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

One comment

  1. I have finally seen "Howl" and I wondered why Shig Maurao was missing – in the photographs of the trial I have seen he is sitting next to Ferlinghetti – weird. Anyway, I enjoyed the film. It is great that it is a film about the poem, I just wished that the animation shared the rest of the films aesthetic more. But it was certainly worth seeing!

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