Howl has been out of print since '85-fortunately for us, Ginsberg laid the plans for this reissue before he passed away in April 1997. His friend and colleague Anne Waldman contributed the notes and a poem-as he'd requested-and the Ginsberg estate supplied great period photos. One of the most important documents we have of the Beat Generation.
Has a more notorious, infamous, call to arms of a poem than "Howl" been published in the late 20th century? Scrawled in 1955 with such intimate, enthusiastic fervor by the young Ginsberg, "Howl" helped thrust into the public eye the Beats--a genuinely original, deep, and at times unintentionally campy group of writers. But "Howl" is Ginsberg's work, and while it pays homage to his close friends--like William S. Burroughs ("who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit") and Jack Kerouac ("or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha")--it's no documentary of bohemian writerdom. Forget for a second that "Howl" is the famous poem it is--so frequently parodied, copied, and infamously litigated against--and just listen. This disc presents an intense, well-recorded reading from 1959 of this spiritual, touching work. The record also includes "Kaddish," "A Supermarket in California," and six other important works. --Mike McGonigal