by Allen Ginsberg
Howl Madness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (line)
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked (line 1)
You might have heard of the church expression, "to testify." Here Ginsberg is testifying – as in, he presents himself as a witness and bystander. But after we've read more of the poem, we wonder if the speaker isn't one of these "best minds." His syntax is jumbled and disjointed, as in the last three words, "starving hysterical naked," which sound like a person making mental associations rather than a logical argument.
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall (line 8)
This line expresses paranoia and hysteria. They are cramped up in a tiny room, and they imagine they hear something called "the Terror" on the other side of the wall. They perform irrational actions like burning their money.
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz (line 63)
What does it mean to "crash through" one's mind? Sounds like someone falling through a roof? Is there anything on the other side of the mind? Could it be a good thing? "Golden heads," for example, could remind you of an angel's halo.