Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The "Structure" of Ginsberg's Howl

I have analyzed the plays by Shakespeare. I have analyzed the poems by William Blake. But these were no comparison to the feelings I had after reading Ginsberg's "Howl". Indeed I was very puzzled. After looking up the many unfamiliar words in dictionary, I still could not translate the poem into my own language. Maybe it was a fruitless attempt after all. Who else could understand every word in every breadth other than Ginsberg himself? That being said, "Howl" is not an irrational poem. There is a logical structure behind the seemingly random sentences and words.

The poem is divided into three parts and a footnote, each holds a distinctive position in it. In the first part of the poem, every breath paints a desperate or even disturbing picture to the readers. While I was reading the poem, the images of the chaotic world in "Howl" vividly flashed through my mind like a slideshow. Drugs, alcohol, sex, suicides - Ginsberg almost touched every sensitive subjects in the society back in the 50's, some of which are still very sensitive now. Ginsberg depicted these lost souls as the innocent "Lambs" of the society. As he wrote, they are "the best minds" of his generation.

The second part of the poem introduces "Moloch" - a Biblical idol whom worshipers sacrificed children to. If part one depicts the people living in the society, part two depicts the society itself, which he named Moloch. Moloch is ""incomprehensible prison". Moloch is "pure machinery". Moloch is every unnatural and evil objects in Ginsberg's world.

The third part focuses on one of the "Lambs" he described in the first part - Carl Solomon. Ginsberg might have looked at the people he wrote about in part one with angry cold eyes. But there is definitely more sorrow and sympathy shown in the third part when he writes about his lover. In this part, words such as "hug", "kiss" and "tears" appear, casting a softer tone to the poem. Ginsberg repeats the phrase "I'm with you in Rockland" over and over again. Rockland is a psychiatric hospital where Ginsberg and Solomon met and formed an intimate bond. By repeating this phrase pushes the emotion to its peak.

The footnote can be seen as a prayer. The word "holy" makes up the refrain of this part. Suddenly everything is holy. It might be Ginsberg's wish that all the outcasts and lost lambs would be understood and accepted by the society, while all the evilness would be purified and forgave.

The four parts of the poem seem to be disconnected from each other. However, they are actually brilliantly tied together to the same theme. Being one of the most influential and controversial poems of America from the twentieth century, Ginsberg's bright howl successfully woke up everyone in the society at his time.


1 comment:

  1. Well said! It leaves me breathless every time I read Howl out loud. Gregory Scaff/