And just like Whitman, Ginsberg was as vocal, if not more so, about homoeroticism in his poetry: who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy, who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love, who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose gardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may. (Howl, line 36/38)
And unlike in Whitmans poem, the reference to homoeroticism in Ginsbergs poem is more powerful because he used direct language as compared to Whitman especially when it is considered taboo and something short of a disease at that time. Indeed, including homoeroticism in Ginsberg poem can be seen as a tool to draw peoples attention to the reality that they refuse to accept in effect, Ginsberg is trying to make them see what they hope does not exist.
More than just a homoerotic reference to Ginsbergs personal life, reading these passages as social commentary will help more in understanding the poems message and the statement it seeks to make at that time and context. Both writers yearned for a world that goes beyond the material. The only salvation possible from the degrading, repetitive and alienating modern world is the acceptance of the individual and the embracing of our inherent sameness and difference.
While Whitman portrayed a world that was full of promise by recognizing himself in each and everyone, Ginsberg depicted a world of counterculture to escape the stifling Molochs of modern society. He tried to find salvation in crossing the borders of language, time, society and experience. He crossed the limitations of the mind through the use of drugs and used repetition in his work to establish a quasi-religious tone or chant as an extension of the spiritual world. It is not surprising that there are many similarities between Leaves of Grass and Howl.
Allen Ginsberg, after all, read Whitman and even took Whitmans tone and style in writing his own poem. Ginsbergs Howl is Whitmanesque in the sense that it took for its subject the individual and its quest for his rights and freedom, and also he employed Whitmans natural speech rhythms and long lines. Whitman using free verse demonstrated his dedication to democracy, to a society not bound by rigid rules and uniformity but upheld individuality and freedom, and Ginsbergs adopting the same showed his own perseverance to give voice to all those who want to break free from the constricting social norms his time presented.
Their uninterrupted stream of consciousness writing style, without reflective interruptions that may diminish their spontaneity, rendered the truth as they saw it. To achieve this, Whitman and Ginsberg had to cross the borders of what was generally accepted as poetry. They challenged the barriers of what was considered poetry, and by doing so, made breakthrough poetry. Conclusion
Considered landmarks in American literature, both Leaves of Grass and Howl are remarkably unconventional, especially taking into account the time of their respective publications. Maybe the overall theme of salvation through unity was not new, but the means through which both poets achieved this definitely were during their time. Both Whitman and Ginsberg looked for new ways towards an uninhibited expression of the mind, as the above mentioned salvation was only possible through challenging existing notions of order and social norms.
Thus, by challenging the conventional rules of grammar and style in their poetry, the poets were, in effect, expressing their desire for a more liberal society, for hope for the people that through their works an emotion will be stirred within them calling out for the preservation of the human spirit and freedom of the individual. For two poems separated by a hundred year interval and which continues to make waves even today, truly, it is a magnificent feat. Finally, the poems survival is enough credit to show that these are literary masterpieces worthy to be read as text by themselves and not as mere extensions of their poets.