Digital Essay: “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg

“Howl” by Allen Ginsberg is a poem that represents New York City in so many ways, which luckily for me, allowed for my digital essay to express the poem’s main themes through video and audio. This digital project started off as being really stressful because I couldn’t pin point a specific idea or section of my poem to focus on. But when I finally got my idea it was a pretty painless process and I thought it came out better than I thought it would. I started off by reading through my poem and choosing lines I wanted to focus on. Once I had the general topics of each line I spent the day traveling up and down Manhattan to get the shots I wanted.

I used the line “Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovas!” as inspiration for the scenes of the tall buildings and busy midtown streets. My main influence was the line “Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money!” which to me, represented Americas emphasis on industry. I filmed large corporations to represent the “demonic industries” Ginsberg writes about as well as people feeding into consumerism by buying many items at high end stores. I incorporated ads posted on the city streets to represent how advertisers are the ones who “bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination”.I used the overall theme of Howl in its entirety as inspiration for the locations in which I shot the project. I started filming wealthy areas uptown where children of affluent families went to good schools and young women and men spent their time shopping on Madison Avenue. I then worked my way downtown where you could find needy people digging through the trash to sustain themselves. This contrast is one of the main ideas in Howl and embodies the difference between the “best minds” of Ginsberg’s generation and the “suits on Madison Avenue” as well as the “fairies of advertisement” who Ginsberg believed were corrupting society.

An idea I expressed in my essay was the inspiration behind the end of the video. The people standing around in the subway represent the unchanging mentality of Americans; most people are still standing still and accepting our society’s emphasis on consumerism. Allen Ginsberg wrote “Moloch who entered my soul early!” which represents the fact that the idea of a consumer culture was instilled in him from a young age as well as most Americans. Ginsberg realizes that trying to escape the culture that essentially built this nation and has been a part of our country for many years is impossible and will lead to madness. In the end, I feel as though my written essay influenced my digital project more than the digital project idea influenced the writing of the paper. When it came to choosing the song that would represent the images and overall idea of my video I decided to listen to the score of the film “Howl” which was based on the poem and found a song that set the tone of the video perfectly. Overall I really enjoyed the whole process and it has inspired me to explore video making and editing in the future.

Hope you enjoy the video!

Digital Essay: “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg


About Nansi Matua


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