“Howl” (for Carl Solomon) – It’s a good time to listen to Allen’s great prophetic groundbreaking poem. (It’s always a good time to listen to Allen’s great prophetic groundbreaking poem!). Unfortunately, no audio exists of the very first rendition, October 7, 1965, in San Francisco, at the Six Gallery, but we do have, courtesy of John Suiter, who discovered it in 2008 in Portland’s Reed College archives, a recording made on February 14, 1956. only a few months later (Allen read on that occasion with Reed alumnae, Gary Snyder, to, as one eye-witness remembers it, a small group, “not twenty people there”, “maybe half a dozen” people).
As one commentator has described the reading – He reads ” not with the cadences of a street preacher or jazzman—both of which he had in his repertoire—but in an almost robotic monotone with an undertone of manic urgency”
and Ginsberg biographer, Barry Miles, writing in The Guardian at the time of Suiter’s discovery :
“He would later give very dramatic renditions of the poem, becoming overwrought and playing up its emotional intensity, but here he is relatively subdued. His voice rises in some sections and the repetitive jazz-solo structure determines his phrasing and breath-length, but he actually sounds quite tired.. after the first few stanzas. Eventually, indeed, he gives up, saying: “I don’t really feel like reading any more. I just sorta’ haven’t got any kind of steam.”…Nonetheless, it is still a powerful performance.”
Fast forward to 2020 and Gary Rees has just released his recordings made of “Howl” (over music he wrote to accompany the poem), “in six episodes” – Check it out, all six now available on You Tube – here
Tomorrow, it should be pointed out, (“this day in history”), is the anniversary of Howl verdict. We salute a great prophetic moment and a great moment in freedom of speech.
Speaking of historic trials, we mentioned last week Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming Netflix movie (currently on theatrical release) on the 1968 Chicago Conspiracy Trial – Reviews of “The Trial of the Chicago 7” continue, surprisingly positive.
Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post: “Briskly paced, bristling with Sorkin’s distinctive verbal fusillades, seamlessly blending conventional courtroom procedural with protest reenactments and documentary footage .. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” offers an absorbing primer in a chapter of American history that was both bizarre and ruefully meaningful. The fact that it’s also a showcase for some of the most dazzling performances on screen this year elevates it beyond mere history lesson and into something far more animated, exciting and viscerally entertaining.”
Stephanie Zacharek in (of all places!) Time magazine: “Even if you already know the basic story of the Chicago Seven, Sorkin’s movie is so richly layered with detail that you’ll surely find something new….The Trial of the Chicago 7 reminds us of the chant that arose from the Chicago protestors as the police descended upon them with batons and, some sources have indicated, gloved fists fortified with metal – “The whole world is watching.” At what point do you look away? The Trial of the Chicago 7 details events that happened more than 50 years ago. The time to look away is never”.
Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun Times – “This is not a documentary; it’s a dramatization of events that resonates with great power while containing essential truths, and it’s one of the best movies of the year.”
For a full range of responses – See here
It’s the anniversary of the death of Marcel Duchamp today. Thinking of you, Marcel Duchamp