Undergraduate Research: A Collaborative “Howl” in the 21st Century

Nederlands: Allen Ginsberg, Amerikaans dichter. By Michiel Hendryckx.

This dispatch comes from Dr. Randy Lewis, whose upper-division American Studies course, “Main Currents in U.S. Culture Since 1865,” participated in an experimental poetic exercise during class yesterday that yielded fascinating results:

I was teaching Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” yesterday and asked 60 undergrads to write one line each for ‘their generation’s Howl’ on a card, which my TA Carrie Andersen rapidly assembled into a rough order that I read to the class 20 minutes after they scribbled their thoughts. No one knew what anyone else was writing, but the results are somehow coherent. So here is our instant crowd-sourced poem, a collective howl of twenty-somethings thinking creatively about their world. I found it to be really heartening.

The as-yet untitled poem is reprinted in its entirety below.


Fishes above water pretending they don’t have gills
spewing “passion” without a thought on every corner of the airwaves
life’s mystery is our best bet, our only truth, the answers are all around us
promiscuously dancing with beliefs
impulsive chaotic limitless
defying the conventional
embracing life’s challenges
be the person you hide from the world.

be fearless
upstairs and downstairs in the bathroom Brittany’s hair is impossible to groom
in front of the mirror she trembles with fear her braid resembles a broom.
running away from fear
random acts of horror
the future is terrifying
like a llama in outer space
a golden trumpet farts into the void
burning pyre of insanity

organized chaos intensity haunted raving weird

words carry SO MUCH WEIGHT.

people wandering the streets at night like so many fireflies looking to be the sun.
free, confused, and lonely at the same time
a whole generation joined in watching their fathers ruin their home.
Struggle to sleep sitting in darkness
clicking clicking refresh
Buzzfeed. Sleep.
instant communication (gossip)

numb shallow detached disconnected complacent

DISTRACTIONS
for the subversive scholar using CIA sabotage to create the tension for revolution
failure is the only way to succeed.

tech zombies
who stared into the faces of their iPhones more than each others’
who preferred to view the world through an artificial screen

Shame! Shame to the hate we show each other. Differences, similarities, color, gender, age, class, sexuality, all people at the core to fight this life together, but so far apart in our minds.

perpetual rat race
mass cycling
mass psych
-ling. To gain.

Kanye! Down with Yeezus, we want College Dropout.
Verbiage notwithstanding, you is cray.

Those that are shackled by neoliberalism, screaming
Break free, break free!
positivity and negativity
there is no final judgment.

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