HOWL (Excerpt)
by Allen Ginsberg

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…

……Read more of HOWL at


Photo: “Cadets read Howl, February 19, 1991, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia” by Gordon Ball, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Editor’s Note: I don’t know if HOWL (1955), the ultimate Beat poem, was part of the curriculum at the Virginia Military Institute in 1991 or if photographer Gordon Ball — who from the mid-1960s took photos of Allen Ginsberg and his friends — set up the shot for its humorous possibilities. Perhaps he thought, considering HOWL‘s history — including the 1957 obscenity trial involving its publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti — it would be funny to show straight-laced military types reading it.

UPDATE: I’ve learned that photographer Gordon Ball was a professor of English at the Virginia Military Institute during the 1990s and invited Allen Ginsberg to speak with the students as a guest lecturer to “overwhelmingly positive response,” according to And I learned at the Virginia Military Institute website that Gordon Ball,  PhD, is still a professor of English and Fine Arts at the school.