Category Archives: James Franco



“Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgement! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!” – “Beat poet Allen Ginsberg had seen it all coming to an America enthralled to the idol of consumerism that he called..Moloch (after Moloch, or Molech, the all-consuming Canaanite fire god)” – The visionary litany (of “Howl part II”) continues to make sense, half a century (and more) on.

Here’s Moloch envisioned by Eric Drooker (the reading is of course by James Franco):

Here’s Moloch illustrated by Lynd Ward (an artist very much on Allen’s mind at the time of composition). “Lynd Ward’s images of the solitary artist dwarfed by the canyons of a Wall Street Megalopolis lay shadowed behind my own vision of Moloch”, he writes (in the 1996 introduction to Drooker’s edition of his Illuminated Poems). For more on Ward’s work, see Art Spiegelman’s essay on him here.

And here‘s a video of Allen reading the Moloch section (in Prague, in 1996, we think). Note him blowing his nose and wiping his glasses and then gathering up the momentum, barely missing a beat!

There are, of course, several other recordings (both audio and visual) of Allen reading this seminal poem ( and this seminal section of the poem) – to begin with this and this. For more details, check out our Howl pages on Allen Ginsberg dot org. (here, and, for a gathering of miscellaneous written materials on the poem, see here).

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Eric Drooker, Howl, James Franco, Lynd Ward, Moloch

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 19


So, more On The Road movie updates. It seems now almost certain that the movie will have a Fall 2011/early 2012 debut, not a Cannes May 2011 unveiling, as had first been thought. Similarly, director Walter Salles’ original vision of a film solely in black-and-white, something, according to indieWIRE, he had “valiantly campaigned for”, seems to have been jettisoned for a full-color movie. Jose Rivera, the screenwriter, let slip on Canadian television, shortly after the wrap-up in shooting, at the end of last year, that, “there’s a lot of the original book still in the screenplay, still in the film”, “but also I brought in lots of other things, like there’s a lot of poems of Ginsberg (sic), there’s material from Bill Burroughs, there’s stuff from Neal Cassady..” Rivera’s is far from the only hand: “Before I got involved there were at least eight different screenwriters involved in On The Road including Francis Ford Coppola.. and Francis’ son Roman Coppola also wrote drafts.. ”Rivera tells City tv. The full interview can be seen again here.

Meanwhile, over at NYU – “James Franco To Teach Class At NYU” – “This year’s Academy Awards co-host will offer a third-year graduate class on adapting poetry into short films at the Tisch School of the Arts”, the Hollywood Reporter reports.

So there’s the movies and there’s the real world. Poet Tom Clark has always been firmly located in the latter. Beyond the Pale (sic), his unique and extraordinary blog, juxtaposes carefully selected and always stunning visual imagery with equally carefully chosen and always provocative poetry texts (refreshed and renewed every night). Of late, he’s been following the on-going horrors in Japan with a typically unflinching eye. In this post here, he “illustrates” Allen’s “Plutonian Ode”.

Remember the Allen tattoo ? – Well, here’s another one.

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Filed under James Franco, Jose Rivera, On The Road, Tattoo, Tom Clark, Walter Salles

>Allen and m(e)


[Allen Ginsberg, Peter Hale, Chris Ide at Naropa, July 4 picnic, Boulder, CO 1986. photo c. Steve Miles]
Speaking of Allen encounters, and we were. Here’s Peter Hale’s recollection of his first-meeting with Allen:

“I was a student at Naropa Institute in Boulder Colorado taking classes at their summer writing program in 1985. I was more a fan of (William) Burroughs at the time and knew very little about Allen. I was stopping by Burroughs’ summer apartment (as one could do, those days at Naropa) and had just missed him, but Allen was there cleaning up the place. We’d met a few times before, but this time I had him alone! Since he had quite a reputation around Boulder for always being on the make, I feared I might be warding him off but instead, since I’d read little poetry, he sat me down and gave me a reading list and suggested I sit in on his classes.

A few weeks later we did e (ecstacy) together. Gregory Corso had given Allen some, and it was just about to be made illegal here in the States. Allen had a little left and suggested we try it. He always started any drug, especially psychedelic/psychotropic type with 45 minutes of sitting meditation, Zen style. He definitely did not take this sort of thing lightly. Sitting next to old bard, Allen Ginsberg on the meditation cushion when the e kicks in about twenty minutes in, now that’s a life-changing moment! Allen was confused as to why it was called “ecstacy”, and insisted “empathy” more accurate.

It is also worth checking out the rest of the interview (about the Howl movie and more) at Dazed Digital

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Beats, Drugs, Howl, James Franco, Naropa, Peter Hale

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 15


Howl (more reviews)

Howl’s opening in the UK, as when it opened in the US, has elicited rave reviews. As with any ambitious and challenging work, however, it has also received a few put-down’s. For those of you who want to get an exhaustive (and exhausting!) over-view of all the reviews so far, we would direct you to the movie-review site, Rotten Tomatoes (which was listing, when last we looked, 93 of them!). Interestingly, the response to the film has been almost 50/50, split down the middle, those giving thumbs-up, and those having reservations. Here at the Ginsberg blog, lest we get criticized for being merely hagiographers, (sic), are a few “unsatisfied customers” (are we masochists or what?). Philip French, for example, in last week’s (London) Observer writes:

“Howl was one of the first books I bought in America on arrival there as a graduate student in 1957. Not long after the trial I spent some time in san Francisco, where columnist Herb Caen had just coined the term “beatnik”, and I can’t think of the late 50s without lines from Ginsberg’s liberating poem coming to mind. I also recall a 1958 New Yorker cartoon depicting an eager society hostess standing beside a scruffy, bearded young man in T-shirt and jeans at a cocktail party. A frosty, neatly attired literary intellectual is saying to her: “No, Madam, I do not want to meet a spokesman for the Beat Generation””

Well, if you don’t want to know, then I guess there isn’t any reason in continuing.

Sukhdev Sandhu in the Daily Telegraph is more curt (and more interestingly provocative):

“Every frame of this ambitious and sometimes fascinating film is visually striking. But it feels too celebratory, too triumphant: it captures Howl’s joy, but not enough of its terrors”.

The Irish press voiced similar ambivalences. “Howl is a bit of a mess, and a pretentious one too” ( Pretentious?), writes Paul Whitington in the Irish Independent, tho’ Tara Brady, in the Irish Times, calls it “a tremendous new film..quite unlike any of the many adaptations, biopics, documentaries and lo-fi portraits that have gone before. The premise is simple yet quietly bold: Howl is a film of the poem”

Eamon McCann in the Irish Telegraph, keeping the focus on the poem, takes it one step further

“I came back to Allen Ginsberg’s poem about 10 years ago, nervously. I’d put it away 30 or more years back, hadn’t read or recited it since. I remembered that I’d believed it then not only brilliant, but a tremendously significant literary work that everyone must immediately be alerted to for urgent edification of their souls.(I thought I might well be disappointed) But Howl was a revelation all over again.”

Remembering (Personal Encounters)

Last week’s Guardian article, and indeed the whole Howl film phenomena in general, has elicited a number of personal recollections. Here’s New Mexican poet Bill Pearlman, from his blog, Rough Road Review:

“Read from my work at our PEN Writers Aloud and read a little from each book. At Santa Ana Cafe afterward, somebody asked me where I would start getting acquainted with modern poetry and I recommended Donald Allen’s New American Poetry anthology. I talked of Ginsberg’s wonderful hallucinogen-inspired poem ‘Wales Visitation’ after commenting on some of my own attempts in that realm. Allen’s reading in 1967 at UNM when my community was being formed in the wreckage of the Vietnam catastrophe and our desire to get back to the land and make something with an upsurge of new and poetical energy was pivotal. Allen, as Anne (Waldman) writes (in The Guardian piece), had this amazing capacity to connect with people. I think he was a missionary in a sense, similar to what Ram Dass has become, and he changed lives, my own included. The last time I saw him we all gathered at Vesuvio’s next to City Lights and Jack Hirschman was there, and Peter O(rlovsky), and several poets from the Bay Area. I remember buying Allen a beer and Jack Hirschman) read a poem and Allen was quiet but still the center of the gathering. I read once at Naropa in ’77 and was grateful that Allen came to the reading and gave me the thumbs up.”

And here’s Milwaukee resident, John Eklund (from On – warning: only peripheral Allen content!)

William Honey (we’re cheating a bit with this one too, it dates from 2005) testifies (as do so many) to Allen’s incredible generosity, reading with him on a memorable occasion in Paris at George Whitman’s Shakespeare & Co bookstore (“..what George had forgot to tell me was that Allen Ginsberg was featured poet for the evening..!)

Recitation (A Supermarket in California)

From a report on the blog of the Denver Westword, March 1st, reporting on the local Poetry Out Loud state finals:

“Quinita Thomas of the Colorado School for the Blind knocked “em dead with her rendition of Allen Ginsberg wandering the aisles of a California supermarket and bumping into his spirit guide: “I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eying the grocery boys”.

Seems Allen’s poem is quite the hit in this NEA/Poetry Foundation joint-endeavor to “encourage the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation”. Here‘s Emmanuel Waddell, Alabama winner, reading the same work (“A Supermarket in California”) . And here‘s California’s own Giovanni Espinosa in 2010. And here’s Allen himself reading the poem (“What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman..”)

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, B, Bill Pearlman, Eamon McCann, Howl, James Franco, Jeffrey Friedman, John Eklund, Paul Whitington, Philip French, Rob Epstein, Sukhdev Sandhu, Tara Brady, William Honey

>James Franco/Allen Ginsberg


Regina Weinreich in the Huffington Post (via her arts blog Gossip Central) has it right, speaking of the zeitgeist, Allen is pretty ubiquitous at the moment. Who would have thought?, Allen at the Oscars!. Well, not Allen exactly, but James Franco, who so remarkably “has him down” in the film role and is co-hosting the Oscar ceremonies tonight. Here’s he and Jon Hamm talking about the (Howl) film last year at the Sundance Film Festival

Franco was, interestingly, interviewed, not only about this role, but also about his upcoming role as another great modernist poet, Hart Crane, this weekend in the LA Times.

There’s another interesting interview with Franco on line at The Jewish Chronicle

And regarding Howl, we really would be remiss if we didn’t alert you to this – ID’s interview with our very own Peter Hale

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Hart Crane, Howl, James Franco, Oscars, Peter Hale, Regina Weinreich

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 14


Howl in England

Following up from our notices last week, here’s more English press coverage related to this Friday (today’s) UK opening of Howl. Mick Brown, in The Telegraph, gives the basic background in How I Scribbled Magic Lines From My Real Mind”. Andrew Lowry, in the blog for the same paper, provocatively heads his report “The Beats Were Self-Indulgent Poseurs But The New Ginsberg Film Is Definitely Worth Seeing”. John Patterson in The Guardian points out that The Beats Have Had A Bad Rap But Howl Lets Their Words Speak For Themselves”“Howl, first the poem, now the movie, gives back all power to the words themselves; made to be spoken, scatted, screamed, intoned or sung”. And here’s Tom Huddleston in Time Out – “There’s no denying that this is a bold, inspiring piece of work, putting experimental techniques in the service of a heartfelt, insightful and surprisingly audience-friendly work of art”

Interviews with the film-makers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman about the film can be found here, here and here.

Janine Pommy Vega

We noted in passing and with sadness, this past December, the death of the great poet/bard Janine Pommy Vega and drew your attention to the Woodstock Times obit and to Anne Waldman’s memoir (and here’s a couple of other obituaries (Ken Hunt, writing in The Independent, and an unsigned one from (London’s) Daily Telegraph). This past Sunday friends gathered at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock to salute and pay respects to her, and this coming Sunday (the 27th), it will happen again, this time in New York. The Bowery Poetry Club and The St Mark’s Poetry Project are co-sponsoring “A Praise-Day for Janine Pommy Vega”. The reading/tribute (featuring Andy Clausen, Bob Holman, John Giorno, Anne Waldman, Hettie Jones and others) will take place at the Bowery Poetry Club, starting at 1 o’clock. As with last weekend, the event will also include a video presentation – a screening of Kurt Hemmer’s “As We Cover The Streets” featuring mesmerizing performance footage of Janine.

Speaking of mesmerizing footage, here’s Janine’s long-time friend and companion Andy Clausen in their home in Willow, New York, remembering her and reading her poem “Wartime Kitchen”

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Filed under Andrew Lowry, Andy Clausen, Howl, James Franco, Janine Pommy Vega, Jeffrey Friedman, John Patterson, Kurt Hemmer, Mick Brown, Rob Epstein, Tim Huddleston

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 13


Lawrence Ferlinghetti after winning the "Howl" trial. Chr... BOB CAMPBELL / STAFF
(Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1957, after winning the Howl trial – photo by Bob Campbell)
Howl Movie Opening in England

In advance of next week’s UK opening at London’s Curzon cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue, James Campbell has a review in The Guardian – “Howl At The Movies – Is the new film about Allen Ginsberg and the Howl obscenity trial a little too sane?” (Well, we, of course, would say no!).

“I once filmed the middle-aged Ginsberg reading “Howl” to an audience of professors at a literary conference in New York. It was about as wild as a Women’s Institute evening.”, writes The Independents Kevin Jackson, (we think, he’s being tongue-in-cheek here)

His “elegy for the tragic history of poetry on film”, usefully places the Howl movie in a much wider filmic context.

Matthew Sweet will be discussing the film on BBC Radio 3’s Night Waves this upcoming Tuesday night. Tune in if you can.

Meanwhile the reviews continue to roll in (and of the DVD too….

Photographs and Description of the photographs also. This, from England’s Creative Review (with – “the beat goes on” – a not-so-creative sub-header! – “the beat goes on”! – When will editors finally put that tiresome cliché to rest!)

not that we’re suggesting the Boulder Weekly’s “Babes, booze and Buddhism” is much of an improvement! Adam Perry reviews Johanna Demetrakas’ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche documentary (noted here last week) under that lead.

There is also a Variety review of the film here

A new notice/review of Allen’s New York photo show at the Howard Greenberg Gallery may be found here


Producer Hal Willner will be joining Philip Glass (“Hal Willner reads poetry by Allen Ginsberg accompanied by the solo piano of Philip Glass”) in a performance at John Zorn’s East Village (New York City) music venue, The Stone on Feb 22 (this Tuesday),

Michael Browns 2009 composition for cello and piano. Five A.M. “after Allen Ginsberg (after Allen’s poem of the same title), recorded at the Rose Studio at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center can be seen in performance and accessed here

“Drunk Chicken / America, Allen’s collaboration with U2 (previously only available on the 2007 Remastered Deluxe Version of their album, The Joshua Tree, is now being included in a brand-new U2 Collection, Duals – regrettably, a fan-club-only CD

“A Western Ballad”, another interpretation, of, this time, a very early poem of Allen’s, (by singer-songwriter Shannon McNally, announced as the title-track of her newest recording from Sacred Sumac Records), has been temporarily delayed, but will be available and in the stores March 22nd (Allen collaborated with arranger Mark Bingham on a new arrangement of this piece in the late 1980’s. Bingham waited till he had the right singer, Shannon McNally, to record it)

Small World

Finally, spare a thought for Mark Heck (yes, that’s his name!) and his shot for eternity through Allen! (story courtesy the Syracuse Post-Standard)

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Filed under Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Hal Willner, Howl, James Campbell, James Franco, Jeffrey Friedman, Johanna Demetrakas, Kevin Jackson, Mark Heck, Matthew Sweet, Michael Brown, Shannon McNally, U2