"Howl" reminds me of another story: a wild night with a crazy old friend and our inebriated adventure that culminated in shooting bottle rockets from the top of a water tower (but I'll save that one for another time).
First, this poetry must be heard, not read, so I'm posting this nifty link for you:
What I love in this poem, and in much of the writings of the beat poets, is that it is inescapable as its rhythms compel you forward through its random imagery and events. As I delved into the poem, pacing my reading on Ginsberg's own, I began not to see each new who, with, to, or Moloch as independent but as a following anti-narrative assemblage of all those formative misadventures and pivotal points making up a life well spent. From one drug-addled hallucination to the tears of regrets to the power of motherhood, I felt more and more disconnected with any message that Ginsberg had intended.
Suddenly, all I had left were individual words, phrases, and images of myriad moments in my life and interpretations of them. I was no longer reading and listening to Ginsberg and trying to get into his mind - he was exploring mine. What power do the stanzas in this poem have? Aside from the opening line, I found none other than the power to continue to the next...and the next...and the next. But I was no longer reading to be reading, I was reading to be thinking. I no longer cared about the context (if you can find any) for the words, but was focused so intently on the words themselves outside of any meaning or context that I had to continue.
William S. Burroughs, in his groundbreaking (and impenetrable) epic poem, "Word," tried to do just what Ginsberg has done with "Howl," but with much less success. But, having read "Word," (or, having tried to), I expected to see this work with the kind of tunnel vision that keeps you looking at the trees and missing the forest. But what if there is no forest? What if there are only trees to see? Or perhaps, what if the forest has been examined so often and so many times, that it is the trees that you should be looking at? (I've gone on with this forest/trees business too long at this point)
I have no desire to understand this poem, only to revel in it. Perhaps that is the point, though, the poem is not titled "Howl at the _____," just "Howl."