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Howl! Festival, Day 3: I Am Rain, Ignore Me

Photos: Chris O. Cook.

The finale of Howl! Festival today was marred by intermittent bouts of rain, but the party never quite ground to a halt.

Rap and rock acts were the order of the day, with performances from Hip Hop Howl, Bear 54, and others. Male members of Deans of Discipline sported kilts for the occasion, perhaps as a means of acclimating the crowd to the drag queens who would be taking the stage at 5 p.m. Read more…

Howl! Festival: Looking for a Happy Fix in Tompkins Square Park

Photos: Chris O. Cook.

It’s Allen Ginsberg’s birthday weekend and today Tompkins Square Park was buzzing with art, dance, music, and, um, bouncy castles and face-painting. Yes: it’s Howl! Festival.

Howl! Festival, Bob HolmanChris O. Cook Bob Holman, a festival organizer.

Bob Perl, an organizer of the annual happening, told The Local it was created as a nod to the neighborhood’s abounding influence. “The idea was that the East Village mindset is not just tied to here,” he said. “It’s had effects in places like Kyoto. There are creatives who come out of here and they become part of the diaspora and there are some that remain here, but this is a great place for us to all gather, and an opportunity for everyone to come out at least for a few days a year to create the scene that was so potent and vital down here.”

Indeed, the festival drew many former East Villagers, including Susan Martin, who came back from her current home in New Mexico to serve as Howl!’s publicist. She was keen to emphasize that the festival raises money for Howl! H.E.L.P., created to provide emergency assistance to local artists. “Up until the time of Howl!, if you were a drag queen and you got sick, and you didn’t have health insurance, good luck,” she said. Read more…

Remembering the Beats…

GinsbergsTim Schreier A scene from this weekend’s Howl! Festival. Below: The cover of “Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters.”
Screen shot 2011-06-05 at 6.36.40 PM

Paul Rosenfeld, the critic, once wrote that, “Complex works of art speak not through individuals but ensembles.”  In the early 1940s, on the steps of Columbia University, the original members of what became known as the “Beat Generation” — Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, William Burroughs — would form such a group.

The early Beats would strike off in several directions, on paths that would volley between the coasts and across the world, but they often returned to the Lower East Side where they got their start, and where their contribution to modern culture is celebrated in events like the Howl! Festival, named for Ginsberg’s game-changing 1955 poem. Ginsberg would have turned 85 years old last week — sufficient reason to look again at the passage of the Beats through our neighborhood and the influence they left.

The cheap apartments in the East Village in the 1940’s and 1950’s and the bohemian coffee houses and bars of downtown were a fecund soil for creative energy and experimental art. Ginsberg had the deepest connections among the group: his mother Naomi had been raised on the Lower East Side.

“Although I’m sure they were drawn to downtown New York by the existing art scene, we also have to bear in mind they were drawn to that sector for the rent.  Which is why the art scene existed down there already,” said Kim Davis, associate editor of The Local and avid collector of bohemian literature. “The two things go together, artists and cheap rent, they converge.”
Read more…

Another Chance to Howl

Howl! festival: Art Around the Park.eastvillagedenizen A scene from last year’s Howl Festival.

Allen Ginsberg first moved to the East Village in October 1952, renting apartment 16 of 206 East Seventh Street, for which he paid $33.60 a month rent. He lived in the neighborhood for the rest of his life, staying in a number of tenements until his death in 1997.

This evening at 5, the eighth annual Howlfest kicks off in Tompkins Square Park with a reading of his epic poem “Howl” by a host of noted poets including John Giorno, Hettie Jones, and Ed Sanders. The reading will be emceed by Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club. The reading should have added impact, as today would have been Ginsberg’s 85th birthday.

This annual extravaganza of local creative energy continues throughout the weekend with a full calendar of events. In addition to poetry, local musicians, dancers, actors and artists will all be presenting their work. Perhaps the world’s longest canvas will be erected on the park fence and you will have the opportunity of viewing 140 artists work on their creations in their section.

The beautiful weather forecast for the weekend is sure to draw crowds and you should head over to Tompkins Square to join in the celebration.

Soggy … But Still Howling

House of HowlSamantha Ku Drenched but undaunted, two young spectators at the Howl! Festival in Tompkins Square Park.

Over the last three days, poetry and spoken word, music and theater, performance art and visual art combined in Tompkins Square Park for the annual Howl! Festival.

House of HowlSamantha Ku Models for the Hemma collection applaud the designers.

Howl! Arts board member Bob Perl estimated that around 20,000 to 30,000 attended the festival this weekend. Saturday drew the most people because of a mix of programming and pleasant weather. But the sun didn’t last. “Whether it’s the weather or inclement rain coming, today so far is quiet,” said Mr. Perl of Sunday’s performances.

The festival started on Friday night with a group of local poets reading Allen Ginsberg’ epic poem “Howl.”

From 1952 until his death in 1997, Beat poet Ginsberg lived and worked in the East Village.

Holding the event in the East Village adds “a sense of roots,” said Anne Waldman, the poet laureate of this year’s festival.

“In the spirit of continuity or a sense of lineage of honoring all the arts that have gone on here, it’s important to remind people of that at this site.”

Were you there?

Please share your stories of the Howl! Festival.

This post has been changed to correct an error.

HOWL! FestivalSamantha Ku Master of ceremonies Bob Holman encourages audience members to join in the howl.