A 21st Century Howl

A 21st Century Howl

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by…”
~ opening line of Howl by Allen Ginsberg

What sphinx of algorithms and data bashed open their skulls?
Moloch! Facebook! Moloch! Twitter! Moloch!
Moloch who promised an egalitarian utopia!

Moloch who makes our friends! Moloch who gives us followers!
Moloch who demands likes and shares!
Moloch who whispers FOMO!

Moloch whose eyes are cellphone cameras! Moloch whose ears are smart speakers!
Moloch whose blood is intimate information!
Moloch whose heart is advertising!

Moloch the deceiver! Moloch the marketer of outrage!
Moloch who prods lambs to electric anger!
Moloch who herds sheep to capitol riot!

We’re tracked by Moloch! We’re tagged by Moloch!
We’re fed into a cold database by Moloch!
We’re shredded to statistics by Moloch!

We gave Moloch our rapt attention! We gave Moloch our waking lives!
We broke our backs lifting Moloch to Heaven!
Time to let go.

I’m not sure if one needs to know Allen Ginsberg’s masterpiece, Howl, to enjoy this poem. I intend to pay homage and to update, specifically to the second section, where I steal some lines outright.

If you haven’t read Howl before, let me know if this work on it’s own and then go read Howl!

If you have read Howl before, is this just a cheap knock-off?

About Bartholomew Barker

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
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21 Responses to A 21st Century Howl

  1. mbrazfieldm says:

    genius and poignant, bravo!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Cassa Bassa says:

    I never read Howl or his work and I like it. And I like your 21st century howl 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  3. JeanMarie says:

    I like your version a lot. It makes sense to me as a stand alone, even before I looked up Moloch. I had read Howl but it’s been a while so I went back to it. This isn’t a knock off of the original but more like an homage to it.


    Liked by 3 people

  4. Just as Ginsberg’s spoke to his time, your Howl speaks to this time. Excellent.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Howl for 2022 – Words from JeanMarie

  6. It’s new… it’s fresh… it speaks to what the Cyber World is doing to us when we worship at the feet of Moloch… I read Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” years ago, and I don’t find this a knock-off… yours stands alone, has its own flavor, and cuts just as deep…!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Allen Ginsberg’s Grave | Bartholomew Barker, Poet

  8. berniebell1955 says:

    Bart – I’m more than glad that I found your work. Hitting nails on heads – constantly – mind you don’t get repetitive strain injury!

    Seriously though – first I read your brief explanation, ending with….”There’s just too much in there that still demands to be heard! And I thought – good man yerself Bart – yes indeed.

    Then I went to the poem – I’ve never read Ginsberg – I saw him declaiming on the telly once and …..didn’t take to the man.
    I read you poem – ‘on its own’…..hitting nails on heads – catching truths – concerning truths. “Moloch whose heart is in advertising” Did you ever see a film called ’How to get ahead in advertising’? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Nh-F8kpWms a cautionary tale of what can happen if someone becomes immersed in their own bull shit. Though – there is that immortal line referring to a heavily organic/herbal spot cream…..‘And if that doesn’t work – you can spread the fucker on your toast’.

    As usual – here’s my tuppence worth….


    Shall I now read ‘How!’? Mebbe……

    Liked by 1 person

  9. berniebell1955 says:

    PS – I just noticed that I wrote ‘How!’ instead of ‘Howl’

    Finger slippage has produced a Freudian slip!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. berniebell1955 says:

    Well – I started to read it – but I gave up – it’s just – typical – typical of the ‘Beat’ poets – the ‘Angry Young Men’ – Jeeeeez.
    It has the tone of the pretentious person I saw proclaiming/pontificating on the telly – and didn’t take to. That lot must have been such bores to spend time with – imagine getting stuck in a pub or at a party with them – easy solution – leave – or get pissed and – take the piss.

    It would be so easy to do a piss-take of it – but – why bother?

    Yours is much, much better – you’re telling, not wallowing.

    Why read Ginsberg when you can read and listen to Gil Scott Heron? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmkzYM_QKtU

    I suppose it could be said that the Gil Scott Herons of the world followed on from the Ginsbergs of the world – but – in my opinion – Gill beats Allen hollow!
    I found myself thinking – ‘Life’s too short to read this verbal diarrhoea’.

    Each to their own – and he’s dead now, so he won’t care about my opinion, or anyone else’s presumably.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll suggest watching the movie Howl starring James Franco. It not really a documentary but it’s also not really fiction. They staged parts from the obscenity trial and also interviews with Ginsberg plus they animated the poem. It’s a good watch.


  11. berniebell1955 says:

    Hello Jean-Marie – I’ve justt read your ‘Howl’….

    I suppose these are bits of my howl – I’m a bear, and we tend to growl rather than howl….




    And now…I sleep….

    Liked by 1 person

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