The opening poem of the book comments on American life of the period with overt references to drugs, drinking, and homosexuality. More notable, though, was the style of writing, which was a stream-of-consciousness, intense prose that became the hallmark of what became known as Beat poetry and writing. Both the subject matter and the style defined a new era of rebellion in literature.
This book of poetry was banned and 520 copies were confiscated by United States Customs officials, while its publisher, Laurence Ferlinghetti, was arrested for its sale to undercover agents. With the ACLU defending the author and publisher, a full trial was held and nine experts called in to investigate the literary value of the book. The well-publicized trial gave much attention to both the book and the author, who continue to be an influence in contemporary writing.