Bay Area Writers React to the Movie Howl

Great roundtable discussion on Howl after a Berkeley screening last weekend, with Brenda Knight, Suzi Olmsted, Marc Olmsted, Gerald Nicosia, Nick Mamatas, Seth Harwood, and hosted by East Bay Literary Examiner’s Tony R. Rodriguez. A lively conversation with fantastic insights all in all but we do have to note that we’re a bit perplexed with Nicosia’s allegation that Peter was “locked up in Vermont by some lawyer.” It’s a little unclear how he’s so certain that that’s the case, since, as far as we know, he himself never spent any time up there in St.Johnsbury with Peter. So it goes…


“We all came from different parts of the Bay Area, each of us a writer with a keen interest in seeing the premiere of Howl, a film addressing the “obscenity trial” surrounding the controversial poetic offerings of Allen Ginsberg, one of the architects who helped launch what would later be called Beat Literature. Our rendezvous point was the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley, just near the lively corner of College and Ashby. At just about 4:15 on this recent Friday afternoon our small band of Bay Area writers snuggled ourselves inside this hospitable theater that many regard to be Berkeley’s finest cinematic venue. Gathered with eager smiles were: Seth Harwood, action writer of impressive talent, who authored Jack Wakes Up; Brenda Knight, poetry scholar and author of the exceptional book Women of the Beat Generation; Nick Mamatas, gifted neo-Beat writer of You Might Sleep … Gerald Nicosia, Beat historian and acclaimed biographer of Jack Kerouac, who penned the most important life history on Kerouac with his book Memory Babe; Marc Olmsted, student of Allen Ginsberg and writer of What Use Am I a Hungry Ghost?, which contains an introduction by Ginsberg himself; and Marc’s wife, writer and artist Suzi Olmsted….

[2012 update – the rest of the article is, regretfully, no longer available]

And (as addenda), a glowing review of the film by Michael Ordona  in the LA Times –  Just the kind we like!

One comment

  1. This is Gerald Nicosia speaking. I had many telephone conversations with Peter in the last couple of years of his life. I got his number thru our mutual friend Janine Pommy Vega. In 2005 I was putting on a big reading/event at the SF Public Library Koret Auditorium to honor the 50th anniversary of the first HOWL reading at the Six Gallery. Peter wanted to come to SF and to take part in the event. I dearly wanted to have him there. The Friends of the SF Public Library offered to pay his way from Vermont. I then received a very harsh telephone call from "the lawyer," I forget his name, who told me he was empowered to keep Peter in St. Johnsbury, against his will if necessary, and threatening me with legal action if I continued to try to arrange to bring Peter to SF. I subsequently told Peter about this conversation, the fact that I was being legally forbidden from bringing him to SF, and he was in tears over the fact that he was not being allowed to join us. The ostensible reason was that he "was not well enough to travel," but one would think Peter should have been allowed to make that decision by himself. And how can we justify Allen getting Peter declared incompetent, so that we was no longer his own person? As a matter of fact, Allen tried to get Corso committed to a mental hospital, but he could not get enough other signatures to make it happen. There are witnesses in SF to this, including Neeli Cherkovski. Best,
    Gerry Nicosia

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