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Poetic justice

A simple screening of an Allen Ginsberg documentary aims to be so much more

by and

Ginsberg vainly attempts to hide his prodigious digits.
  • Ginsberg vainly attempts to hide his prodigious digits.

Moviegoers looking to catch a glimpse of some serious star power this weekend might be best served outside a conventional movie house.

On Saturday night, the Smokebrush Gallery will be presenting a screening of Jerry Aronson's The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg. It is the final installment of the gallery' OUTtakes Film Series, a month-long mini-festival celebrating films that feature gay and lesbian advocates for the arts.

Though Ginsberg died in 1997 after suffering a heart attack, his spirit lives on in the memories of his friends, followers and admirers. The documentary features interviews with the late Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Baez, Johnny Depp, Andy Warhol, Paul McCartney and various other cultural movers and hip shakers.

The film's Academy Award-nominated director and Ginsberg's close friend, Jerry Aronson, had planned to be on hand at Smokebrush to talk about America's most famous Beat poet. But with the recent and unexpected passing of Aronson's mother, the event's promoters are no longer guaranteeing his presence.

"As far as I know, he's planning on being there," said Smokebrush curator Julie Cole on Tuesday. "And we'll try to provide as best a substitute as we can if he's not here."

In his absence, Cole said the film would be introduced by another speaker involved in the production. This person also would sit in for Aronson and participate in the question-and-answer session planned to follow the screening.

Either way, Smokebrush will be airing extended footage of the film footage that wasn't even on the table when the movie was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1993.

The idea for including the Ginsberg film came from Don Goede, the head of Smokebrush's for-profit publishing house, Smokemuse. Goede, a personal friend of Aronson's, felt the film would make for a good final leg of the three-part festival.

Furthermore, having a poetry-focused finale was an enticing to the promoters, who hope their festival will be seen as a celebration of the film subject's accomplishments not just a celebration of sexual orientation.

Following the question-and-answer session, the local poetry group Poetry West will recite a multi-voice reading of Ginsberg's famous poem, "Howl."

That performance will be followed by readings of Ginsberg-inspired poems that the Smokebrush organization is encouraging all attendees to bring. Audience members who submit their pieces at the door will be given a discount of two or more dollars from their ticket price, Cole says. The same discount will be given to members of KRCC, the local radio station.

A number of poems will then be selected for readings done either by Poetry West or outgoing contributors as the closing portion of the show. Cole hopes the added incentive will create an environment that shows an appreciation for Ginsberg's public and private lives.

"What we're really hoping to emphasize, more than anything else," she says, "was the contributions these people made to the arts."


The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg

Smokebrush Gallery

Saturday, Sept. 30, 6 p.m.

Tickets: $10 at the door, with discounts of at least $2 for KRCC members and Ginsberg-inspired poem contributors.

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