Friday, December 2, 2011

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness...

A typed title page for "Howl."While processing the poet Richard Eberhart's papers we came across this mimeo of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." It turns out to be the true first printing of "Howl" preceding Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights edition and produced in a run of only 25.  It was typed by poet Robert Creeley and run off by Kenneth Rexroth's wife (and Creeley's lover), Marthe.

This particular copy is, arguably, the most important printed copy of "Howl" ever produced. Why? It was sent to Eberhart on May 18, 1956, while Eberhart was teaching at Princeton and preparing an article for the New York Times to be called "West Coast Rhythms." The article was on the emerging poetry scene of the west coast and San Francisco in particular. Eberhart had recently visited San Francisco to complete research for his article. While there, he heard Ginsberg read "Howl" and discussed his impressions of it with the poet himself. He told Ginsberg he thought it was an angry poem – destructive and not offering any solutions.

A few weeks later, knowing Eberhart was preparing his New York Times article, Ginsberg sent him a 34-page handwritten letter explaining "Howl" which filled a notebook (sadly, Dartmouth holds the envelope in which the letter and mimeo were sent as well as supporting letters by Ginsberg, but the 34-page notebook itself is held by another institution. See Rauner Presses P364to for the published letter). In the letter, Ginsberg laid out his case for "Howl" and countered Eberhart's impression of the poem.

Accompanying the letter and buttressing Ginsberg's arguments was this mimeographed copy of "Howl" containing several small corrections in Ginsberg's hand. The copy provided Eberhart with the ability to read "Howl" while he was preparing his seminal article. The mimeo itself had been run off for students in a class he was guest teaching at San Francisco State. He also sent several copies to influential gatekeepers in the poetry establishment, as well as friends and fellow poets.

Ginsberg was successful in his lobbying efforts and on September 2, 1956, Eberhart wrote a favorable article on the San Francisco scene highlighting Ginsberg and "Howl" in the article.

The cover of the Pocket Poets Series edition of "Howl."
In a December 20, 1956 follow-up letter sent to Eberhart, Ginsberg credits this article with "breaking the ice" in regard to getting what would become known as the "Beats" published. Eberhart's article, along with a federal censorship charge and trial against the City Lights edition of "Howl," would catapult Ginsberg and his fellow poets into the public consciousness. Riding this wave of publicity Viking Press, who had been dragging its feet with publishing Kerouac's On the Road, moved ahead with publication. The rest, as they say, is history.

A title page for "Howl," with doodles and handwriting by the author.
Rauner also holds a remarkable first printing (with a run of 1000) of the City Light's edition of Howl in which Ginsberg heavily and creatively inscribes the title page to Eberhart. Ginsberg also fills in the expurgated words that were left out of the first edition to placate potential censors.

To see the mimeographed version of "Howl" or to see other items from the Papers of Richard Eberhart ask for MS-1082. To see the first City Lights edition of Howl ask for Eberhart PS3513.I74 H6.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Aires of History

A black and white photograph of men singing around a piano.
The Dartmouth Aires were
originally an octet
formed as an offshoot
of the Glee Club.
Last night the Dartmouth Aires made it to the finale of "The Sing-Off" on NBC, finishing in second place. As great as it was to see them on national television over these past weeks, we've equally enjoyed seeing them perform on campus and even right here in Rauner (they loved Webster Hall's acoustics!). We're proud of the Aires and are pleased to hold their records -- in both senses of the word.

You can listen to their recordings and view their organizational records, which include musical scores, photos, correspondence, posters, songbooks, recordings of performances, and other miscellanea (ask for DO-75). We also have a vertical file and photo files, which give a sense of the evolution of the group. Initially an octet formed from the Dartmouth Glee Club in the 1940s, the Aires went on to perform around the world, record numerous albums, and delight fans everywhere. Congratulations, Aires -- our pride in you is, well, undying.