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Beat Epic: Allen Ginsberg's "Howl"

We talk with the directors of a new film celebrating Allen Ginsberg’s epic beat generation poem “Howl.”

A crowd listens to Allen Ginsberg give a reading of uncensored poetry at New York City's Washinton Square park, 1966. (AP)

Poet-rebel Allen Ginsberg wrote “Howl” in the heart of the 1950s, but his epic poem was anything but “Happy Days” and hot cars. It was a long, free, wild cry of the heart that broke open the Beat Generation and ended up in court on obscenity charges. 

The case drew new boundaries for freedom of speech in America. The poem drew new boundaries for life, wide open boundaries. 

A new film, “Howl”, brings back the poet, the era and the epic court battle. We speak with directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, on Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and their own.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, writers, directors, and producers new film “Howl.” They are both recipients of Academy Awards and Emmy Awards. Epstein previously directed “The Times of Harvey Milk.”

John Tytell, a scholar of Beat Generation literature who has has taught at Queens College for more than 35 years. His books include “Naked Angels: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs” and “Paradise Outlaws: Remembering the Beats.” Read his recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education “Howl’s Echoes.”

Read the full text of “Howl” and see the trailer for the new film:

Below are some pictures of the real-life Ginsberg:

Allen Ginsberg at a protest rally in Berkley, Ca., 1965. (AP)

From left to right: Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, mid-1950s (John Cohen/Hulton Archive)

Allen Ginsberg, left, and writer William Burroughs (AP)

Allen Ginsberg, left, and Rev. Ralph David Abernathy in Miami Beach Fla. where they stayed in tents during the Democratic National Convention in July 1972. (AP)

Poet Allen Ginsberg reads his poem "Howl" outside the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, 1994. (AP)

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