As history, the National Gallery’s current exhibit of photographs by the beat poet Allen Ginsburg was always going to be a win. As art? Not necessarily, but our critic Louis Jacobson found himself surprised. He loved it.
“Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg” runs through Sept. 6, and while Ginsberg’s photographs of luminaries like Kerouac and Burroughs are indeed lovely, the museum hasn’t forgotten the man’s primary mode of expression: poems.
Only it’s outsourced them: The poet Anne Waldman will perform Ginsberg’s signature piece, “Howl,” at 8 and 10 p.m. on July 23 and 8 p.m. on July 24 at Busboys and Poets at 5th and K streets NW. These events are $10, and also feature some local poets, and a string quartet led by local baroque-popper Matthew Hemerlein that will perform a 1993 orchestral piece inspired by “Howl.” (Though she came along a generation after Ginsberg, Waldman used to run in some of the same circles, if after the end of the beat era.)
After the July 24 performance at 10 p.m., TV on the Radio member Kyp Malone will perform for free outside the restaurant—-the press release I received today says Malone’s projects “mirror the Beats’ unrelenting pursuit of creativity.” Well, I guess. To be honest, I get more of a scary Burroughs vibe from his recent Rain Machine record.
At least once, Ginsberg performed “Howl” in D.C. himself, around the time his friend, photographer Robert Frank, had a retrospective at the National Gallery. From the Oct. 19, 1994 Reliable Source column in the Washington Post:
Poet Allen Ginsberg will read his poem “Howl” today on the steps of the U.S. Court of Appeals here in protest of the Federal Communications Commission’s policy barring “indecent” radio broadcasts between 6 a.m. and midnight. Oral arguments on the controversial matter will be heard by the court today.
Photo courtesy the National Gallery.