Fifty years after "Howl," Ginsberg's poetry often bores on the page. Gary Snyder described "Howl" as a ponderous list that Ginsberg, when he read it aloud, somehow managed to hoist up and fly overhead as gracefully as a kite. It's a wonderful image that captures Ginsberg's sublimity and the sense that his poetry, more than a honed craft, was really an act of indefatigable will.
Or maybe a stand-up comedy act? That's what Ginsberg's reading of "America" is, as heard on In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry. I love listening to it; Ginsberg turns his images into zingers, punch lines, goofy non sequiters as the audience howls.