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Feature Story
reed magazine logoWinter 2008
Paul Gronke speaking at Amanda Reed dinner

Allen Ginsberg reading at the San Francisco Poetry Center, November 1955 ©Walter Lehrman

In a plain gray archival box in the basement of Reed’s Hauser Library there lies a single reel of audiotape that captures a moment in the early life of one of the anthemic poems of the 20th century. The aging brown acetate clarifies an author’s voice, hints at a spirit, adds to the myth of two poets, and tells of a part Reed College played in the early days of the Beat Generation—before it was Beat, or yet a generation. The lid of the box is marked simply but evocatively with two names and a year: “Snyder Ginsberg 1956.” It has lain there, duly cataloged but unlistened-to, until this past spring, when I stumbled on it (with the help of Reed archives assistant Mark Kuestner) in the course of research for my biography-in-progress of Gary Snyder ’51.

Listen to the earliest-known recording of “Howl,” read by Allen Ginsberg at Reed in February 1956. Go to Reed's Multimedia Site

Click here to download a pdf of John Suiter's article, including footnotes, acknowledgments, and suggested reading.

reed magazine logoWinter 2008