“I saw the best minds of my generation” (Janis, Jimi, Jim, Kurt, Amy, the kid who lived around the corner) “destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking
for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up
in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating
across the tops of cities contemplating jazz . . .”
Written by Allen Ginsberg and published in his 1956 collection Howl and Other Poems, “Howl” rings as relevant today as it did then. (It generated an obscenity trial, BTW.)
Alex Caldiero has been performing the lengthy poem every five years for 20 years. Bookman Ken Sanders recalls: “Alex and I collaborated on the 50th anniversary of “Howl” and it was a feature presentation of the old Great Salt Lake Book Festival and drew more than 1,000 folks to the library. Alex and I have teamed up with the Utah Humanities Council for the 55th and now the 60th performance of ‘Howl.’”
Caldiero will perform the poem with jazz musicians and guest poets reciting their own work on Friday, Oct. 9 from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Public Library Auditorium, 210 E. 400 South. Admission is free.
The iconic Utah poet refers to his recitation of “Howl” as “channeling.” Says Sanders: “Ginsberg is the “20th century Walt Whitman and ‘Howl’ is the modern ‘Leaves of Grass.’ Sonosopher Alex Caldiero is our spirit guide through the complexities of Howl.”’
Caldiero says he was a nervous wreck before his first public performance of “Howl” so he called Ginsberg “to ask for his blessing. He chuckled. That was the only time we were ever to meet: voice-to-voice, sound-to-sound.” This, he adds, “seems apropos for a sonosopher.”
The sonosopher always sets up a makeshift altar at the foot of the stage, with a picture of Ginsberg and an offering of flowers. Caldiero explains that “this is an old Mediterranean custom to remember and pay homage to our beloved dead.” The world lost Alan Ginsberg in 1997.
Poster artwork is by Trent Call and a signed limited edition screen print will be for sale at the event for $35. Free “Howl @ 60” buttons will be given away while they last.
Rumor is that this is the final time Caldiero will perform (or channel) “Howl,” though we were unable to confirm this with the “spirit guide.” Still, we suspect this is an event that is not to be missed.
Catch it if you can.
A graduate of the University of Utah, Ann Poore is a freelance writer and editor who spent most of her career at The Salt Lake Tribune. She also worked for Salt Lake City Weekly and has written for such publications as Utah Business Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine.