This video was posted at Open Culture back on June 6, in celebration of Allen Ginsberg's birthday. This video is from 1975, and you can read the text online, it is available here. By this point, Ginsberg was a famous and polished performer, but he had been studying with Chogyma Trungpa Rinpoche as well, who urged him to be more spontaneous and free in his readings.
There is also a link to an audio file from a reading at Reed College in 1956, a very liberal arts school in the Portland (OR) suburbs (where Gary Snyder did his undergraduate study, I believe). Needless to say, this was revolutionary at the time, considering that publication by City Lights Books had been banned on obscenity grounds. NSFW.
The poet Allen Ginsberg would have celebrated a birthday today, his 86th. We didn’t want the day to slip by without mentioning his 1955 poem, Howl. The controversial poem became his best known work, and it now occupies a central place in the Beat literary canon, standing right alongside Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch. Ginsberg first read the poem aloud on October 7, 1955, to a crowd of about 150 at San Francisco’s Six Gallery. (James Franco reenacted that moment in the 2010 film simply called Howl.) From what I know, that famous reading wasn’t captured for posterity. So today we give you Ginsberg reading Howl in 1975. You can access the 27 minute reading in different formats above and below. It’s also listed in the Poetry section of our Free Audio Books collection. An online version of the text appears here. Finally, here’s a bonus, the earliest known recording of Howl — February 1956 at Reed College. The poem is, needless to say, NSFW.