In 1956, Allen Ginsberg published his first poem, “Howl.”
But this was no ordinary poem with rhyming verses. In fact, it broke so many taboos, it made Ginsberg one of the key figures of the Beat generation, a movement aimed at breaking the conformist atmosphere of the late 1940’s and 50’s.
The poem cries against the wrongs he saw in 1950’s America: apathy, poverty, commercialism, and corporate greed. Using many words that aren’t permitted on the radio, he also spoke of homosexuality in graphic terms.
Soon after the poem was published, the San Francisco police arrested the publisher – Lawrence Ferlinghetti – and charged him with obscenity.
Because the courts ruled in Ginsberg’s favor, “Howl” has shocked, provoked, and thrilled readers of every generation.
Tens of thousands of gay servicemembers have been kicked out of the U.S. military both before and after the adoption of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. And with the U.S. Senate’s December, 2010 vote to repeal that policy, it is fitting we remember the very first discharged – Lieutenant Gotthold Frederick Enslin. It all [...]