Prominent Beat poet Allen Ginsberg has been quiet of late. His death in 1997 hasn’t helped. However, despite still being deceased, his popularity is due to soar again for two reasons.
Firstly, a selection of his best photography is due to go on display at London’s National Theatre from 24 January. But, even more high-profile is Howl — a film telling the story of the writer’s life during the Forties and Fifties starring Pineapple Express’s James Franco.
The film, named after Ginsberg’s most famous work, focuses on the debut performance of the autobiographical poem Howl in 1955 — the first exposure the public had to the Beat Generation, which counted Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs among its players.
The poem attracted publicity for being “filthy, vulgar, obscene” due to its depiction of both heterosexual and homosexual sex (the latter of which was still illegal across the US), and including “disgusting language” such as… well, actually it’s still not suitable for these pages.
Meanwhile, the exhibition, Angelheaded Hipsters, traces Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs’ early working lives together, then follows Ginsberg’s later career. And what a career. It involves Vietnam War protests, LSD-induced hallucinations and unlikely unions with Hell’s Angels and communists. Which is a great deal more interesting than the life stories of most writers.
Howl is at cinemas from 25 February
(Image: Rex Features)