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Jun 27, 2023
  • "Howl" is a mind-opening work with its explorations of sexuality, misery and social conflict in a non-traditional poetic form, depending on a freewheeling mixture of influences. Let me start with the overly dramatic use of sexual images and symbolisms in this poem, both gay (line 37) and straight (line 42), and sometimes with objects (line 41). Before Howl, no widely popular American poetry had such shockingly graphic descriptive sexual imagery, which in its nature was declared obscene by the nation`s government. Howl seems to illustrate nature`s wants for disorder, but its mere appearance is not true to the poem`s systematic nature. Howl`s structure is made up of three sections and each of these sections is a detailed image on a specific subject.

    In the first sentence of the first section, the speaker confesses that he has witnessed the destruction of "the best minds" of his generation. The next dozens of lines of the section are detailed descriptions of these people. The speaker, however, leave us in darkness as to what destroyed this generation, yet he leaves a breadcrumb trail for us to find the cause of their termination. Visually we see that many lines begin with the word "who" followed by a verb-a word that talk about these are people "who did this, who did that,".

    The speaker rapidly inform us that these "best minds" were not people whom society in the 1950s would have identified with the best American ideals. According to the speaker, they are poets, dropouts, adventurers, bums, musicians, political dissidents and drug users. The poem describes the lives of drug addicts and alcoholics, and although these people might be represented as "angelic" for other reasons, the consequences of their drug use are disastrous and visible. Most of the imagery of drug use occurs in the first section, before the poem turns toward the vision of Moloch and mental illness.

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