Howl Questions and Answers
by Allen Ginsberg

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Are there explicit references to sex in Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl"?

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Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" (1956), one of the most widely read and controversial poems of the Beat Generation (1950's), is a sweeping condemnation of twentieth-century mainstream American society, which Ginsberg personifies as the Canaanite (and other cultures of the Middle East in early biblical times) god Moloch.  "Howl" begins with perhaps the most well-known lines of any poem of the Beat poets:

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. . . .

Ginsberg argues, especially in Parts I and II of the three-part poem, that the "best minds," by which he means the creative artists and poets of his generation, are victims of an uncaring materialistic, mechanistic society that simply cannot recognize or appreciate those who are not part of what Ginsberg conceives as the American machine.

The poem's publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, another of the Beat poets, was actually...

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