If the Dead Kennedy’s was the soundtrack for my pathetic attempts at rebellion from that time period of awkward outcast teenager to awkward outcast adult, then Allen Ginsberg was the dialogue. Not able to express the tumultuous times and feelings in my head, I’d blast Dead Kennedy’s and read Ginsberg, pretending someone was reflecting back to me.
At first the attraction to Ginsberg was all about filth and obscenity. Of throwing abhorrent sexuality into the faces of others and saying see it and I exist. But as I matured, the poems became deeper or at least my understanding did and I still shiver whenever I hear the first words of Howl. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix…”
This movie reflects on three things, the man, the poem, the public reaction. The man Allen Ginsberg (James Franco) is shown delivering his famous poem as well as being interviewed in 1958 about his work. The poem, Howl, is not only read by Ginsberg but is also presented in animated form spliced throughout the movie. Lastly the public reaction is show through the obscenity trial of the publisher of Ginsberg’s book Howl and Other Poems in 1957.
We learn of the people who are named in the poem, how Ginsberg felt about them, what the story was. We see the events that also influenced Ginsberg to write poetry and ultimately write this piece. We also hear the debate over what is obscene and more importantly what is considered literature or of literary significance.
I think how it’s presented was very important in helping people begin to understand a very in-depth and non-traditional poem. I felt I got a greater understanding from it even though I’ve read the poem several times in my life.