In San Francisco’s Six Gallery on Oct. 7, 1955, Allen Ginsberg first read his landmark 3,600-word epic poem “HOWL” for the first time. Its unique rhythms were groundbreaking; its publication by City Lights Bookshop owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti inspired a groundbreaking obscenity trial. It’s not an easy task to re-create the kind of literary tremor Ginsberg initially set off—but Alex Caldiero’s sure gonna try.
Tonight, marking the 55th anniversary of “HOWL’s” debut, poet/scholar/performer Caldiero (pictured) will be leading something that’s planned as considerably more than a reading—a “neo-bop opera in five acts.” Presented by Ken Sanders Rare Books at the Salt Lake City Main Library, the evening promises to be a unique multimedia event. While Caldiero and “a chorus of ranters” explore Ginsberg’s shattering text accompanied by projected images, other performers will interpret the work through improvised music (Will Lovell and Friends) and dance (Hillary Carrier & the Beat Angels). Sanders himself will preside as “The Judge.”
If you’re unfamiliar with “HOWL” beyond its famed “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” opening line, and the above description sounds fairly wild and hallucinatory—well, you now have a sense for the quantum shift initiated by Ginsberg’s unofficial launch of the Beat Movement. Join Caldiero—one of the best, most innovative minds of his generation—for an experience that promises not just to introduce the words of the poem, but the mindblowing sense it inspired that the world of literary creativity was no longer as limited as it was once presumed to be.