before ironic or murderous or suicidal We have not had this particular variety of anguished anathema- hurling in which the poets revulsion is expressed with the single-minded frenzy of a raving madwoman Rosenthal 29 Besides putting the poem on trial for obscenity in which Ginsberg was vindicated critics also had the opinion that
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