Howl: A Ginsberg Birthday Celebration
Scott Rowland • July 2, 2017 • Art •
“I had a moment of clarity, saw the feeling in the heart of things, walked out to the garden crying.” – Allen Ginsberg
Two decades have passed since Irwin Allen Ginsberg took the next step on his quest for nirvana. For many, he will forever be celebrated with an unabashed howl, the poetic salute to the late, great Ginsberg. Such a primal call for freedom has become an enduring relic and unforgettable reminder of the wild and wondrous ‘60s when contemplative met explorative on the open road of consciousness.
In 1994, Boulder County declared June 3 to be known from then on as Allen Ginsberg Day. As a leading figure in the Beat movement and founding teacher of The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, his legacy is preserved as an integral part of Boulder’s culture. This year’s celebration at the Fox Theatre was hosted by Robert Eric Shoemaker, the Founding Artistic Director of Poetry Is, and Ellie Swenson, Founder of Boulder Writers Warehouse, who teamed up with Beats: A Naropan Periodical and Boulder Weekly to present “Howl: A Ginsberg Birthday Party”.
Over 30 performers showed their respects. Some singer-songwriters. Some thespians. One performer explored a twisting, distorted, incomprehensible Noise expression. But mostly, Boulder’s boldest poets shared their love for Ginsberg. The spotlight performer and co-founding teacher of The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Anne Waldman, energized the room with musicians from her poetry-centered record label, Fasting Speaking Music. She paid homage to Ginsberg by reciting his poem “Song” amid her original works. His memory pulsed through her presence.
A shrine sat at the front of the stage with candles and pamphlets surrounding a large painting of Ginsberg’s inviting smile. Even as an intimate plane, he shared feelings of acceptance and freedom with the crowd. The same characteristics that resonated through every sense of his being. Waldman spoke passionately of his insightful nature, as if he were a jewel among the Beats. His life was dedicated to facilitating the growth of Boulder’s poetry movement, all the while, aligning his actions with Chögyam Trungpa’s philosophy and community values. He lived as if he were himself, a Rinpoche.
The resounding feeling that we, the supporters and participators in the Boulder poetry scene, were all in this together remained until the very end. About fifteen minutes past cut off, co-host Ellie Swenson called for the crowd: “For those of you who know me…you know how important this is!” A wave of howls filled the space. It was Allen Ginsberg’s Day.