Posts Tagged ‘allen ginsberg’

STARRY RHYMES: now available for purchase!

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Starry Rhymes 007

Apologies for the delay in posting these details — I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath! STARRY RHYMES is finally available to purchase, right here, for the bargain price of £5 plus P&P!

You probably know by now what STARRY RHYMES is all about — but if not, check out our submissions call to see what it was we were looking for! We received nearly 150 emails to register interest in the project, and over 130 poems were submitted. After much deliberation, we managed to whittle these down to just 33. You can find out a bit about the folk whose poems we picked here.

Starry Rhymes 004

Each copy of STARRY RHYMES is printed on high quality 80gsm white paper, and has a unique, handmade cream cardstock cover. No copy is quite the same as the others! Each was lovingly hand-cut and stapled to produce a limited single printing of 140. 33 of these went to our fabulous contributors, and we sold a huge pile of them on our rather raucous launch night (check out Chris Scott’s amazing photos from the event here!)… so these books are disappearing fast!

If you’d like a copy, they’re only a fiver plus P&P, and you can get your hands on one right here. Just click the Paypal button below and follow the instructions! No Paypal account required — if you’re not registered, just pay with your card as you would elsewhere online.


STARRY RHYMES is a product of Read This Press, a DIY micropress specialising in limited edition print runs of handmade poetry pamphlet anthologies and collections. RTP is run by poets/teachers/Edinburgh residents Claire Askew and Stephen Welsh. It is not unknown for us to be described as a “punk” press. We particularly like poets who are new/unknown/upcoming, intimidatingly well-read, and tattooed.

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STARRY RHYMES: the launch! Friday 3rd June, 7.30pm, Forest!

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Ginsberg

PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
26/05/2011

FOREST CAFE HOSTS BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR BEAT GENERATION LEGEND
[HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALLEN GINSBERG, Friday 3rd June, 7.30pm, Bristo Hall (Forest Cafe)]

Friday 3rd June this year would have been the 85th birthday of legendary Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg, and to celebrate the occasion, Read This Press are teaming up with Edinburgh’s Forest Cafe to throw a massive birthday bash in his honour.

Read This Press editors Claire Askew and Stephen Welsh have spent the past few months compiling an anthology of contemporary poems which respond to Ginsberg’s original works. Poets from all over the world got in touch to request one of Ginsberg’s poems to respond to, and the editors were overwhelmed with hundreds of submissions. From these, just 33 were chosen to be included in a limited edition, handmade chapbook of poems, named Starry Rhymes after one of the great man’s lesser-known poems. Poets whose works have been selected include Sally Evans, Kevin MacNeil and Eddie Gibbons, whose latest collection was shortlisted for the 2011 Scottish Book of the Year award.

The HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALLEN GINSBERG event will take place on Friday 3rd June, in the Forest Cafe’s cavernous Bristo Hall. As well as marking the official launch of the Starry Rhymes chapbook, it will also host a rare screening of Ginsberg’s 1967 London travelogue, Ah! Sunflower, and feature a solo set from the brilliant Withered Hand, taking time out of his UK tour to play for Allen’s birthday. Poets whose works are featured in the chapbook will perform their pieces alongside Allen Ginsberg’s, and other literary folk are invited to step up to the mic and offer their birthday tributes to the great man.

The event begins at 7.30pm and is totally free to enter. Forest operates a BYOB policy, and donations to the Save the Forest fund will be encouraged. Attendees will be able to purchase copies of Starry Rhymes at the event, and it will also be available for purchase online thereafter.

Loved by readers since his emergence onto the literary scene in the mid 1950s, Ginsberg was one of the foremost figures in the Beat movement, and as well as producing seminal works such as Howl and America, he was also responsible for the promotion and publication of some of the great Beat novels including William S Burroughs’ Junky and Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. His most famous work, the volume Howl and Other Poems, was the subject of a high profile obscenity trial upon its publication in 1955, and this trial and its eventual outcome was recently depicted in the movie Howl, which starred James Franco and David Strathairn.

[ends]

Notes
For more information email Claire Askew via claire@onenightstanzas.com

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STARRY RHYMES: the final line-up!

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Ginsberg

So, after weeks of chat about this project, and having received over 140 expressions of interest and over 120 actual poetry submissions, I’m very pleased to announce the final line-up for the STARRY RHYMES: 85 YEARS OF ALLEN GINSBERG chapbook, edited by myself and Lovely Boyfriend. It was a damn hard slog, going over and over those 120+ poems, whittling things down to our desired target of “around thirty.” A lot of stuff we really liked had to fall by the wayside — a lot of top-notch established poets were turned away. But we’re confident that we’ve ended up with a really strong, varied clutch of poems from established names and young pretenders alike.

The chapbook will be launched on Friday 3rd June at the Forest Hall (upstairs at the Forest Cafe), Edinburgh. A good number of these fine folks will be performing their works, along with the Ginsberg poems they were inspired by. We’ll be screening some footage of the late, great man himself, and hopefully bringing you some damn good music into the bargain. Keep the date in your diaries — further details will be announced very soon! In the meantime, feast your eyes upon this excellent line-up, and keep a few quid aside to make sure you get your copy of STARRY RHYMES when it appears!

Alec Beattie, who responded to To The Body
Alec Beattie is the Edinburgh-based editor at Duality, a writer and fledgling performance poet.

Kevin Cadwallender, who responded to Improvisation in Beijing
Kevin Cadwallender is a writer who lives in Edinburgh but is a Yakker. His writing has appeared on telly, the radio, the internet, in books, in films, in songs, on tape, CD and DVD. He has a pathological dislike for biographies like this and would prefer not to blow his own trumpet as he is much more at home on the flugelhorn.
He is a vegetarian, atheist, romantic, with GSOH but doesn’t want a date with anyone. He is Red Squirrel Press’s Scottish Editor and had many children all of whom are his.

Michael Conley, who responded to Why Is God Love, Jack?
Michael Conley is a 26-year old schoolteacher from Manchester. He is currently studying part-time for an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. He was selected to read during Season 2 of “Carol Ann Duffy And Friends” at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 2011, and has been published in a variety of magazines an ezines including Cadaverine and Sentinel Literary Quarterly. He was the winner of the 2010 Weasdale Poetry Prize.

Morgan Downie, who responded to The End
Morgan’s first full collection, stone and sea, was published in March 2010. He is a poet, short story writer, artist, and a passionate mountain biker. He has had a varied career in healthcare, and he has written all his life.

Cal Doyle, who responded to Dream Record: June 8, 1955
Cal Doyle is a poet lives in Cork, Ireland. His poetry and criticism has appeared in various small print ‘zines, online publications and is forthcoming in Young and Restless, an anthology of younger poets published by Tumble Press. He can be contacted for work or general banter at cal.doyle@hotmail.com

Sally Evans, who responded to America
Sally Evans is a poet widely published in Scottish and English magazines and has published several books including The Bees, The Honey Seller and Bewick Walks to Scotland. She edits the broadsheet Poetry Scotland and lives in Callander.

Suzannah Evans, who responded to Personals Ad
Suzannah Evans lives in Leeds and likes to travel on foot. She is studying for an MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. She has had poems published in magazines including The Rialto, Iota and Brittle Star. She is poetry editor for Cadaverine, an online magazine for under-25s and runs writing workshops at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery in Leeds.

Eddie Gibbons, who responded to Research
Eddie Gibbons openly admits to being more Ryanair than debonair.
Growing up on a Council Estate in Huyton, Liverpool, he didn’t have neighbours, he had witnesses. Being a Scouser, he had to learn English as a Foreign Language, which made his readings inadvertently entertaining due to his weird pronunciation of werds such as bewk, kewk and kewkbewk. In order to correct his speech defect, he defected to Aberdeen in 1980. That did the trick – he spiks affy fine nou, ken. Eddie works as a Draughtsman in a factory near Dyce airport, for a quick getaway. He’s also written a few poetry books.

Karen Head, who responded to In My Kitchen in New York
Karen Head is the author of Sassing (WordTech Press, 2009), My Paris
Year (All Nations Press, 2008) and Shadow Boxes (All
 Nations Press, 2003). Her poetry appears in a number of national and international journals and anthologies. Her most recent digital project was a collaborative exquisite corpse poem created via Twitter while she stood atop the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square as part of Antony Gormley’s One and Other Project; her poetry project, “Monumental” was detailed in a TIME online mini-documentary. She teaches at Georgia Tech and serves on the Poetry Atlanta Board.

Joe Heap, who responded to Homework
Joe Heap was a Foyle Young Poet in 2004 and won the 2010 Alastair Buchan Prize from the University of Glasgow.

Colin Herd, who responded to Night Gleam
Colin Herd was born in Stirling in 1985, and now lives in Edinburgh. His first collection, “too ok”, was published by BlazeVOX Books in 2011 and a slim chapbook, “like”, by The Knives Forks and Spoons Press in 2010. He reviews regularly, including poetry for Chroma Journal, art for Aesthetica and fiction for 3:AM Magazine. He co-edits “anything anymore anywhere”, a poetry journal and small press.

Ryan Lamon, who responded to Written on a Hotel Napkin: Chicago Futures
You can see more of Ryan Lamon’s poetry at elzorrito.deviantart.com

Melissa Lee-Houghton, who responded to Prophecy
Melissa Lee-Houghton is the author of A Body Made of You published by Penned in the Margins. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in Tears in the Fence, Poetry Salzburg Review, Succour and Magma. She is a regular reviewer for The Short Review.

Matthew MacDonald, who responded to A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley
Matthew Macdonald divides his time between poetry, film-making, becoming an Avenger and finding the time to distill some of the living essence of Neil Gaiman. This is his first submission to a poetry magazine - he blogs occasionally at lastmanstanza-ing.blogspot.com

Aonghas Macneacail, who responded to In back of the real
Award-winning poet in English, Scots and Gaelic, Aonghas MacNeacail reflects that “being Gael rather than gay, I also grew up in a marginalising society. Ginsberg’s exuberantly affirmative defiance provides a wonderfully positive model as well as great poetry.”

Kevin MacNeil, who responded to Howl Part III
Kevin MacNeil is a multi-award-winning writer. A poet, novelist, playwright and cyclist from the Outer Hebrides, he now lives in London. MacNeil has held a number of prestigious international writing residencies and has taught Creative Writing at the universities of Uppsala and Edinburgh. His books include A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde (Polygon), The Stornoway Way (Penguin), Love and Zen in the Outer Hebrides (Canongate) and These Islands, We Sing (Polygon).

Marion McCready, who responded to The Bricklayer’s Lunch Hour
Marion McCready lives in Dunoon, Argyll with her husband and two young children. Calder Wood Press published her debut pamphlet, Vintage Sea, earlier this year.

Alex McDonald, who responded to A Strange New Cottage In Berkeley
Alex MacDonald was born in Essex in 1986 and currently lives and works in London. He runs the blog SelectedPoems and runs the monthly night ‘Selected Poems at the V&A Reading Rooms’ which champions independent poetry publications. His work has been published in Clinic 2, No. Zine, OOXXOO and Talk Dirty to Me.

Colin McGuire, who responded to Howl Part II
A thin 28 year old Glaswegian man, touch giddy in the head, sometimes poet of mangled forms and dirty prose, sporadic drummer, drunken grammarian, waffler, painter using crayons, lover, hater, learner, teacher, pedestrian, provocateur, wanderer, confronter of shadows, irritating whine. ‘Riddled with Errors’ is his first collection of poetry and miniature stories which can be bought from Notes From a Glaswegian Immaturity, where you can also read more of his words and some reviews of other writers. He currently lives in Edinburgh and occassionally can be heard reading in pubs and cafes. Send him love or hate to his email - colmcguire@hotmail.com

Andrew McMillan, who responded to Stanzas: Written at Night in Radio City
Andrew McMillan was born in 1988. His work has appeared widely online and in print and a debut pamphlet, every salt advance, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2009. October 2011 will see the release of a second pamphlet from Red Squirrel and a place in the upcoming Salt Book of Younger Poets.

Dan Mussett, who responded to Hymmnn
Dan Mussett’s poetry has been published by Read This Magazine and was Highly Commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly poetry competition in 2010. His poem “Anonymous” was adapted into a short film for the this collection project.

Stephen Nelson, who responded to Think Tank Rhymes
Stephen Nelson was born in Motherwell, Scotland in 1970. He is the author of Flylyght (Knives, Forks, and Spoons Press) and two chapbooks of visual poetry. He blogs visual poetry and other delights at afterlights.

Kenneth Pobo, who responded to A Supermarket in California
Kenneth Pobo has a new chapbook out from Thunderclap Press called Closer Walks. He teaches creative writing and English at Widener University in Pennsylvania . Catch his radio show, Obscure Oldies, on Saturdays from 6-830pm EST at wdnrfm.com.

Tracey S Rosenberg, who responded to The Lion For Real
Tracey S. Rosenberg was recently awarded a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust. Her debut novel, The Girl in the Bunker, is forthcoming from Cargo Publishing. She has previously published poetry in Chapman, Anon, Poetry Scotland, The Frogmore Papers, and New Writing Scotland. She likes cats of all kinds, not just lions.

Daniel Ryan, who responded to Research
Daniel Ryan was born in London to Irish parents, and he grew up in the Irish countryside. Daniel currently lives in Dublin. He studied Philosophy at Undergraduate level and Journalism at Postgraduate level. Daniel’s twin loves are music and writing. He has been writing poetry since his late teens, and volunteers at the Irish Writers’ Centre in his spare time.

Sarah Stanton, who responded to A Supermarket in California
Sarah Stanton is a birdwatcher, Sinophile, poet, translator and geek. She lives in China but dreams in English.

Sarah Quigley, who responded to Prophecy
Sarah Quigley is a writer, illustrator and graphic designer based in Dublin, Ireland. Her poetry has featured in publications and performances at home and abroad, and recently decorated Dublin’s streets as part of the Upstart project. Sarah has just released her first chapbook The Unfinished House, which she illustrated and hand-bound. Best of all, as co-founder of Milk and Cookie Stories, one of Dublin’s most successful regular arts nights, Sarah has brought cookies and stories to the people of Dublin.

Ryan Van Winkle, who responded to America
Ryan Van Winkle is currently Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library and Edinburgh City Libraries. He runs a monthly “Literary Cabaret” called The Golden Hour and is an Editor at Forest Publications. His work has appeared in New Writing Scotland, The American Poetry Review, AGNI and Northwords Now. In 2010 he won Salt’s Crashaw Prize and his first collection is Tomorrow, We Will Live Here (2010).

Francis Wasser, who responded to America
Born 1988, Dublin, Ireland, Francis Wasser is a Dublin based artist, poet and curator. Wasser is currently studying an MFA in sculpture at the National College of Art and Deign.

Gemma White, who responded to Dream Record: June 8, 1955
Gemma White is a Melbourne-based poet who creates and edits Velour magazine. She has been published in Voiceworks, page seventeen and Visible Ink. She had poetry included in The Green Fuse, The Picaro Poetry Prize’s 2010 publication. Gemma also offers a poetry manuscript feedback service, which allows poets to get constructive criticism on their work at any time of year for a small fee. For more info: http://onlywordsapart.wordpress.com/

Jensen Wilder, who responded to To The Body
Jensen Wilder is 25, he currently lives in the North West in the little seaside town of Meols with two cocker spaniels. He enjoys photography but likes writing better. He has never completed a crossword or won a game of scrabble. Read him at When I Swear, I Censor Myself

Chrissy Williams, who responded to Those Two
Chrissy Williams is the coordinator for the Saison Poetry Library’s magazine digitisation project. She is also Joint Editor of Poetry Digest, the world’s finest edible poetry journal.

ABOUT THE EDITORS

Claire Askew is the founding editor of Read This, a grassroots literary zine which ran from 2007 to 2010. She is also the editor of Read This Press, a poetry micropress which has so far produced two single-poet collections (You Old Soak, 2008 and Sharks Don’t Sleep, 2009), and two anthologies of poetry, Skin Deep: an anthology of poems on tattoos and tattooing (2008) and Masters: Poetry from the University of Edinburgh MSc Creative Writing Class of 2009 (2009). Claire works as a Lecturer at Edinburgh’s Telford College and tutors Creative Writing privately and at the University of Edinburgh, where she is also reading for a PhD. Her own poetry has appeared in Poetry Scotland, The Edinburgh Review and The Guardian, and her first pamphlet collection is The Mermaid and the Sailors (Red Squirrel, 2011). Her nonfiction writing has appeared in The Herald and The Observer. She blogs at onenightstanzas.com and Girlpoems.

Stephen Welsh is a lecturer at Stevenson College Edinburgh, and also works with The Princes Trust in and around Edinburgh. He has a MA in English Literature from the University of St Andrews and has studied Creative Writing with Kathleen Jamie, John Burnside and Douglas Dunn. Stephen is a poet specialising in visual and concrete work. In March 2011, Stephen placed second in the inaugural this collection ‘friendly’ poetry slam. He is currently working on Revolution of the Sun, a current-affairs-meets-vispo project in which he creates one poem every day for a year using newspaper clippings. Revolution of the Sun will eventually become a trilogy of poetry pamphlets, due for publication with Red Squirrel Press in 2011 and 2012. Stephen is also currently working on a short play for the National Theatre of Scotland’s Five Minute Theatre project. He blogs at Concrete Void.

Copies of STARRY RHYMES will be available for pre-order very soon, and the chapbook will be officially launched on Friday 3rd June 2011 — watch this space!

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Call for submissions: ‘Starry Rhymes: 85 Years of Allen Ginsberg’

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

As you may already know, I am a huge Beat Generation enthusiast and I am particularly interested in the poet Allen Ginsberg. Friday 3rd June this year would have been Ginsberg’s 85th birthday, and I would really like to do something to mark the occasion.

Taking inspiration from Rob Mackenzie’s excellent ‘Norman MacCaig at the GRV‘ centenary event, I would like to gather a bunch of poets together who’d be willing to write a poem (of any style, form, and — within reason — length) inspired by Ginsberg. Each poet will be given a different poem by the great man himself, and asked to write a response to that poem (no prior knowledge of Ginsberg’s work required!). The climax of the project will be twofold.

Firstly, I’ll gather together all of the response poems, and publish them in a limited run (probably 100 or 150, depending on the number of poets) of handmade chapbooks (via my Read This Press micropress). Poets involved will each receive one free copy of this publication (entitled Starry Rhymes, after AG’s 1997 poem of the same name).

Secondly, I have booked out the Forest Hall (the space above Edinburgh literary landmark, the Forest Cafe) for the evening of 3rd June for the chapbook launch. I am hoping to screen archive footage of Ginsberg, play some recordings of the great man reading, invite academics and creatives to come and speak about Ginsberg’s life, work and influence, and to host performances by some of the poets whose work appears in the chapbook. There may also be live music/other delights. Poets who read at this event will be able to sell books/CDs/other merch — the event will be free but donations will be requested.

If you would like to be involved in the project, let me know asap by emailing claire@onenightstanzas.com and I will send you your mystery Ginsberg poem to respond to (sorry, I’m making it a rule that you can’t pick your own — otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d get 25 ‘Howl’ responses! But if the poem I choose for you is really not to your taste, let me know). Once responses are in, my editorial team (currently TBC) and I will select the poems that will make it into the chapbook, and let you know asap.

We’re looking for a diverse mix of writers for this project, so we’re happy to hear from spoken word and performance poets, visual and concrete poets and sound poets as well as those who write in more ‘traditional’ forms and styles. All are welcome to submit, so please do get in touch.

Deadline for final submission of responses: Sunday 8th May.

Let me know asap if you’d like to be involved, or if you have any queries! claire@onenightstanzas.com, as always!

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Starving hysterical naked: my thoughts on the HOWL movie

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Howl
If you’ve spent any time at all at this blog, you will know I am a super-massive Allen Ginsberg fan. I first discovered the great man’s work in my third year as an undergrad English Lit student (I know, it took me long enough), and within months had voraciously read enough of his poetry to know that this was what I wanted to write my undergraduate dissertation about. After much deliberation, I decided to focus on the ‘Howl’ obscenity trial, and its still-ongoing repurcussions — at the time, there was much talk of whether or not ‘Howl’ was “a useful text”. My essay discussed whether or not it was, in fact, useful back in 1956, and more importantly, whether or not, and in what ways, it could be seen as useful now.

I was unfortunately limited to a paltry 6,000 words for my undergraduate dissertation — the shortest word limit for such a piece of work that I have ever heard of, in fact. But I was so fascinated by Ginsberg that I read, and have continued to read, far more about his life and works than was necessary for the completion of my essay. I remain fascinated by Ginsberg’s mother, Naomi, who suffered with crippling mental health issues and was institutionalised on and off throughout her life (when he was twelve, young Allen checked his mother into a mental hospital himself following an embarrassing scene in a chemist store; by the time Allen was 21, his father Louis had abandoned Naomi and Allen was forced to sign papers admitting her for full-frontal lobotomy). I made a trip to San Francisco and spent time in North Beach, encountering Lawrence Ferlinghetti, visiting the Beat Museum and hanging out in as many of Ginsberg’s haunts as I could track down. I continue to read everything I can about the great man, as well as collecting Ginsberg memorabilia — I’d rank my signed copies of ‘Howl and Other Poems’ and ‘Wichita Vortex Sutra’ above any of my other possessions, I think.

So when I heard that there was to be a Hollywood film about Allen Ginsberg — and specifically, about the very subject of my dissertation — I was enormously excited. I was also terrified. What if it got things wrong? What if it gave ‘Howl’ the horrible Hollywood treatment and totally warped everything? What if the person they cast as AG gave a dreadful, untrue performance? What if it sucked?

Needless to say, by the time I rocked up to the Filmhouse to buy my ticket on Friday night — the film’s first ever Edinburgh screening — I was a bag of nervous excitement. By now, I’d heard so much hype about the movie. I’d seen the trailer, and clips of James Franco’s performance as Ginsberg, which got me very excited. Franco, it seemed, was a great choice — it was clear from the snippets I saw that he’d totally nailed Ginsberg’s voice (to quote Jack Lemmon, “nobody talks like that”), surely the trickiest part of the role. However, I’d also read a whole plethora of reviews of the movie, and critics seemed to be less than enamoured with it. Reviewers seemed to be queuing up to slag off the animated sequences of the film; others apparently found the whole thing rather tedious or pointless. Mark Kermode, reviewing the movie for the BBC’s ‘Culture Show,’ charitably noted that “someone writing on a typewriter for hours” is difficult to make into “something interesting.” Overall, ‘Howl’ seemed to be receiving a resounding three out of five stars.

However, I needn’t have worried. For me, the film was absolutely, utterly perfect. The only things I can find to criticise are so totally minor that it’s almost ridiculous to even mention them — James Franco’s beard in the 1957 ‘interview’ scenes is rather obviously fake, for example, and some of the music in the animated sections is a little Royksopp-esque, which doesn’t always sit well with the period jazz of the live-action scenes. Otherwise, the movie far surpassed all my most optimistic expectations. It really is bloody brilliant.

I can see why critics don’t get it. What I’d failed to acknowledge as I read reviews of the movie in the Guardian’s film blog and elsewhere was this: probably none of these film critics are Allen Ginsberg enthusiasts. Sure, some will have a working knowledge of who the guy was, one or two may even have read some of his stuff. Chances are, many will be acquainted with him solely thanks to his Wikipedia article. It’s unlikely that many of them really know what the guy was all about. And in that case, I can totally see why they didn’t get it.
This is most definitely a movie for fans — perhaps not just Ginsberg obsessives like myself, but certainly Beat Generation fans. The film kind of assumes that you know the basic Beat story — Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Neal and Carolyn Cassady all feature, but none of them speak throughout the movie. Names that only a fan would know are mentioned briefly in passing — for example, at one point Ginsberg mentions Lucien (Carr, one of the “founder members” of the Beat Generation) — and there are little nods and hints at all sorts of cool stuff that a non-aficionado might miss. For example, the scene that shows Allen sharing a camp bed with Neal Cassady is a close filmic adaptation of the poem “Many Loves,’ a poetic recollection of the event written by Ginsberg in August 1956. So many of the scenes in the film looked familiar, because they were designed to mimic real photos taken of (and by) Ginsberg at the time. Finally, much of the dialogue is lifted verbatim from interviews given by Ginsberg, from his Journals: Early Fifties Early Sixties, and from the obscenity trial’s court transcripts. Something I couldn’t get over was the total lack of Hollywood-treatment. The film is an astonishingly accurate record.

And James Franco is a triumph. He truly captures the highly complex animal that was Allen Ginsberg. He is at once arrogant and bashful, at once flippant and sincere, at once tortured and carefree. As I mentioned earlier, his command of Ginsberg’s vocal tone and intonation is masterful — I grinned from ear to ear the first time he said the word ‘poetry’, using AG’s classic pronounciation: poet-ree. The performance really shines in the Six Gallery scenes — it is clear that Franco has studied the film and audio recordings from this event in depth, and that he took delight in re-enacting them. The moment in the 1957 interview when Franco’s Ginsberg is asked to speak about his mother’s illness had me in bits; the final scene, in which Franco/Ginsberg (he really does become AG) recites ‘Footnote to Howl,’ was just brilliant. And I loved the animation, too. It was utterly, utterly strange — dark, silly, surreal. But it really fit, not only with the poetry, but with the bigger ideas behind it. This is the depiction of a long, deep, dangerous and self-destructive drug trip; it is also a mental institution hallucination. It’s damn weird, but that’s surely a necessity. It works.

This film took all my most hopeful expectations and hit them for six. It really is fantastic — and although I’m in no real place to speculate, I’m going to say it anyway: I think Ginsberg would have bloody loved it. Sure, he never much liked to be in the spotlight — in an ideal world he would probably have preferred a movie about Cassady or Kerouac or Burroughs in which he was only a minor character (as the first Beat to gain widespread notoriety in the mid 1950s — pretty much as a result of the ‘Howl’ trial — Ginsberg threw far more of his energy into using his fame to throw opportunities in the direction of his fellow Beats than he ever did into promoting himself). But I think he’d have approved of this movie’s warmth, its wackiness and it’s honesty. I certainly did. Go and see it already.

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Morden Tower

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

ABOVE: Allen Ginsberg at Morden Tower with Basil Bunting and Tom Pickard in 1965 (AG’s account here).

BELOW: Me at Morden Tower with Kevin Cadwallender, September 2010.

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