Howl on Trial
The Battle for Free Expression
Edited by Bill Morgan, Nancy J. Peters
Introduction by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
A Muse Unplugged
-Editorial, The New York Times
"At the height of his bardic powers, Allen Ginsberg could terrify the authorities with the mere utterance of the syllable 'om' as he led street throngs of citizens protesting the Vietnam War. Ginsberg reigned as the raucous poet of American hippiedom and as a literary pioneer whose freewheeling masterwork 'Howl' prevailed against government censorship in a landmark obscenity trial 50 years ago.
It is with a queasy feeling of history in retreat that poetry lovers discover that WBAI, long the radio flagship of cocky resistance to government excess, decided last week that it couldn’t risk a 50th anniversary broadcast of the late poet’s recording of 'Howl.' The station retreated out of fear that the Federal Communications Commission would levy large obscenity fines that might bankrupt the small-budget station."
Oct 8, 2007
FCC, Won't You Please Let Me Be?
"This past week, WBAI, a public radio station in New York City, was so worried about the FCC’s recent trend of levying astronomically high fines on stations found in violation of obscenity rules that it decided to not air Allen Ginsberg’s epic Beat poem, 'Howl.' Ironically, the impetus for the planned broadcast was that it was the 50th anniversary of a ruling that deemed the poem fit for the airwaves.
On Oct. 3, 1957, the courts ruled that 'Howl' contained 'coarse and vulgar language,' but 'unless the book is entirely lacking in social importance, it cannot be held obscene.' Yet 50 years later, the threat of a six-figure fine has no radio station willing to bet on the poem’s social importance."
-Kimberly E. Gittleson, The Harvard Crimson
Oct 12, 2007
Howl Against Censorship
"Fifty years ago, on October 3, Judge Clayton Horn ruled that Allen Ginsberg's great epic Beat-era poem HOWL was not obscene but instead, a work of literary and social merit. This ruling allowed for the publication of HOWL and exonerated the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who faced jail time and a fine 50 years ago for publishing 'HOWL.'
Fifty years later, with draconian FCC fines for language infractions, you still can't hear HOWL on the radio. That's something to howl about. This October 3, WBAI and Pacifica Radio Network invite you to join our commemoration of Judge Horn’s ruling on behalf of free speech, by listening to a recording of the poet Allen Ginsberg, himself, reading the unadulterated HOWL.'
Listen to the web broadcast of "Howl Against Censorship" here.
Oct 3, 2007
‘Howl’ obscenity prosecution still echoes 50 years later
"Fifty years have passed since the publisher of Allen Ginsberg’s poem 'Howl' was prosecuted in an obscenity trial in California. The publisher won the case, which became a landmark decision in free-speech protection.
In 1955 Ginsberg began writing 'Howl,' a nearly 3,000-word poem that came to define the Beat Generation. It broke with contemporary literary tradition in its form and subject matter — repetitive, run-on sentences discussing drug use, homosexuality and an alienated generation."
-Lydia Hailman King, First Amendment Center
Oct 3, 2007
'Howl' too hot to hear
"Fifty years ago today, a San Francisco Municipal Court judge ruled that Allen Ginsberg's Beat-era poem 'Howl' was not obscene. Yet today, a New York public broadcasting station decided not to air the poem, fearing that the Federal Communications Commission will find it indecent and crush the network with crippling fines.
Free-speech advocates see tremendous irony in how Ginsberg's epic poem - which lambastes the consumerism and conformism of the 1950s and heralds a budding American counterculture - is, half a century later, chilled by a federal government crackdown on the broadcasting of provocative language."
-Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle
Oct 3, 2007
A muse unplugged
"At the height of his powers, Allen Ginsberg could terrify the authorities with the mere utterance of the syllable 'om' as he led throngs of citizens protesting the Vietnam War. Ginsberg reigned as the poet of hippiedom whose masterwork 'Howl' prevailed against censorship in a landmark obscenity trial 50 years ago."
-International Herald Tribune
Oct 8, 2007
'Howl' in an Era That Fears Indecency
-Patricia Cohen, The New York Times
"Those who happened to click on Pacifica.org yesterday could hear Allen Ginsberg intoning, 'I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,' along with the rest of his classic poem 'Howl.'
The occasion was the 50th anniversary of a court ruling that found the poem had “redeeming social importance” and was thus not obscene."
Oct 4, 2007
A Howl for Literary Freedom
It was 50 years ago this summer that Americans finally won the unfettered right to read whatever they wanted to read, a half-century since poet Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" went on trial in a San Francisco courtroom.
-Dick Meister, ZNet
Like many works before it, "Howl" had been declared "obscene" by law enforcement authorities who banned its sale. But this time it led to the summer-long trial that cleared "Howl" and virtually ended government book-banning...
Jul 1, 2007