Howl Questions and Answers
by Allen Ginsberg

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To what extent does the term "typewriter jazz" apply to Allen Ginsberg's "Howl"?

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The authors and poets of the beatnik generation frequently refer to jazz music in their writings, not only by specifically mentioning the music and artists within the genre, but also by the manner in which they compose their written pieces. The era of jazz that coincided with the Beats was known as "bebop," which evolved from performing standard pieces as written to using such songs as a loose canvas on which the artists improvised wildly and in unprecedented ways.

Similarly, "Howl" is a perfect example of how the Beat poets treated their typewriters like musical instruments, not adhering to traditional rules of what poetry and prose were supposed to look or sound like. Early in the piece, Ginsberg provides a dynamic characterization of the very movement he represents while referencing jazz music by name:

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the...

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