Friday, October 7, 2016

America's second great, barbaric yawp

The Writer's Almanac reminds us a big event happened today in 1955:
Allen Ginsberg read his poem "Howl" at the Six Gallery in San Francisco on this date in 1955 (books by this author). The reading was intended to promote the new gallery. The poet Kenneth Rexroth organized the reading, and in preparation, he introduced Gary Snyder to Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg introduced everyone to Jack Kerouac, and they became the core of the group of writers known as the Beats. 
Ginsberg was the second to the last to read, and he started at about 11 p.m. He was 29 years old, and he had never participated in a poetry reading before. He started off in a quiet voice. But as he read, he found his rhythm, and he took a deep breath before each of the long lines in "Howl" and then said each line in one breath. Jack Kerouac chanted "Go, go, go" in rhythm while Ginsberg read, and the audience went wild.
From the Reed College archives, here's the earliest known recording of Ginsberg reading "Howl", at the college in February, 1956. 

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