WEIRDLAND: Howl, beatnik counter-culture

Monday, April 27, 2009

Howl, beatnik counter-culture

"These three authors [Ginsberg, Keruoac and Burroughs], like most of us in college, wanted to change the world and start a revolution. And then, they actually did it. They started a counter-culture revolution that started in the clean-cut Eisenhower era of the 50’s, persisted through the peace movement of the 60’s, then were appropriated by the punk rock uprising of the 70’s and their legend continues even today. And I remember hearing in college that Kurt Cobain used to have Burroughs come over and recite spoken-word vocals over his guitar solos.
AE: What’s your take on the "Howl" film being made with James Franco as Ginsberg. Are you concerned about comparisons? This isn't Capote vs. Infamous all over again, is it?
JK: I think our two films will complement each other beautifully. Kill Your Darlings is the dramatic story of three young artists struggling to find their voice and Howl is an cinematic exploration of one of their poems almost 15 years later.
AE: Most folks know Ginsberg was gay, but what's the deal with Kerouac? Were he and Ginsberg lovers?
JK: I soooo cannot answer that question. There are so many competing accounts in various biographies debating Kerouac's sexuality, I wouldn’t even dare to suggest to know the answer. However, the movie takes place during their university years, and all I can say, is that like most college students, the characters in the movie are just discovering their sexuality, and perhaps would be inclined to be more experimental in these few years than during other periods of their lives". 

"I think there was one slight shade of error in describing the Beat movement as primarly a protest movement. That was the thing that Kerouac was always complaining about. He felt the literary aspect or the spiritual aspect or the emotional aspect was not so much protest at all, but a declaration of unconditioned mind beyond protest, beyond resentment, beyond loser, beyond winner--way beyond winner--beyond winner or loser...but the basic thing that I understood and dug Jack for was unconditioned mind, negative capability, totally open mind--beyond victory or defeat.
Ironically, Ginsberg was very insecure about Howl, and he questioned the big fuss over it. "There shouldn't be a trial over this poem," he once lamented. In fact, a biography of Allen Ginsberg--American Scream by Jonah Raskin--has a surprising revelation:

"In the mid-1970s, in the midst of the counterculture he had helped to create, he promised to rewrite Howl. Now that he was a hippie minstrel and a Pied Piper for the generation that advocated peace and love he would alter Howl, he said, so that it might reflect the euphoria of the hippies. He would include a 'positive redemptive catalogue,' he said."

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