First-ever recorded reading of Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” set for release

The recording was thought not to exist

Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” is considered one of the masterpieces of modern poetry. The first recorded reading of the poem was thought long-lost, but now it is set for release on April 2, 2021.

The debut reading of the poem took place at San Francisco’s Six Gallery in October 1955, with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti in attendance. This debut reading was never recorded however, so many experts claimed that the first recorded reading took place in Berkeley, California, the following year.

But as Rolling Stone reports, a prior recording was actually found. Prior to Ginsberg’s Berkeley performance, he spent February 13th and 14th, 1956, at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, reading alongside poet Gary Snyder. Those tapes were discovered in a box in 2007 by author John Suiter, but they remained inaccessible for years. But Reed’s president Dr. Audrey Bilger and her wife, Cheryl Pawelski — the co-founder of Omnivore Recordings changed that.

Working with the Ginsberg Estate, Omnivore will release At Reed College: The First Recorded Reading of Howl & Other Poems this spring. It follows the label’s previous Ginsberg releases: 2017’s The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience and 2016’s The Last Word on First Blues.

The announcement also says that the release will be available in various formats, including exclusive red vinyl. The liner notes were written by Dr. Pancho Savery, Reed’s Professor of English and Humanities, while the cover was designed by Gregory MacNaughton of the Calligraphy Initiative in Honor of Lloyd J. Reynolds — replicating what it might have looked like in 1956.

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