San Francisco: City Lights, 1956. First edition. First issue, priced 75 cents with Lucien Carr noted in the dedication, a 2-page introduction by William Carlos Williams, and no mention of printing on the copyright page. A Near Fine copy with light foxing at the spine fold and faint soiling to the rear panel. Internally fresh and unread, a particularly sharp copy.
Allen’s Ginsberg’s hugely influential poem, one of the great works of Beat Generation literature. Ginsberg had begun work on Howl years before its publication in 1956, partly at the urging of his therapist. The writer Kenneth Rexroth, one of Ginsberg’s close friends, reviewed early drafts of the work, and thought it was too forced and constrained, and so Ginsberg rewrote the poem, removing many of the linguistic and syntactical limits he had originally labored under. This allowed him to develop the style for which the poem – and Ginsberg – are now famous for. Howl itself focuses on the experiences of Ginsberg’s fellow travelers and beatniks of 1950s San Francisco and engendered no small amount of controversy upon its release. (The owner of City Lights Books, which first published the work, would be charged – and later acquitted – of obscenity.) Near Fine (Item #4500)