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Allen Ginsberg's Howl: The Cry of Consciousness Transformed - Essay Example

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In his introductory "Apologia of Selection" to Selected Poems 1947-1995, Allen Ginsberg notes that the "original task was to 'widen the area of consciousness,' make pragmatic examination of the texture of consciousness, even somewhat transform consciousness"(xix) [emphasis added]…
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Allen Ginsberg's Howl: The Cry of Consciousness Transformed

Download file to see previous pages... The first three sections of the poem succeed remarkably in the tasks of "widen[ing] the area of consciousness" and in making " pragmatic examination of the texture of consciousness" and they also bravely attempt the apparently quixotic endeavor of "transform[ing] consciousness," but this third task at least is completed only in the appended fourth part of the poem, the "Footnote to Howl", which the poet appended, surely, only because he divined it was needed to fulfill the creative intention of the poem.
The first section widens the 'area of consciousness' in making the reader/audience aware of the various ways in which "the best minds of my generation" (I.1) had reacted to and been destroyed by the madness of the culture and the civilization of their time. Various commentaries on the poem, including some by the poet himself, and others by his close associates, have made clear that many of these instances are auto/biographical in nature, and have the substance of their basis in actual fact. This long section of the poem, which can be seen as a single sentence in a linguistic feat by a writer or as the prelude to a judicial sentence on modern culture by an active dissenting judge; might possibly also be a tribute (in form) to at least one predecessor poet, Walt Whitman. This section ends with the "eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio / with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years"-bringing together for pragmatic examination an undeniably consciousness-widening cluster of images, from Golgotha to Tibet to America and the contemporary world and the future of civilization.
The second section of "Howl" is a scream directed against the presiding deity of modern culture who dictated the butchery of the life and souls of the best minds of the Beat generation, "Moloch the loveless" (II. 3):
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!(II.5)
This section of the poem, inasmuch as it is a pragmatic examination of the ills and travails of modern consciousness, also widens the "area of consciousness" conflating the hated idol of the Old Testament and the curse of the New World. It is a cry for the "Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! Ecstasies!" drained "down the American river!" (II.12)
The third section of the poem directly addresses Carl Solomon with the refrain "I'm with you in Rockland"-"where you're madder than I am" (III.1) An examination of consciousness, this section of the poem definitely widens the area of consciousness, and even transforms consciousness, at least in its penultimate line:
I'm with you in Rockland
where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the roof they've come to drop angelic bombs
the hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls collapse O skinny
legions run outside O starry-spangled shock of mercy the eternal
war is here O victory forget your underwear we're free (III.18)
"Howl" thus ends in a transformation of conscious ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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