United States Customs seizes copies of Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl as obscene.
Howl is a poem written by Allen Ginsberg as part of his 1956 collection of poetry titled Howl and Other Poems. The poem is considered to be one of the seminal works of the Beat Generation along with Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957), William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch (1959), and Gregory Corso's Gasoline "(1958). Howl was originally written as a performance piece, but it was later published by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books. The poem was originally considered to be obscene, and Ferlinghetti was arrested and charged with its publication.
Customs officials seized 520 copies of the poem on March 25, 1957, being imported from the printer in London.
A subsequent obscenity trial was brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who ran City Lights Bookstore, the poem's new domestic publisher. Nine literary experts testified on the poem's behalf. Supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Ferlinghetti won the case when Judge Clayton W. Horn decided that the poem was of "redeeming social importance". On October 3, 1957 Judge Horn ruled that the poem was not obscene, and Howl went on to become the most popular poem of the Beat Generation. The case was widely publicized (articles appeared in both Time and Life magazines). The trial was published by Ferlinghetti's lead defense attorney Jake Ehrlich in a book called Howl of the Censor. In 2010, a film was made depicting the events of the trial called Howl.
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