Still Howling: Manchester event to celebrate epic poem
The 60th anniversary of the first reading of Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem ‘Howl’ is to be celebrated in Manchester with a day of poetry, music, art and discussions. Still Howling will be staged at the Wonder Inn in Manchester from 2-11pm on 10 October, and will include those with strong connections to Ginsberg, who died in 1997. His biographer Barry Miles and British poet Michael Horovitz knew the US writer well and both played a part in the legendary International Poetry Incarnation at the Royal Albert Hall in 1965, when Ginsberg headlined. Horovitz masterminded an event celebrating the Albert Hall event at the Roundhouse earlier this year.
Also contributing will be Steven Taylor, Ginsberg’s guitarist over the last 20 years of his life. New York-based Taylor was born in and grew up in Manchester before moving with his family to the US in the mid-1960s. He will collaborate with Horovitz, perform a solo set and give a British premiere to his short choral work, Footnote to Howl.
In October 1955, in San Francisco, Ginsberg stepped up to read at an event organised at the Six Gallery, a reclaimed workshop resurrected as a space where artists and other members of the city’s bohemian community could meet and present their work. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the Bay Area’s City Lights bookshop and press, invited him almost immediately to publish the poem with him and, a year later, it would appear in print. A year later a censorship trial, concerned with the provocative language that peppered the poem, would catapult ‘Howl’ into the international headlines and, after it was deemed not obscene, turn Ginsberg into the most widely reported poet on the planet.
Still Howling has been organised by Simon Warner, lecturer on popular music at Leeds University, and Manchester-based artist Roger Bygott. It will take place in a recently re-opened, post-industrial building, revived as a performance venue, echoing the spirit of the original Six Gallery venture all those decades ago.
The evening event, to be MC’d by CP Lee, will climax with a performance of ‘Howl’ by the British actor George Hunt. Ten years ago, as a recent graduate, Hunt delivered the poem at Howl for Now, a 50th anniversary event in Leeds. A decade on, he will reprise that reading in Manchester.
An exhibition of art linked to the event will also be on show – ‘Howl’-related works by UK painter J. Michael Anderson, including the striking signature piece Red Ginsberg created exclusively for Still Howling, and print pieces by Roger Bygott.
ILLUSTRATION: ‘RED GINSBERG’ BY J MICHAEL ANDERSON