Paul Hughes: ‘Howl’ is just bad poetry
I read with interest the article about the controversy over a Steamboat Springs High School teacher assigning Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems.” I taught English in college for nearly 20 years, and I never assigned Ginsberg’s work in classes where poetry was on the syllabus. But my reason was not that it was vulgarity-as-poetry intended to shock and offend; I simply thought that is was just bad poetry.
After you got past “Ooo, can he say that?,” there was nothing left worth reading. Ginsberg will be a footnote to the history of American poetry — a minor poet whose reputation would rest solely on his daring to use language that other poets found beneath them.
In an era when Ginsberg was a hot item for college sophomores, there were so many better poets that he simply couldn’t make the cut in my courses. To paraphrase a popular saying, life’s too short to drink bad wine or read bad poetry.
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