Brooklyn, N.Y.—The 2010 film Howl isn’t the only time poet Allen Ginsberg and actor James Franco, who portrays Ginsberg in the movie, have sort of crossed paths.
Ginsberg taught at Brooklyn College in the M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program; Franco received his M.F.A. in fiction from the program in 2010. To celebrate the film and to support the program, the Brooklyn College Foundation recently held a special event at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center.
Franco and more than 125 students, alumni and members of the Brooklyn College Community attended the event, which included a screening of Howl. The film portrays the creation in 1955 of one of the most influential works of the Beat Generation as well as the struggles the poem engendered when the government banned it after it was published by the legendary bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who ran City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.
Franco and the directors, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, stayed after the showing for a Q&A with the audience. The use of animation in the film and the difficulties of portraying an important and well-known literary figure were addressed, as was Franco’s own literary aspirations, which include the soon-to-be published young adult novel, Palo Alto: Stories (Scribner, 2010), for which he credited the faculty and program at Brooklyn College.
“The students I was with were tough on me,” he said, “and that was OK because I knew they were much better writers than I was.”