"All these books are published in Heaven."
In 1955 Allen Ginsberg composed an innovative poem in Berkeley, California entitled "Howl". Its opening lines, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by/ madness, starving hysterical naked,/ dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn/ looking for an angry fix," are well-known and oft-quoted. The words speak evocatively and powerfully to the terrible political and social dilemmas of postwar America, those facing the younger generation in particular.
Ginsberg and his contemporaries Jack Kerouac (On the Road) and William S. Burroughs (Junkie) became icons of the Beat generation, and later, venerated figures in the burgeoning "counter-culture" of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were painted as rebels who had done what they pleased in the repressed, monolithically conservative era known as the Eisenhower years.
Howl, the recent film adaptation by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, is a non-linear work composed of three central elements: a black-and-white recreation of the poem's debut at the Six Gallery in San Francisco on October 7, 1955; a reenactment of the subsequent obscenity trial involving poet and editor Lawrence Ferlinghetti who published the poem; and flashbacks to the writing process that produced the poem, with Ginsberg speaking to an unseen interviewer.