Sunday, October 31, 2010

Not Forgetting Shig

[Shigeoshi (Shig) Murao, Cafe Trieste, North Beach, San Francisco, 1987. photo: Allen Ginsberg. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

We said we'd try and curtail posting too many Howl movie reviews. There's been one or two snipes and gripes, but mostly the response has been pretty uniformly enthusiastic. The main difficulty for reviewers has been trying to come to terms withwhat sort of movie it is. It's not your typical "bio pic", it's not actually a "bio pic" at all, it's a rare thing, (a unique thing maybe), a movie about a poem! Tim Plant in his Metro Weekly review (out of Washington DC) is typical of a number of reviewers who had difficulty and have been wrestling with this. We could cite more. It's important to stress this point, because the film-makers have, from some quarters, been unfairly criticized for not including more, and more substantial, biographical portraits. (Where's Burroughs and Corso, Huncke etc?, why such a slight evocation of Jack, Neal? - An unfair criticism). But, notwithstanding, why (since the film is very much centered around City Lights and the famous obscenity trial) is there no mention of Shig Murao, is, perhaps, a criticism to note. Shig, long-time bookstore manager at City Lights, was, as his biographer Patricia Wakida points out, "the one who was actually arrested by the San Francisco police for selling Howl and actually goes to jail. Ginsberg was in Tangier (Morocco) and Ferlinghetti was in Big Sur. Shig was the one who took the fall". See more about this important participant and fears of his erasure from the story here.

2012 update - notice of Richard Reynolds' comprehensive Shig site here

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in New York

The Workcenter Jerzy Grotowski crew are back in New York City for the month of November, staging their I Am America & Electric Party performances that are all based on poems by Allen Ginsberg. They were in the area last Spring & dazzled and surprised us with their energy, enthusiasm & devotion to Allen's work. For more information on Workcenter Jerzy Grotowski, or to find out where next on the planet they'll be performing check their tumblr >>.

Monday, October 25, 2010

HOWL Reviews Keep a comin'

[HOWL display at City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco]

I know we said we’d stop tooting our horn and posting reviews and response to the Howl movie, but here’s just a few more, not-just-any-reviews, ones that really nail something intelligent down.

First up, a thoughtful one from Peter Simek in Dallas’ D magazine. Richard Nilson’s review in The Arizona Republic points out “the hero of the film isn’t Ginsberg, it’s the poem”. Wallace Baine’s review in the Santa Cruz Sentinel re-iterates the idea that – and what a remarkable thing this is - “Howl is all about the poem not the poet." And one more, since Allen was a dutiful reader of the rag, here’s Sarah Selzer in The Nation.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Timothy Leary's 90th Birthday

[Timothy Leary, Los Angeles March 1992. If you look closely you can see Allen in the mirror taking the photo. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

In celebration, here's some vintage Leary audio from 1967 recorded at Alan Watts' Houseboat Summit, that includes Leary, Watts, Allen and Gary Snyder.

Keep a look-out for Peter Conners' White Hand Society The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg due out any day now from City Lights. It includes the entire transcript for the above "Houseboat Summit" as it was printed in the San Francisco Oracle.

Allen on Literary Censorship and Other Matters 1997 Canadian TV

Recently posted, this sweet video of AG, just a few months before he died,
talking with Allan Gregg, Canadian tv interviewer (from TV Ontario). Always good to hear Allen's always-timely and always-reasonable opinion on such issues and Gregg proves to be a sympathetic ear.

While we're on the subject (we've been meaning to post this one for quite a while!), C-Span, in their video archive, have an extraordinary illuminating debate, "What's Indecent? Who Decides?", a recording of a meeting which took place before the Federal Communications Bar Association, on April 18 1990, in which Allen participated, and where feathers were ruffled (there's some pretty dramatic interchanges), truth speaking back to power. The whole broadcast over two hours long has been archived. Allen comes on first about halfway into the proceedings (approx 33 minutes in - and, among other things, takes time to read to the panel members "Sunflower Sutra"). He comes in again at approx 60 minutes with a powerful declaration on behalf of "candor" and more than adequately holds his own against some explosive attacks from James Quello, senior member of the FCC, Tyrone Brown, director of District Cablevision (and sometime FCC member), Joseph Reilly, President of Morality In The Media and others.
Vintage stuff!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kerouac 41 Years Later

It was 41 years ago today that Kerouac passed away at the age of 47 in St. Petersburg, Florida. As Jerry Cimino wrote in today's mailing "When he died he had $91 in the bank and his entire estate was worth less than $10,000. By the mid seventies just about all of his books (with the notable exception of On The Road) were out of print. Today, there are over thirty books in print, many published posthumously."

[Jack Kerouac wandering along East 7th Street after visiting Burroughs at our pad, passing statue of Congressman Samuel “Sunset” Cox, “The Letter Carrier’s Friend” in Tompkins Square toward corner of Avenue A, Lower East Side. He’s making a Dostoevsky mad-face or Russian basso be-bop Om, then involved with The Subterraneans, just walking around the neighborhood, pencils and notebook in the wool shirt-pocket, Manhattan Fall 1953. (Ginsberg caption) photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

[Jack Kerouac Avenue A across from Tompkins Park 1953 New York, his handsome face looking into barroom door--this is best profile of his intelligence as I saw it sacred, time of Subterraneans writing. (Ginsberg caption). photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Friday, October 15, 2010

Howl: A Graphic Novel Illustrated by Eric Drooker review in PopMatters

Fantastic review of Drooker's HOWL: A Graphic Novel in today's PopMatters

Eric Drooker first met Allen Ginsberg in 1988 during the Tompkins Square Park Riots on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It was one of many skirmishes New York City would experience in the ‘80s, between the forces of gentrification and those who refused to give up territory they felt was rightfully theirs. The sympathies of both Drooker and Ginsberg were with the riffraff—the squatters, homeless, artists and other troublemakers whom the police were trying to evict from the area—and when they met again a year later the two discovered they had common artistic tastes, as well. Read full review >>

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"William Burroughs: A Man Within" Official Trailer

Yony Leyser's documentary William S Burroughs: A Man Within" gets a US theatrical release in mid November, with Oscilloscope Laboratories as distributor. Their trailer is now making the rounds:

(see update - a brief listing of US release dates - here)

Kindle Chaos!

Embarrassingly, we only found out about this last week. It would seem we don't quite have our finger on the Kindle pulse just yet, and word of the formatting fiasco only got to us via the news. Craig Morgan Teicher explains in Publisher's Weekly just what went down in his story "This Is Not Allen Ginsberg’s 'Howl.'" NPR also ran the story, and shortly after that Teicher did a followup in Publisher's Weekly offering some solutions for the very tricky prospect of formatting poetry in the digital world. The story also caught the eye of the University of Texas' Digital Curation blog (must be the dept of Digital Curation?) "Poetry Needs Curation Too." ( We couldn't agree more!)

In the long-ago days of the typewriter, the first thing we'd do was to send out Allen's "Instructions for Typesetting", which we include below for your amusement & which we sent to Amazon. It's doubtful they'd be much use in the world of internet code & formatting, but we'll find out soon enough if they help Amazon sort Allen's formatting issues.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dope Fiend Blues

We're not supposed to encourage online posting of copyrighted materiel outright, but we figure just one track from a full album doesn't hurt and well, maybe just might rouse some curiosity in the album First Blues which the good people at Water Records/Runt Distribution reissued in 2006, complete with original liner notes, (which is available on the shop among other places.) This is such a great recording of Dope Fiend Blues.

Allen writes: Read between the lines you get Orient non-attachment rather than Western addiction. Jon Sholle guitar thru pig-amp sets funky '50's style. (Steven) Taylor's letter-perfect vocal harmony was practiced thru five years' fun in Europe & America at poetry readings

Ginsberg, Beats and the Politics of Dissent

[Bob Donlin, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Robert LaVigne & Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights Books, 1955. c Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Lee Siegel argues, provocatively and curiously (and. we think, wildly erroneously) for the relationship between the Beat Generation and the contemporary phenomenon of The Tea Party (focusing on the sociology of dissent) in this past weekend's New York Times - two very different ideas of American freedom but with curious points of divergence (or so he proposes). Check it out. >>

Elsewhere in the New York Times universe, Amanda Christy Brown and Holly Epstein Ojalvo present a pretty useful teaching model utilizing Howl, the movie to teach Howl, the poem (following up from Stanley Fish's recent article) - see "Poetry on Film: Interpreting "Howl" in the 21st Century" in their New York Times Learning Blog The Learning Network. Allen and the Beats certainly, as Siegel says, seem to "be everywhere these days".

Meanwhile, HOWL continues to roll out to more US cities, for instance in Boulder this week, home of Naropa University and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics who are hosted the Boulder premier. Be sure to check your local listings over the coming weeks. Werk Works have a pretty reliable list if you're unable to find one >>

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eliot Katz: Recalling Allen

Brooklyn Rail have just posted Eliot Katz' appreciation of Allen from his 2009 book Love, War, Fire, Wind: Looking out from North America's Skull published by Narcissus Press & it definitely seemed appropriate to repost here today. Eliot's been quite ill, recovering from over a year long bout of Lyme disease & we're all hoping he's feeling better soon.

Recalling Allen

The world could sure use Allen Ginsberg’s sane voice and political vision today. Lucky for the planet, his voice is still with us—in books, recordings, and recollections.

Allen was a generous teacher and friend. I met Allen late one afternoon in the fall of 1976. I was drinking coffee, or maybe it was beer, with my roommate Danny Shot, on our Guilden Street, New Brunswick, NJ front porch. We were taking a Rutgers University class on “The Beat Tradition in American Literature,” taught by an inspired grad student, Bob Campbell, and we were anticipating a Ginsberg student center reading later that night. A taxi drove up to the apartment across the street where our friend Kevin Hayes lived, and Allen got out of the back seat and started unloading cardboard boxes from the trunk. Kevin was a local poet and friend who was—previously unbeknownst to us—the organizer of the night’s event. Danny and I went to help unload cartons that turned out to be Allen’s father’s manuscripts stored, until that night, at the Rutgers library. Read full story >>

NPR On Point with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Freidman

Great hour-long interview with Rob Epstein & Jeff Freidman (from NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 11:00 AM EDT
Beat Epic: Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”

"We talk with the directors of a new film celebrating Allen Ginsberg’s epic beat generation poem “Howl.”"

[A crowd listens to Allen Ginsberg give a reading of uncensored poetry at New York City's Washington Square park, 1966. (AP)]

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

James Franco in Drag By Terry Richardson

Terry Richardson shoots Franco in drag for the first cover of Candy Magazine "the first transversal style magazine." Yes, it's a bit tangential, but we couldn't resist mentioning it!

William Ney: A Talk with Allen Ginsberg After the Tompkins Square Police Riot

William Ney brought this to our attention this morning and we thought it appropriate to post since it was at this riot that Allen formally met Eric Drooker who's done the animation for the HOWL film.

[Photo: Allen Ginsberg. c. Steve Miles/All Rights Reserved]

By William Ney

This interview first appeared in the September 1988 issue of The New Common Good, a monthly broadsheet published by Marvin Jones and Chris Huestis, the owners of PACA Gallery on 7th Street just west of Tompkins Square in Manhattan, where, weeks before, throughout the night of August 6, 1988, what enlightened locals still recall as the Tompkins Square Police Riot had happened.

Allen Ginsberg then lived on 12th Street, two blocks from Tompkins Square, and with friends had been caught up in the festivities while strolling after dinner. I had been doing local journalism in the neighborhood, stumbled into the festivities around midnight then ducked and observed until they subsided, around dawn, when the police went home.

Allen Ginsberg died in 1997, with friends at home, a stone's throw from the park. See here to comment and for recollections from 2010, when the appearance of a magical film about his most celebrated poem, Howl, provoked this archeology.

Read full interview at New Combat >>

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ferlinghetti's “Fortune” set to music by Tom Waits

Ya only really get to see the top of Waits' head here, but the sound quality is definitely decent enough to warrant a post. Check it out on >>

Waits was performing as were Patti Smith, Marcus Shelby, Steve Earle, Michael McClure and others in honor of Ferlinghetti at San Francisco's 11th annual Litquake literary festival last Saturday >>

Stanley Fish in New York Times on HOWL

We woke up this morning to see this beautiful piece by Stanley Fish in the New York Times blog. As our friend Ken Nielsen cleverly describes it - "Stanley Fish's thoughtful column on why HOWL is not only a movie about a text, but actually a movie becoming its own text about a text. It's a performance of literary criticism."

[Jack Manning/The New York Times]

Literary Criticism Comes to the Movies


There are movies based on literary works (“Paradise Lost” is on the way, I am told), bio-pics about literary greats (“Bright Star,” “The Hours”), movies that feature a bit of literary criticism (“Animal House,” “Dead Poets Society,” “The History Boys”), even movies — documentaries — about literary critics (Zizek and Derrida, who are only literary critics occasionally), but no movies I know of about literary criticism as such. None, that is, until “Howl,” the new movie about Allen Ginsberg starring James Franco, which is not only about literary criticism but is the performance of literary criticism, an extended “explication de texte.” Read full review>>

Monday, October 4, 2010

Russell Morse: Howling from the Tombs

from New America Media, Commentary, Russell Morse, (Posted: Oct 01, 2010)

"I recently attended a film screening of Howl on a rooftop in New York City's Lower East Side, shivering and alone in a crowd of hundreds. As a fan of the poem, I approached the film adaptation with some ambivalence; and as a fan of the actor James Franco, I worried that his performance would miss the essential splendor of the goofy, unrequited lover that Allen Ginsberg was at the time he penned Howl. Read full story >>

LA Times: Reading Howl and Howl

Quite the reaction at Hollywood's Sunset 5...


By the time they got to the Holy-Holy-Holy part, the 50 poets and fans who'd assembled for a group reading of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" had worked up lots of momentum. Voices raised together, arms thrust in the air, people stamped. The event was scheduled but unscripted, appropriately chaotic; the sound guy got caught in traffic so there were no mics. No problem: a rough circle formed and people raised their voices one by one, sometimes doubling or overlapping. Read full story at LA Times >>

While we're on HOWL group readings, here's one from this year's Howl Festival, conducted by Bob Holman, with Anne Waldman among others reading sections.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Howlingly Cute - Boing Boing on PressPop's Ginsberg Figurine

Some decent press on Archer Prewitts's Presspop Ginsberg figurine from the good people at

Howlingly Cute

Douglas Rushkoff is a guest blogger. He is the author, most recently, of Program or Be Programmed.

One of my favorite musicians and artists, Archer Prewitt, best known for the comic Sof'Boy and band Sea and Cake has just finished the latest figurine in his series for PressPop, the Allen Ginsberg doll - authorized by Ginsberg Estate. Complete with glasses, book, and beaded necklace, he should make a fine addition to anyone's collection of beat poet dolls. Read full story >>