Over sixty people were unable to get seats to the "HOWL" film in Milwaukee Wednesday night. The sold-out event was filled to capacity with people who enjoyed a special advanced screening of the feature film about Allen Ginsberg’s poem and obscenity trial.
“The movie was an excellent blend of a depiction of the trial, an interview with Ginsberg as a monologue by Franco, and a staging of the first public reading of the poem,” said ACLU of Wisconsin staffer Marion Ecks. “I liked how it combined animation and film in a creative and moving way. The cast did an excellent job and Franco really captured Ginsburg’s manners and voice.”
The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation co-presented the event along with the Woodland Pattern Book Center, the Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival and the UW-Milwaukee Libraries. ACLU staff and volunteers were on hand to meet fellow card-carrying members (who got a discounted ticket price) and give updates about our activities in the state. We met librarians, faculty, activists and local politicians who seemed to all have a story to share about a beloved, challenged book or a civil liberties issue they cared about.
“It was a bit of a love fest for literary folks, book lovers, poets, Beat fans and libertarians,” said staffer Angie Vasquez. “I got to meet the Kenosha-area author of “Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg,” Michael Schumacher, who led a Q & A after the film. Raised in Milwaukee, Schumacher went to parochial school and when his teachers said ‘don’t read this book, “Howl,”’ he went out and bought it right away and became a life-long fan of the Beat Generation. What a story.”
Vasquez was a part of the program before the film started. She thanked the audience and told them that we were excited to be a part of the evening, especially since the ACLU played such an important role in defending HOWL in the trial. She read a segment of Ginsberg’s work which is also used as an example of the power of poetry in a workshop Vasquez presented at last year’s Youth Social Justice Forum in Milwaukee.
She reminded the crowd that the ACLU of Wisconsin will be recognizing Banned Books Week at an event at the Woodland Pattern Book Center on the evening of October 1st. A Banned Books Week happy hour will happen in Madison on October 1st at Mickey's Tavern. "HOWL" will have selected release dates across the country this fall including in Madison at the Sundance Theater on October 29th.
"HOWL" is just one of the controversial works the ACLU has defended in court. Read more about the history of the ACLU's work to defend banned books.