The inside story of the publication and defense of Howl in correspondence, documents and photographs.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Howl and Other Poems, with over 1,000,000 copies in print, City Lights presents the story of editing, publishing, and defending the landmark poem within a broader context of obscenity issues and censorship of literary works.
The collection includes:
* The complete "The Howl Letters" — correspondence between Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, John Hollander, Richard Eberhart, Louis Ginsberg, and others – with first-person insight into Ginsberg's thinking and the significance
of the poems to the author and his contemporaries.
* Ferlinghetti’s account of hearing “Howl” read at the Six Gallery, of editing the book, and of his court battle to defend its publication.
* A timeline of censorship in the U.S. that places the Howl case in the broader historical context of obscenity issues and censorship of literary works.
* Newspaper reportage, magazine essays, cartoons, photographs, and letters to the editor that illuminate the cultural climate of the mid-1950s, when sexual expression in print was suppressed.
* Excerpts from the trial transcript that show the brilliant criminal lawyer Jake Ehrlich in action.
* ACLU Defense Counsel Albert Bendich’s reflections on the Howl case, and his thoughts about challenges to Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
*A look at how the fight against censorship continues today in new forms.
"Featuring extensive trial transcripts, letters between Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg and clips from the San Francisco Chronicle – whose columnists strongly supported Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and Howl – the book offers a broad perspective. After a brief trial, federal Judge Clayton Horn ruled that Howl wasn't obscene because it had not been written with lewd intent and had 'redeeming social importance.' This set a landmark precedent, enabling the publication of books by, among others, Burroughs, Henry Miller and Vladimir Nabokov."–The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Howl on Trial uses original sources, from Ginsberg's and others' letters to the trial transcripts, photos and media coverage of the time, and illuminates the private thoughts of some of the protagonists. It's sad, funny, silly and deadly serious in turns and at the same time."–The San Francisco Chronicle
"This year is the fiftieth anniversary of Howl and Other Poems, and to read the various volumes issued to celebrate the book's golden jubilee is to be reminded that half a century later, Ginsberg has remained an iconic countercultural figure . . . Howl and Other Poems was, of course, at the center of a landmark legal battle over obscenity (summaries of the battle and a collection of key documents relating to it are available in Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression.)"–Bookforum
"When Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems was published Nov. 1, 1956, most of the first printing of 1,000 copies was seized by authorities in San Francisco on the grounds that the book was obscene. A year later, Ginsberg's publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was acquitted of selling obscenity. Fifty years later, more than 1 million copies of Howl are in print. New books about the poet, a gay leftist during the Cold War, include . . . Howl on Trial edited by Morgan and Nancy Peters."–USA Today
"This book is a kind of literary mix tape: a compendium of letters, newspaper articles, trial testimony transcripts, and other archival material that takes you right back to that culturally fraught time, when publishing great art could be considered a crime against society. It's both chilling and enlightening to read through it all." – Marc Weingarten, San Francisco Magazine