Howl censorship – Regarding last week’s story of Howl censorship – (in Weiser, Idaho),
Mike Murphey of the local paper, The Idaho State Journal, seems to have a pretty clear, if (confessedly) inexperienced, response:
“Beyond Shakespeare, I admit that I have never spent a lot of time studying poetry and certainly never read “Howl” prior to this past week. So I do not feel qualified to do a deep analysis of the work. All I can say for certain about Allen Ginsberg is that he is not Emily Dickinson”
“From all that I have read about the situation (however), here is what I am guessing happened: “Howl” is on the class’s supplemental reading list and not required reading. Teacher introduced “Howl” to class as an example of a certain poetic style by reading the opening section.
Once they saw how long the poem is, all the students thought “forget it” except for that one kid every class has who skimmed the poem and hit the jackpot by discovering one of the “salacious” expressions, which he quickly texted to his classmates.
One kid goes home, shows the line to his parents. They get on the phone, spread the word in the community and, next thing you know, parents in a Facebook video are demanding the teacher’s dismissal, which, quite possibly, will end the teacher’s career.
The way this particular situation has been handled, it appears that the teacher has as much to howl about as the parents.”
Howl in Hungarian translation (the translation here is by Gabor Gyukics). Hear it read by actor, puppeteer (sic), Olivér Szilner.
Speaking of Hungarian Howls, (Üvöltés), don’t miss “Hobo” (Földes László)’s 1987 musical interpretation (made in collaboration with Allen) – music from The Hobo Blues Band – here
from his Esquire interview and profile:
Interviewer: You got some encouraging words from Allen Ginsberg while you were there [in the East Village, New York City, in the early ’80’s] – can he take some credit for this book happening?
AW: Yeah he cared about talking about my past. I had a little chat and he said, “You really should write down what you have.” I thought, “Write down what I have? I think that’s the most ridiculous suggestion. Who cares anyway? I don’t even care myself.” He was a kind person, and he was always an inspiration, but I followed the literature tradition long before he told me that..”
& another book of note recently-published:
Paul’s been variously quoted as, similarly, appreciative of the support and encouragement of Allen – Regarding “Eleanor Rigby” – (recently quoted in the New Yorker) – “Allen Ginsberg told me it was a great poem, so I’m going to go with Allen. He was no slouch”
Sarah Lyall, writing, back then, in the New York Times:
“Some years ago, Paul McCartney, famous musician and fledgling poet, took a deep breath and showed a selection of his poetic works in progress to his old friend Allen Ginsberg.
Ginsberg, who was visiting Mr. McCartney at his house in Sussex, England, had some thoughts. ”He was all for economy,” Sir Paul, as he has been known the last few years, said recently in his friendly Liverpudlian lilt, recalling his frisson of fear when Ginsberg took out his pencil and began cutting and tweaking. ”He said to me: ‘Never use the word ”the.” And also try to avoid ”ing” – don’t use ”singing,” but use ”sing” instead.’ ”When Ginsberg suggested he change a poem beginning ”Two doors open on the 18th of June” to ”Two doors open. June 18,” the lyricist put his foot down. ”I said it’s great, but you’re making me into a New York Beat poet,” said Sir Paul, who kept a copy of the scribbled-over ”Ginsberg Variations,” as he calls them, for posterity, though he took none of Ginsberg’s suggestions.”
The literary critic, Lionel Trilling, Allen’s teacher at Columbia, died on this day.
For an essential overview of that important literary relationship, see Adam Kirsch‘s illuminating essay “Lionel Trilling and Allen Ginsberg – Liberal Father, Radical Son”