Interestingly enough, the best words ever spoken of Howl were said at its obscenity trial in the moment of its emergence. During the second Eisenhower administration things were culturally very tight, and artists and critics, recovering from the McCarthy era, rushed to the defense of a poem attacked by the Establishment. Rarely has an unknown poem by an obscure poet known such high praise before it has been assessed by the scholarly community. But as soon as the trial was over and the battle won, a reverse set in. The poem began its work of effecting a critical reevaluation of the course of poetry, and the defensive reaction was intense. For a few years you could hardly find anyone who would say a good word for it, but gradually its liberating role was effected, and it has emerged as the guerdon of its generation.
—William Everson, Archetype West: The Pacific Coast as a Literary Region (Oyez, 1976)