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HOWL! Sixty Years On. Allen Ginsberg at the Conservative Party Conference.

October 7, 2015


Sixty years ago today, Allen Ginsberg performed HOWL for the very first time.

And when I think of the joyless selfishness, the suffocating narrowness, the hateful babble of reductive kickdownism that passes for mainstream political discourse today and its deathly concentration in Manchester this week, I can’t help but think that an intelligent percentage of the tens of thousands of protesters HOWLing outside the Tory party conference might demonstrate a bit of wit and literary pedigree by somehow restaging HOWL indoors tomorrow.

It just requires thirty or forty people wearing suits and sporting a few faked documents.

In an interval between speeches, someone will stride up to the platform looking very Toryish and start to declaim from the podium.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow delegates.  I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz…”

By this point, the first besuited prangster will have been dragged from the stage.  But there will be dozens of these latterday Ginsbergian beatniks and one of them will have seized the microphone to point out that

“Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind, who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox”
And then some other sober looking functionary in a suit will jump in and try to claim the space.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please stay calm, conference security have the situation in hand.  Let us try to return to the conference programme.  What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!  Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!  Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!  Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!”
And so on and so forth.
And between the thirty or forty people who have trained and rehearsed for this invasion, the protest will have been made, the anniversary will have been honoured and the HOWL will have been HOWLed.
When I think of the wickedness, the loneliness, the hatred of anything approaching an expanded consciousness, the rejection of anything that looks like a generous connection between interestingly different humans summed up by events in Manchester this week, a kind of desperate Ginsbergian elongated HOWL seems like the most honest and authentic response.

Commemorating this sixtieth anniversary with a tag team recitation of Ginsberg’s most famous poem at the Tory party conference is such a brilliant and perfect idea that it must be unoriginal.  Others must have thought of it.  Lots of other people.  Which means it’s already been planned.

Which means it will happen.  Today.  I know it will.


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