Howl vs Song of Myself Essay

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ENG 162W Due 3 March 2014 Lynda Chu Essay #1 Allen Ginsberg, one of the most influential poets to gain fame during the Beats Movement; has openly admired and drawn great influence from transcendentalist Walt Whitman. Both writers lived during times of cultural and political revolutions in the United States; and both poets used their poetry as a conduit for their views and opinions. Whitman so deeply influenced Ginsberg’s literature that many critics argue that Ginsberg’s “Howl” could be considered a response to Whitman’s “Song of Myself”. In the following essay we will examine the shared poetic structure, themes, symbols and most importantly the differences in Ginsberg and Whitman’s poems. Whitman’s influence on Ginsberg is prevalent in the first sentence of “Howl” in which Ginsberg begins his poem with the line “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.” In Whitman’s “Song of Myself” the author begins his poem in a similar fashion stating, “I celebrate myself, and what I assume you shall assume.” Both authors wish to connect with the readers and depict their personal thoughts. The use of the word “I” also emphasized ideas of individuality, drawing attention to the fact that society is made up entirely of individuals. Both poets used descriptive, non-rhyming poems written in streams of thought and broken down into long stanzas; otherwise known as free verse. In both Howl and Song of Myself, Ginsberg and Whitman give insight into the lives they lead by giving descriptions of themselves. Whitman describes himself as “Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding, No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart them, No more modest than immodest.” Whereas Ginsberg describes himself as “starving hysterical naked… wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go… lounged hungry and lonesome

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