"It was an anguished protest, literally a howl, against the era’s soul-crushing conformism and a hymn to the holiness of everything about the human body and mind, splashed in verse that breaks free from standard meter but speaks instead in the long lines and jangling rhythm of natural breath and conversation, a style inspired by the expressive poets who went ignored in the ivory towers of high modernism—Whitman, Blake, Rimbaud *—fused with the urban syncopation of the bebop jazz that Ginsberg and his pal, Jack Kerouac, went to hear in the clubs of Harlem while they were students at Columbia in the mid-1940s.
Ginsberg proved prophetic. The same year that he wrote “Howl,” Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns were breaking free from the cage of Abstract Expressionism. Over the next few years, Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis would free jazz from the structure of chord-changes; Norman Mailer would smash the barrier between literature and journalism, the subjective self and the world; Allan Kaprow would stage the first “Happenings,” which blurred the boundaries between spectacle and spectator, art and life; Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl created a new stand-up comedy that rejected mere jokes for jazz-inflected monologues on politics, race, and religious hypocrisy."
As we witness the gentrification of the entire California Coastline, we also need to be reminded of how important were the contributions of so many artists once creating or performing in our coastal cities.