"IN MEMORY OF THE MAD FEMALE NEIGHBOR OVER MINETTA'S": EXTRAORDINARY FIRST EDITION OF HOWL AND OTHER POEMS, INSCRIBED BY ALLEN GINSBERG TO HIS LONGTIME FRIEND, HELEN ELLIOTT, A PROMINENT MEMBER OF THE NEW YORK LITERARY SCENE AND LUCIEN CARR'S EX-GIRLFRIEND
GINSBERG, Allen. Howl and Other Poems. San Francisco: City Lights, (1956). Small quarto, black paper wrappers, mounted white wrap-around label, 44 pp., custom clamshell box. $17,500.
First edition, first printing, one of only 1000 copies, of Ginsberg's definitive anthem of the Beat generation, inscribed on the title page to his longtime friend, Helen Elliott, a member of the New York literati and an ex-girlfriend of Lucien Carr, on of the dedicatees of the volume: "For Helen in memory of the mad female neighbor over Minettas—Alan."
Howl, published by poet and bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Bookshop, proved "extraordinarily popular… [with] its outrageous, Whitmanesque title poem a vers-libre anthem for the entire Beatnik revolt against middle-class mores and the political establishment's `death culture,' quite explicit anent Ginsberg's promiscuous homosexuality. Ginsberg himself emerged as the youth movement's most visible guru, and his frequent public performances were more `happenings' than poetry readings, as he chanted, made music, smoked pot, and did not hesitate to strip naked" (Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry, 187). Williams, in his introduction, describes how Ginsberg "met a man named Carl Solomon with whom he shared among the teeth and excrement of this life something that cannot be described but in the words [Ginsberg] has used to describe it," before he advises us to "Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies, we are going through Hell." First printing, with Lucien Carr's name on the dedication page. The white paper wrap-around label glued on the wrappers was used only for the first and second printings (Cook 4). "Howl for Carl Solomon," together with the poems "A Supermarket in California," "Sunflower Sutra," and "America," among the poems included in the present volume, was issued in an extremely scarce 1956 private edition of 25 copies printed on 8 1/2- by 11-inch paper that Ginsberg distributed to friends (Morgan A1a1). Morgan A3a1.1. The woman to whom this copy is inscribed, Helen Elliott, met Allen Ginsberg while they were undergraduates at Columbia University in the late 1940s. Their early acquaintance transformed into a lifelong friendship. Elliott introduced Ginsberg to her literary circle in New York, which she had originally accessed as an employee of MCA Talent Agency and as Lucien Carr's girlfriend. Elliott provided Ginsberg with a place to stay and even wrote him checks during hard times. While Elliott was friends with other Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac (who fictionalized her along with his own girlfriend as "the two Ruths" in Desolation Angels), Ginsberg remained her closest friendship. "Minettas" in Ginsberg's inscription refers to the Minetta Tavern, the famous Beat haunt located at 113 MacDougal Street, also "a favorite hangout of Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, E.E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas and plenty of other writers" (Untapped Cities). Allegedly, Ginsberg tasted alcohol for the first time there in the 1940s.
Faint dampstaining to title page causing slight bleeding of highly legible inscription, slightest soiling and a bit of toning to original wrappers. An exceptionally desirable inscribed copy with great provenance.