Researcher Finds First Recording of Ginsberg's "Howl"

by Staff

A researcher in Portland, Oregon, recently discovered the first recording of Allen Ginsberg reading his famous poem "Howl," the Oregonian reported last week. While researching a biography of poet Gary Snyder at Reed College in Portland, John Suiter found the thirty-five-minute reel-to-reel tape in a box marked "Snyder Ginsberg 1956."

The first recording of Ginsberg's poem, which was published by City Lights Publishers in the fall of 1956 and has since sold more than a million copies, was thought to be from a reading in Berkeley on March 18 of that year, but the newly discovered tape was recorded on February 14 at Anna Mann Cottage in Portland.

Ginsberg can be heard reading several poems, including "Wild Orphan," "Over Kansas," and "A Supermarket in California," before someone asks him if he'd like to read "Howl." After answering, "I really don't. I don't know if I have the energy," Ginsberg acquiesces and gives a strong reading of the first section of the poem that helped define the Beat Generation. He stops several stanzas into the second section, saying, "I don't really feel like reading anymore. I just sorta' haven't got any kind of steam, so I'd like to cut. Do you mind?"

The recording is available at Reed's Web site.