Howl. A Graphic Novel. Allen Ginsberg and Eric Drooker. In the Argo Catalog.
I sit down and read “I saw the best minds of my generation…” My thoughts run wild: yes here we go, here we go again. It has been a long time since I last saw you my friend–the poem that got me into poetry–I see you have gotten a make over. That is dangerous you know. You were so good originally–the most popular poem of the century?– but I guess after 50 years you need to attract a new kind of man, of student. The world has changed a lot since 1955 and yet your messages are still important. I see that cartoons give you a weight in 2010 that in 1956 they would not have. I see what you are trying to do. I wonder if it will work. Up to now I have not yet read a graphic novel thatÂ I liked.
If I ever meet Mr. Drooker I will thank him and give him a hug. Reading Howl with his images interspersed was like reading it for the first time all over again. If you are a fan of the poem then you know what that is like and understand why you must run out and get a copy of this to put beside your City Lights version and your Ginsberg collected works. Trust me, you will not be disappointed or disgusted with what was a very dangerous project. Drooker’s artwork reminds the reader of the raw power of the poem, the stark worldview. In short, Drooker captures Howl perfectly.
The format is compelling, even to me, a person that is ambivalent (to put it nicely) about graphic novels. As the reader of this graphic novel you turn page after page at the end of the lines, the constant page turning adds to the desperation, adds to the force of the poem and makes you quicken your pace of reading. It also isolates each and every idea and image forcing you to consider them more closely, not pass any line too quickly, in short, it forces you to read the poem as it is meant to be read, with care. The constant turning wears you down, leaves you feeling a little like what Ginsberg must have felt when he wrote it. Then you start all over again to appreciate the Eastern Island heads, the saxophones, and the horned Moloch.
I read it once quickly loving the pacing of the lines. Then again for the images, a slow process of carefully trying to understand Drooker’s interpretation of the lines through his drawings. Drooker gets Howl that and that is why he needs to be hugged. He has rejuvenated the piece for a new generation of readers and maybe rekindled the love for it in an older one and for that he deserves our thanks. Reading the poem and searching the pictures is a great way to pass an afternoon. I suspect this fall I will be found on a bench on Mont Royal under orange leaves holding this book.