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Ginsberg began work on “Howl” in 1954. Ginsberg can be heard reading early drafts of his poem to his fellow writing associates. Howl” is considered to be one of the great works of American literature. On October 3, 1957, Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that the poem was not obscene. This occurred on the evening of October 17, 1954, in the Nob Hill apartment of Shiela Williams, then Ginsberg’s girlfriend, with whom he was living. It was the first time Ginsberg had used peyote.
Ginsberg had the terrifying experience of seeing the façade of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in the San Francisco fog as the monstrous face of a child-eating demon. As was his wont, Ginsberg took notes on his vision, and these became the basis for Part II of the poem. In late 1954 and 1955, in an apartment he had rented at 1010 Montgomery Street in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, Ginsberg worked on the poem, originally referring to it by the working title “Strophes. Ginsberg had moved into a small cottage in Berkeley a few blocks from the campus of the University of California on Sept. Many factors went into the creation of the poem. A short time before the composition of “Howl”, Ginsberg’s therapist, Dr.