“Listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox”

Howl Against Censorship logo Howl Against Censorship

Fifty years ago, on October 3, Judge Clayton Horn ruled that Allen Ginsberg’s Howl Against Censorship great epic Beat-era poem HOWL was not obscene but instead, a work of literary and social merit. This ruling allowed for the publication of HOWL and exonerated the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who faced jail time and a fine 50 years ago for publishing “HOWL.”

Fifty years later, with draconian FCC fines for language infractions, you still can’t hear HOWL on the radio. That’s something to howl about. This October 3, WBAI and Pacifica Radio Network invite you to join our commemoration of Judge Horn’s ruling on behalf of free speech, by listening to a recording of the poet Allen Ginsberg, himself, reading the unadulterated HOWL.

The commemoration of HOWL will also be led Lawrence Ferlingetti, poet Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club, first amendment lawyer Ron Collins, Beat Generation scholar and filmmaker Regina Weinreich, WBAI’s Program Director Bernard White and WBAI Arts Director Janet Coleman, who will discuss the relevance of the poem to language censorship in broadcast media today. Allen Ginsberg’s reading of HOWL is copyrighted and used by permission of Fantasy Records. From “Howls, Raps & Roars: Recordings from the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance” (produced by Bill Belmont; Fantasy, 1993). Occasional musical background from “Pull My Daisy and Other Jazz Classics” by the David Amram Quartet.

From Howl:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
ment roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
publishing obscene odes on the windows of the
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn-
ing their money in wastebaskets and listening
to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through
Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in
Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their
torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, al-
cohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and
lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of
Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo-
tionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery
dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops,
storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree
vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brook-
lyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless
ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine
until the noise of wheels and children brought
them down shuddering mouth-wracked and
battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s
floated out and sat through the stale beer after
noon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack
of doom on the hydrogen jukebox…

Allen Ginsberg

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