1988 January 6

Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” Will Not Be Broadcast


For the third time in its controversial history, Allen Ginsberg’s now-famous poem Howl ran into censorship issues. On this day, a number of radio stations planned to broadcast a reading of the poem as part of an Open Ears/Open Minds series. The Pacifica stations, a group of independent, nonprofit stations, refused to broadcast the reading, however, because of the Supreme Court’s decision in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (July 3, 1978). In that case, the Court held that the FCC could ban the “seven dirty words” that were a part of a monologue by comedian George Carlin.

In 1957 the publisher of Howl, City Lights Books, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was prosecuted for obscenity for publishing the poem. The trial ended in an acquittal on October 3, 1957. And on March 25, 1957 U.S. Customs had blocked the importation of British-published copies of the poem.

Buy and read the famous poem for yourself: Allen Ginsberg, Howl (1956)

Read the full text of the famous poem here.

Listen to Allen Ginsberg reading Howl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkNp56UZax4

Learn more about the great poet: Bill Morgan, I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg (2006)

Learn more about the FCC’s regulation of indecency: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/madison/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/FirstReport.Indecency.Levi_.final_.pdf

If you are going to San Francisco, visit City Lights Books, publisher of Howlhttp://citylights.com/

And visit the Beat Museum in San Francisco: http://www.kerouac.com/

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