the legendary 6 gallery poetry reading, where allen ginsberg unleashed "howl" on the unsuspecting audience, took place on a friday night in san francisco, 54 years ago today! ginsberg was on stage with 5 other poets - one of whom, gary snyder, won the pulitzer prize for his "turtle island" poems 20 years later. in addition to the poets on stage, none other than jack kerouac was in the audience - and who, somewhat spontaneously, accompanied ginsberg with chants of "go, go, go" - as he read the poem!
the seminal reading was a major milestone in beat history - followed by lawrence ferlinghetti's now mythical post-reading congratulatory telegram to ginsberg, "i greet you at the beginning of a great career. when do i get the manuscript?" while ferlinghetti echoed emerson's letter to walt whitman upon publication of "leaves of grass," ferlinghetti did, in fact, publish "howl" as part of his city lights "pocket poets" series.
the rest is, as they say, history! the slim pocket poet copies of "howl" were eventually seized by authorities as obscene and ferlinghetti was arrested as the publisher. the ensuing trial - and acquittal - rocketed "howl" into the national spotlight and made allen ginsberg a infamous household name. the trial was also a significant event in the battle for free speech, anticipating additional censorship battles such as the subsequent attempts to suppress william burrough's "naked lunch" a few years later.
read "howl" today in celebration (of ginsberg and our free speech rights)!