Ginsberg Goes to Hollywood

Eric Drooker's Artwork From the New Film of Howl

Poet, activist and chronicler of the Beat generation, Allen Ginsberg was 29 in the fall of 1955 when he gave the first reading of his masterpiece Howl, at the Six Gallery on Filmore Street in San Francisco. With its exploration of drugs, sex, religion and race, references to Ginsberg’s bohemian circle of friends (including Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and William Burroughs) and jazz-inflected rhythm, it became the groundbreaking cornerstone of the Beat movement and a countercultural anthem. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a poet, and the owner of the City Lights book store, happened to be in the audience that night and offered to publish the New Jersey-born poet via his City Lights Press. It lead to Ferlinghetti’s arrest for obscenity (after a copy of Howl was purchased at his store by undercover police) and a landmark trial followed, recreated this year by the new, Sundance-approved film Howl. Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and executive produced by Gus Van Sant, it follows the young Ginsberg though the writing of Howl and the later court case, based on the original transcripts. Actor James Franco, who first achieved notoriety in the Spider-Man films, and more recently starred in Gus Van Sant’s Milk (as well as TV soap General Hospital, as a piece of “performance art”), plays the young, bespectacled Ginsberg in the days when he haunted coffee shops with pen and paper, before growing into the bearded mentor to the peace-and-love generation. It was while the filmmakers were researching Howl, that they came across a book of Eric Drooker’s artwork. The graphic novelist and long-time illustrator for the likes of The New Yorker collaborated with Ginsberg many times, and was asked to animate sections of Howl for the film. Drooker releases his graphic novel, Howl—which we exclusively preview today—on the 31st August, while Howl the film gets a release on September 24th. Read our interview with Drooker about both here.

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