If the poem’s inversion (of heaven and hell) wasn’t clear in the three parts, the Footnote makes it clear that the “bum’s as holy as the seraphim,” as is the “asshole,” “typewriter,” and “the vast lamb of the middleclass!” (27-28) Again, without regard for decorum and mainstream ideology, in an attempt to break alliance for the reader, the poet is “after the poem as discovered in the mind and in the process of writing it out on the page as notes, transcriptions.” (31) I suppose if Ginsberg was attempting to revive the poet as visionary prophet and attempting to produce a vision, this strategy may be one road to try, but the poem reaches back to religious symbols.
Ginsberg’s groundbreaking poem was three years prior to Robert Lowell’s Life Studies. However, in my opinion, Ginsberg finds greater success and influences many more people than those who read poetry (though “Howl” certainly is a part) is the performance of his life. Ginsberg was unapologetic, irreverent of power structures, and reminded readers of Whitman’s dream of a more open America. Ginsberg recognized that “silence and secrecy are the shelter of power.” (Foucault 101) It is in the poem’s and Ginsberg’s acting out, the lack of decorum in life (and art) that creates “a stumbling block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy” that with a few other brave and vocal provocateurs created a counter-culture. (Foucault 101) One thinks of fellow spokes people of the day. In fact, it is the poem’s repeated speech act “I am with you in Rockland” that is the leaping off point to his life’s work and persona after “Howl” until he was in his sixties, when Reagan and Thatcher seemed to had the last word.