Literary San Francisco: Allen Ginsberg

Silkroute, 3119 Fillmore Street, former Six Gallery location. More

On October 13, 1955, Allen Ginsberg gave the first public reading of his poem Howl at this location, then the Six Gallery, at 3119 Fillmore Street. When the subversive rage against materialism was published in 1956 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights, the Beat movement had arrived. Worldwide media focused on the sensational First Amendment trial defended by City Lights after copies of the slim volume were seized by members of the San Francisco Police Department and U.S. Customs. The government claimed the poem was obscene and without redeeming social value because it used dirty words and blunt descriptions of gay sex. The vindication of Howl in a courtroom on September 9, 1957 paved the way for future generations of provocative literature by establishing obscenity criteria. Howl went on to become one of the most widely read poems of the 20th Century and was translated into more than twenty languages. Ginsberg became a Distinguished Professor at Brooklyn College in New York near the end of a prolific career and remained active in the literary community until his death in 1997.

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