When Poetry is Public Address



Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is one of the most famous poems of the beat generation. It is seen as the ultimate representation of the beat consciousness and concerns. In this way the poem is indeed a form of public address because it is hoping to be the present the mindset of a generation and encompass the current status quo. However, in its purely textual form, a poem cannot truly be considered a form of public address. But when a poet reads his or her own poem this is indeed a form of public address. Poems, like speeches, are  filled with ideas, opinions,  interpretations, and arguments. In its text form, “Howl” is indeed a manifesto of  a generation but it lacks a audible voice associated with a person that embodies this voice that addresses a literal audience. However, when Ginsberg reads this poem he is the embodiment of this voice and this is a powerful thing to witness. When one hears a poet read his or her own words, the message of the poem is further empowered and intensified. Often, the voice of the poet effects the interpretation of the poem. Therefore, I think that poetry can be seen as a form of public address when read out loud because when a person can hear and not just read the words, one can better understand and connect with the message.

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