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Summary

Section I, Lines 71-75 Summary Page 1

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Line 71

with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4. A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination

  • What happened to "mother"? Ginsberg uses asterisks to produce a mysterious fill-in-the-blank answer to this question.
  • Like Carl Solomon, Ginsberg's mother suffered from mental illness that required her to seek treatment.
  • In this line, the "best minds" are at the end of the rope, and the mood focuses on the word "last."
  • Everything has gone to hell, there are no more good books left to read, everyone has left the party, and the phone was smashed against the wall. It's the final straw. Even the "yellow paper rose" in the empty closet of their cleaned-out apartment is "imaginary."

Line 72

ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you're really in the total animal soup of time

  • Now that they have hit rock bottom, here's the first big shift in the poem.
  • The speaker professes his solidarity with Carl Solomon, to whom the poem is dedicated. As long as Solomon remains in a psychiatric institution, he is unsafe, and as long as he is unsafe, the speaker is unsafe.
  • They are mixed up in a confusing "animal soup of time."

Line 73

and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrating plane,

  • The speaker starts talking about how they got interested in poetry, maybe in order to explain why he is writing this poem. The word "therefore" connects the motivation to write poetry to Carl Solomon's sad situation.
  • "Ellipse," "catalog," and "meter" all refer to poetic techniques, which produce a magical effect similar to alchemy, the science of turning base elements to gold.
  • "Catalog," we should mention, is simply a list of things, but it's one of the most important techniques in Howl. The entire poem thus far has been nothing more than a list of descriptions of the "best minds." Ginsberg models his use of catalog after Walt Whitman, whose poems are the textbook example of this technique.

Line 74

who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus

  • The speaker continues discussing the magical properties of poetry. For example, the contrast or "juxtaposition" of two visual images can create "gaps in Time & Space."
  • He compares poetic elements to parts of the soul and consciousness, as if poetry were central to existence and not merely a specialized art form.
  • "Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus" is Latin for, "All-Powerful Father the Eternal God."

Line 75

to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,

  • By writing poetry, they try to reshape the "syntax and measure," or the order and rhythm, of prose into something greater. They try to write in a way that will match the "rhythm of thought." You might call this a kind of poetic "stream of consciousness."
  • Ginsberg has said that Howl came about when he decided to write down thoughts as they came into his head, which explains the frantic and disjointed but extremely energetic rhythm of the poem (source).

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