1957 March 25

Stop that Poem! Customs Seizes Copies of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”


U.S. Customs seized 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s now-famous poem, Howl. The publisher of the poem, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and a colleague, were arrested and prosecuted in San Francisco for publishing Howl. See June 3, 1957 for the arrest, and October 3, 1957 for the acquittal. The offending line in the poem may have been,  “ . . . who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy . . . .”

Howl is now widely regarded as one of the great American poems, and the classic statement of the 1950s Beat Generation. Ginsburg first read Howl publicly on October 6, 1955.

Ferlinghetti was the founder/owner of City Lights Bookstore and the publisher of City Lights Books. City Lights Bookstore is still selling books in San Francisco, and has been designated a historical landmark in the city. Ferlinghetti, moreover, is himself an acclaimed Beat Generation poet.

Read the famous poem: Allen Ginsberg, Howl (1955)

Hear Allen Ginsberg reading Howl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVGoY9gom50

Visit City Lights Bookstore: http://www.citylights.com/

Learn More: Jonah Raskin, American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation (2004)

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

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

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