Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is the most famous and vital piece of the beat generation. Bob Dylan’s song It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) opened an entirely new genre of the song in the music industry. Comparing a literary work and a musical one, critics define them as dark masterpieces. The text of Dylan’s song was divided into aphorisms and quotes, and “Howl” became a new word in the history of world literature and marked the birth of new American poetry. Complex compositional works are similar in images, semantic references, unexpected associations, and parallels.
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The poem and the poetry, clothed with music, have a similar subject matter, this is an angry diatribe accusing the established system of society and power. The poet claims that modern society is a “repressive system saturated with violence” and a cult of consumption. (Cosma, 2020, p. 29) The musician expresses anger at hypocrisy, consumption, and a warlike mentality inherent in contemporary American culture. Ginsberg’s presentation and speech intonations make the listener feel the spectrum of emotions about his generation. Therefore, vocal expression is also essential not only for the song. In a live performance, Dylan and his guitar sound compelling, through his timbre and tone the author makes one feel the emotions conveyed.
Vivid examples of works’ images are associated with the destruction of a generation. For Ginsberg, this is the first line that sets the tone for the poem: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” (Mohammed & Mousa, 2020). Dylan has the lines that have become an aphorism:
“That he not busy being born
Is busy dying” (Omarkj, 2021).
Alliteration is used to some extent in the compared works to evoke visual images in the reader’s subconscious. This method helps the authors to depict objects and phenomena, as well as, to create sound images.
To conclude, despite the fact that the forms of writing works are different, Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” is written in free verse, while Dylan uses a complex rhymed structure. It creates a certain effect, both when reading the poem aloud and in song. Oppressed state of society and a situation must be changed, the authors act as messengers of revolutions – countercultural, poetic, musical, and spiritual.
Cosma, A. (2020). The poet as activist: spaces of protest in Allen Ginsberg’s poetry. Analele Universităţii Ovidius din Constanţa. Seria Filologie, 31(2), 21-35.
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Mohammed, H. J., & Mousa, A. H. (2020). Rebellion in the beat generation: A study in Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”. PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt/Egyptology, 17(10), 4148-4152.
Omarkj. (2021). Bob Dylan – It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) – With Lyrics. [Video]. YouTube.