Randy Roark on Philip Whalen
Extract from Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ on a bronze plaque outside the former Six Gallery commemorating the first full public reading of the generation-defining poem.
On October 7th 1955, six unknown poets (Gary Snyder, Philip Lamantia, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure, Kenneth Rexroth and Allen Ginsberg) gathered to read one poem each to an audience at the Six Gallery on Union and Fillmore. Ginsberg read ‘Howl’, which he had completed only a few days prior to the event, unaware of the national impact it would have.
Later published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books, ‘Howl’ became the subject of an obscenity trial due to its many references to illicit drugs and sexual practices. Upon the release of ‘Howl and Other Poems’ in 1956, Ferlinghetti and the bookstore’s manager, Shigeyoshi Murao, were both arrested and charged with disseminating obscene literature.
On October 3, 1957, Judge Clayton Horn ruled that the poem was not obscene, and ‘Howl’ went on to become the most popular poem of the Beat Generation.
To read the complete poem, go here: www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179381