Now we have Allen Ginsberg's Howl and I think [inaudible] brought this fabulous edition, the City Lights edition. Isn't that great? I love that. It's dear to my heart. No, I've had it for a while. You've had it for a while, but it's pristine. You're supposed to write in it. You wrote a little bit in it. [inaudible]. This is quite a poem and given the conformities we've been dealing with recently, this is a real breakthrough in the mid-'50s. Let's just look at some passages. Let's do the best we can with it. There's so much we could say and so much we won't get to say. But let's start right away with this fabulous famous first line. "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness; starving, hysterical, naked." Let me ask this question of you. How is it possible for the best minds of a generation, minds, best minds, best brains, best intelligences, of a generation to pass through universities, among the scholars of war, expelled from the academies for crazy/ What's the disjuncture here? What's wrong? Emily? The academy is supposed to be the sanctuary for the best minds of a generation. Yet? Here they are expelled, they're not welcome, they're destroyed. Why do you think they're not welcome? Molly? Because their ideas are too radical. They don't fit in the academic box. Anybody else? Anna? I think he's defining best minds of my generation differently than the academies would define best minds of a generation. How? Just give us a starter on this. How is he defining? Well, some people would define best minds of a generation as like a philosopher-scholar type, someone who wants to sit in an office, with leather-bound books, and read all day and write papers. But, this is a different kind of best mind. This is the creative best mind. Why scholars of war? Anybody? Dave? Scholars of war? That's clearly not a happy phrase. I think he's just referring to the old traditional power structure. These people, the teachers came out of World War II, and they're all in reaction to that. They are in reaction, not the teachers, but the beets? Right. The teachers are a product of World War II. Right. Scholars of war, it's really quite a specific reference in a way, a generational reference. It's not simply that these are scholars who fought in World War II, but that the universities, as they became mega universities, universities like the University of California, or Berkeley, we call it, or Cal, this became a mega university where there were in fact scholars in new, let's say, political science, regional science-related disciplines, that were actually doing the work of the government in the Cold War. I think that's probably the reference here, and that to be affiliated with such a university for someone like Ginsberg, it felt as if there were ethical compromises involved. Okay. Expelled from the academies for crazy, any final comment on this? Max? He seems to be declaring something passionately. It's very intellectual, this poem, but it's not happening in the universities. Let's just say one more thing about this, expelled from the academies for crazy. It seems like we're wondering what the crazy is. It seems almost like it should go with for academies for publishing crazy and obscene odes. But rather he just says crazy. Crazy becomes a noun. It goes back to that madness that has completely destroyed them, these best minds. It's just crazy. We'll have more to say about this madness, but clearly, it's not acceptable to think this way, to be this way, to exist this way in a university. Our next passage is simply a line, or two, depending on how you alienate it. "Who studied Plotinus, Poe, Saint John of the Cross, telepathy, and Bop Kabbalah, because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas." I have two questions for you. One, what kind of curriculum is this? What kind of anthology is this? Two, how does the word because work? Is it really cause and effect? First, the slightly easier question. What kind of curriculum is this? Is this a curriculum you're going to get in a class at the University of Pennsylvania, Ally? I wish. Actually, I think it's possible. It's possible, certainly, because look at [inaudible] shirt. A university that could offer a black T-shirt that's still established 1745, that word established in context with the black. It's branded. Anyway, this university must be okay. Anyway, Ally, go ahead. I think it's certainly a mystical syllabus. It's a mystical. Any mysticism in there? Well, Kabbalah. Bop Kabbalah. Bop Kabbalah. Kabbalah. Bop is jazz. Saint John of the Cross. Saint John of the Cross, who is a saint who is into certain mysticism and also a poet. This is the alternative. This is the non-academic, this is your reading list if you want to be a beat. He's saying the best minds of the generation who were expelled from the academies studied this stuff. Implicitly, you should do it too. Okay, so what was my second question? Why? Because they studied these things because the cosmos instinctively vibrated. Any idea? It's a tough question. Is there cause and effect? Maybe out of an intuitive sense of affinity to these poets who may not be affiliated with any institution. Good, you're getting there, just freewheel a little bit on this. If the cosmos is vibrating at their feet, they're feeling something else. They're sensing something else in the world. Where? Is it New York or San Francisco? Is it Columbia University? It's Kansas. It's Kansas. It's the middle of the middle of the country. This is a reference to their traveling university, with someone on speed driving the car, jalopy, real fast across the country and back again, getting to Kansas and feeling the continentalism of America, really. It's instructing them to try a different intellectual tradition. Go ahead, Allie. Yeah, I think the fact that Kansas is specified, that's so specific. It's interesting, if you were thinking about this in strictly traditional in a cause and effective way, then the fact that it's only because this vibration happened in Kansas, that they adopted this alternative syllabus. I think that hints to or points towards a multiplicity of causes. That's really great. I've been reading this poem for a long time and never thought of that. Let me see if I can, in a friendly way, translate and maybe add to what you just said. If you read all these things, one of the things that's consistent in this curriculum is a skewing of cause and effect. A non rationalism that in fact creates this antic, comic, joking, cause and effect thing about why is it that we read this, because of this thing that doesn't make sense. Let's talk about one more passage close to this one, and then we'll take a break and come back and finish insofar as we can finish it at all, the first section of how. This is this wonderful passage about the FBI who reappeared on the west coast. I love that, reappeared. They'd been driving, they put their feet in Kansas. They listen to the vibration, they read all this weird stuff, and then, now fully reeducated and fresh, they arrive, they reappear in San Francisco. Now they're investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes, sexy in their dark skin, passing out incomprehensible leaflets, burning cigarette holes in their arms, protesting their narcotic tobacco haze of capitalism and distributing super communist pamphlets. Super communist is capitalized, in Union Square, that's New York. I think. I don't know if there's a Union Square in San Francisco, I think this is New York. Weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down and wailed down wall in the Staten Island ferry, etc. So, what's going on here? Say anything about what's going on. Go ahead and Emily and then Molly. I think one of my favorite parts of this poem was that these people are investigating the FBI. They're investigating the investigators. It seems that what these people are doing here, what these rejects are doing is they're the ones who are asking the serious questions, and maybe in order to ask those serious questions about what we're doing and how we're doing it, we have to be sort of looking in as outsiders. We have to be like rejects of some kind. Good, nice, Molly? Yeah, it's almost like a conspiracy theorist type of thing. Absolutely. Paranoia. Yeah. Yeah. Asking the questions that most people would rather not ask and they're trying to make a political statement, but it becomes a very sort of incomprehensible, multifaceted, general, dissatisfied political statement. Yeah, I mean, this is a counterculture that isn't reproducing the I'm right. No, I'm right, left, right political discourse that they inherited from the '20s and '30s and '40s and was still going on in the '50s. This is a way of saying standing completely aside from that. Then presenting as another side something that doesn't participate in the political discourse at all. That makes no sense, something that is incomprehensible. What else is incomprehensible here? You have this, what else is incomprehensible here? What protest against the cigarette companies do we have? It's not we abstained from cigarettes, were going to burn ourselves. America, you made me, I am you, if you want me to be addicted to Time Magazine, I'm addicted to Time Magazine. If you want me to smoke, I'll smoke all the way to messing around with my body. We're looking at another passage in the first section of Allen Ginsberg's poem, Howl. I'll just read the line, who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse and the tanked up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion and the nitroglycerin shrieks of the fairies of the advertising and the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors. Then I'll add this line, the rest of it because I love it, but it's not quite relevant to the topic, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Realty. All right, what's the scene here? Burned alive in their flannel suits, with flannel suit reference. Does anybody know it? The man in the gray flannel suit. The man in the gray flannel suit, which is not very good novel, but it became a phrase, vintage reference to what? Fans of Mad Men? An Ad Exec? The Ad Exec, well or any '95 New York, Manhattan flannel suit, the man in the gray flannel suit was a boring 95 who commuted in. Yes. What's happening here? Why burned alive? What's Ginsberg saying about that life? What's the leaden verse, and the tanked up clatter? He's rejecting the 9-5, and he's rejecting the leaden verse could be that little piffy advertising statement that they make about buying toothpaste or shaving cream? It could be. Anybody want to give an example of leaden verse that comes out of Mad Men? No, I don't mean the show, but Madison Avenue. To really clumsy, tacky like, copy writing. Not even clumsy, just very slick. I hope this is a non-profit setting here, so I don't mind saying this, but when I was growing up in the '60s, Coke was called The Real Thing and somebody would come on and say, Coke, it's the real thing. That's the leaden verse that seems to be annoying him here, but what else do we have to say about it? What does it have to do with the iron regiments of fashion and the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors? What New York life is he rejecting here? Emory's. I think here we're finding the cause of death of the best minds the generation referred to in the first phrase. This is what is smothering out only individuality and intelligence and sense of freedom. It's all about ethical, for Allen Ginsberg who spent a little time trying to see if he could live a life in which he was low-level advertising, I guess a copywriter or some low-level guy in a Mad Man in training. I like the idea of burned alive. It's almost as if now burned alive. There's something about flannel suits that made me think that they're very flammable, but burned alive and then a rose phoenix like as beat, as beatific. You'll almost have to burn your flannel suit to really get out of that. Then to re-emerge like the phoenix, burned and now released. All right, one last passage of this beloved poem, Howl. A poem that, arguably really solidified readers sense of what the beat generation, what the beat writers were doing. It's one of the last ones. Let's look at it for a few minutes, to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless, and intelligent, and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head. Let's start there, let's take a little extra time and figure out what this means. This is really important. Molly, your first thought. It's a very vulnerable act of creating poetry directly from what's in your head. What are the signs of vulnerability that you see? Naked. Naked. Shaking with shame. Shaking with shame, this is a really big moment. Okay, thanks. That's a good start. Anna, anything you want to add to this? I think where we have, recreate the syntax and measure porigm and prose and conform to the rhythm of thought. I think if you're thinking about the beats and what this poem is recreating syntax, conforming to the rhythm of thought that seems almost paradoxical, it seems counter to what we're actually doing, but it's really not because, conform to the rhythm of thought it's doing exactly what Emily says, a brain within its groove, you're supposed to be conforming to what your brain is just going to do. Do we have a synonym for conform in this context? Just allow your brain to be in its groove and then be out of its groove, and make a new groove. What's the synonym for conform? Anybody? Constrain. Constrain oneself, I guess. This is rejecting yet confessing. What is the theory of writing that's presented in this passage? Amareese. What idea of writing do we have here? I think it's lack of self-censorship. A little bit before when he says "Speechless," I don't think he means silent there. He means embracing and comprehensibility, rejecting, normal disgrace. Good. Recreating the syntax of human prose. This is a form of make-it-new. This is a resurgence. It doesn't have a lot to do with modernism directly. It's more cracking back to Whitmanianism and getting to a make-it-new thing through there. But it shares the sensibility of modernist manifestos in wanting to clear the space and start over. Recreating the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you, who beat you be? Who's the first. You the readers. You, yeah, the readers speechless. I'm here. This is me. I'm on this page. Rejected yet confessing. Dave, you want to deal with that paradox? Rejected yet confessing. I think it's really autobiographical for how outside of the mainstream. This is where it starts to get personal for Ginsberg and he's just talking about his shame, his personal feelings of rejection. Somebody comment one more time on the implicit theory of the way writing happens. Of it's poor human prose. That could be a move to recreate in poetry how people speak. That's possible. Good. Instead of if we think about Wilbur's Death of a Toad. He's not going up to someone and saying, and like giving this fantastic metered elegy of the toad is saying, "Yo, today when I was mowing my lawn, I crunched up a toad." You're talking about the kind of vocabulary language. But I want to focus on the last part of it. Rejected yet confessing out the soul. Rhythm, thought, naked, endless. Well, I think that promotes the idea of not censoring yourself while you're in the process of writting. Kerouac is going to have a lot to say about this. Writing happens how? Unconscious. Where does it come from? From the thought, the gut and the soul. From the gut, from the soul, from the unconscious. It comes up and out. This is a theory of the way language works. The Chapter 9 poets are not going to abide by this naive theory of language, this is an almost fantasy of transparent language. That if you get hipped up enough. If you have tapped into the best part of your mind, the part that the academy thinks is crazy and you didn't get suppressed by social conformity. If you liberated the mind to go where it wants to go, you can write a language that doesn't get in the way. Freedom in writing derives from a feeling of being rejected yet confessing out the soul. Yet this is not what critics have said, Beat writing is. It is not a call for total freedom, it is not a call for anything-goes, it is not a call for pure spontaneity, it's a call for the language to conform to the rhythm of thought in the writer's naked and endless head. It is carefully wrote and yet it abides by the theory that if you just do enough rejecting of social convention you will discover something better.