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The right to howl: Poet Mary Dezem­ber

In 1956, Allen Gins­berg shocked the lit­er­ary world and law en­force­ment with the pub­li­ca­tion of “Howl,” a long-lined, sex­u­ally ex­plicit cry against main­stream Amer­i­can cul­ture. Also in 1956, the poet Mary Dezem­ber, now a pro­fes­sor at New Mexico In­sti­tute of Min­ing and Tech­nol­ogy, took her first breath; 60 years later, she has self-pub­lished an homage to Gins­berg, Still Howl­ing, that echoes the four-part form Gins­berg set forth in his poem. “The first part of ‘Howl’ makes a state­ment and de­vel­ops a the­sis,” she told Pasatiempo. “The sec­ond part ex­plores why the sit­u­a­tion is hap­pen­ing. The third part is about con­nec­tion to one an­other, and the fourth part, the end note, is about redemp­tion and heal­ing.” Dezem­ber takes on the re­pres­sion of women by men who lie — a com­mon com­plaint that is of­ten dis­missed as a topic for se­ri­ous lit­er­a­ture. “I see the best souls of my sex thrive de­spite the mad­ness,/de­fi­ant Aphrodites ris­ing above the sea,/naked in their wake­ful­ness, de­ter­mined to love in the charge of night/and the ter­ror of the day,/de­cid­ing once again to aban­don the search for the soul­ful man,” she writes in the open­ing of the poem’s first sec­tion. Dezem­ber reads from Still Howl­ing at a launch party spon­sored by Strangers Col­lec­tive, 54½ E. San Francisco St., at 7 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 17. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the read­ing is an ex­hibit of orig­i­nal draw­ings by Gins­berg and paint­ings by the au­thor’s nephew, Steve Dezem­ber II, who has amy­otrophic lat­eral scle­ro­sis (Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease) and paints with his wheel­chair. For more in­for­ma­tion, email stranger­scol­lec­tive@ — J.L.

Allen Gins­berg: Draw­ing for John Feins, photo John Feins

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