Reading, Writing, & Performance

Good day to all!

I was just chatting with some family members of mine about my new book, The Trickster in Ginsberg, when they asked: “So, what do I need to know about Ginsberg before reading this book? I mean, do I actually need to read ‘Howl’?”

Now, given how many people I’ve met since undertaking this project who have never even heard of Ginsberg or the Beat Movement, you’d think I’d be used to it. But something about the way they phrased it, as if it might be too much of a chore to actually read a poem (let alone a full book regarding new possibilities for the poem!) might be too much work, really cut to the bone for me.

So, given that many people have yet to experience “Howl” for themselves, I wanted to let you know that It’s Completely Worth Your Time! And it’s not like we’re talking about a 1,000+ page monster here; by all accounts, the poem is of an impressively digestible length.

But, the more I thought about this post today and about my family members’ reservations, I began to wonder if reading the poem was, in fact, the best way to introduce oneself to the literature/poetry. After all, Ginsberg introduced the poem to his friends through performance. And “Howl” is a poem intended, like a play, to be performed — it isn’t meant to sit there voiceless, soundless, on the page. It was meant to reach out with a powerful, bouncing rhythm and pull readers/listeners/audience howlers in by the collars of their shirts (redolent of Ginsberg’s own mystical, auditory hallucination of William Blake’s poetry performance).

Thus, I’ve included here a link that’ll take you to a recording of Ginsberg performing Parts I & II of “Howl” (but be sure to also go and read Part III & the Footnote!!):

When you write, do you write for readers or listeners? How does the difference between these two impact how you write? Do you prefer performances of literature/poetry to only reading them?

*Another interesting tidbit on this subject, I’ve recently learned that there are actually some hardcore Shakespeare lit scholars out there who believe that Shakespeare’s plays shouldn’t be performed at all but only studied on the page because a performance can (supposedly) bar readers/listeners from forming their own visions and understandings of the material.

Weird yet interesting, no? What say you?


One thought on “Reading, Writing, & Performance”

  1. What a great, intelligent and creative idea! So, so much better than haranguing people about their lowbrow, lazy literary aspirations! You’ve got a great future as a communicator, kid. And all artists are communicators. Great ones are the ones who really reach people in large numbers. The lousy communicators are just pulling their own wangs and calling themselves special. Love.

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