The Beat Generation was a literary movement started by a group of authors whose work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war era. The bulk of their work was published and popularized throughout the 1950s. The central elements of Beat culture are the rejection of standard narrative values, making a spiritual quest, the exploration of American and Eastern religions, the rejection of materialism, explicit portrayals of the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs, and sexual liberation and exploration.
Allen Ginsberg's Howl (1956), William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch (1959) and Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957) are among the best known examples of Beat literature. Both Howl and Naked Lunch were the focus of obscenity trials that ultimately helped to liberalize publishing in the United States. The members of the Beat Generation developed a reputation as new bohemian hedonists, who celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity.
The core group of Beat Generation authors – Herbert Huncke, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Lucien Carr, and Kerouac – met in 1944 in and around the Columbia University campus in New York City. Later, in the mid-1950s, the central figures (with the exception of Burroughs and Carr) ended up together in San Francisco where they met and became friends of figures associated with the San Francisco Renaissance.
In the 1960s, elements of the expanding Beat movement were incorporated into the hippie and larger counterculture movements. Neal Cassady, as the driver for Ken Kesey's bus Further, was the primary bridge between these two generations. Ginsberg's work also became an integral element of early 1960s hippie culture.
Kerouac introduced the phrase "Beat Generation" in 1948 to characterize a perceived underground, anti-conformist youth movement in New York. The name arose in a conversation with writer John Clellon Holmes. Kerouac allows that it was Huncke, a street hustler, who originally used the phrase "beat", in an earlier discussion with him. The adjective "beat" could colloquially mean "tired" or "beaten down" within the African-American community of the period and had developed out of the image "beat to his socks", but Kerouac appropriated the image and altered the meaning to include the connotations "upbeat", "beatific", and the musical association of being "on the beat", and "the Beat to keep" from the Beat Generation poem.
The origins of the Beat Generation can be traced to Columbia University and the meeting of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Carr, Hal Chase and others. Kerouac attended Columbia on a football scholarship. Though the beats are usually regarded as anti-academic, many of their ideas were formed in response to professors like Lionel Trilling and Mark Van Doren. Classmates Carr and Ginsberg discussed the need for a "New Vision" (a term borrowed from W. B. Yeats), to counteract what they perceived as their teachers' conservative, formalistic literary ideals.
Burroughs had an interest in criminal behavior and got involved in dealing stolen goods and narcotics. He was soon addicted to opiates. Burroughs' guide to the criminal underworld (centered in particular around New York's Times Square) was Huncke, a small-time criminal and drug-addict. The Beats were drawn to Huncke, who later started to write himself, convinced that he possessed a vital worldly knowledge unavailable to them from their largely middle-class upbringings.
Ginsberg was arrested in 1949. The police attempted to stop Ginsberg while he was driving with Huncke, his car filled with stolen items that Huncke planned to fence. Ginsberg crashed the car while trying to flee and escaped on foot, but left incriminating notebooks behind. He was given the option to plead insanity to avoid a jail term, and was committed for 90 days to Bellevue Hospital, where he met Carl Solomon.
Solomon was arguably more eccentric than psychotic. A fan of Antonin Artaud, he indulged in self-consciously "crazy" behavior, like throwing potato salad at a college lecturer on Dadaism. Solomon was given shock treatments at Bellevue; this became one of the main themes of Ginsberg's "Howl", which was dedicated to Solomon. Solomon later became the publishing contact who agreed to publish Burroughs' first novel Junky in 1953.
Beat writers and artists flocked to Greenwich Village in New York City in the late 1950s because of low rent and the 'small town' element of the scene. Folksongs, readings and discussions often took place in Washington Square Park. Allen Ginsberg was a big part of the scene in the Village, as was Burroughs, who lived at 69 Bedford Street. Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, and other poets frequented many bars in the area including the San Remo Cafe at 93 MacDougal Street on the northwest corner of Bleeker, Chumley's, and Minetta Tavern. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and other abstract expressionists were also frequent visitors and collaborators of the beats.
Cultural critics have written about the transition of Beat culture in the Village into the Bohemian hippie culture of the 1960s.
Ginsberg had visited Neal and Carolyn Cassady in San Jose, California in 1954 and moved to San Francisco in August. He fell in love with Peter Orlovsky at the end of 1954 and began writing Howl. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, of the new City Lights Bookstore, started to publish the City Lights Pocket Poets Series in 1955.
Kenneth Rexroth's apartment became a Friday night literary salon (Ginsberg's mentor William Carlos Williams, an old friend of Rexroth, had given him an introductory letter). When asked by Wally Hedrick to organize the Six Gallery reading, Ginsberg wanted Rexroth to serve as master of ceremonies, in a sense to bridge generations.
Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Ginsberg and Gary Snyder read on October 7, 1955, before 100 people (including Kerouac, up from Mexico City). Lamantia read poems of his late friend John Hoffman. At his first public reading Ginsberg performed the just finished first part of Howl. It was a success and the evening led to many more readings by the now locally famous Six Gallery poets.
It was also a marker of the beginning of the Beat movement, since the 1956 publication of Howl (City Lights Pocket Poets, no. 4) and its obscenity trial in 1957 brought it to nationwide attention.
The Six Gallery reading informs the second chapter of Kerouac's 1958 novel The Dharma Bums, whose chief protagonist is "Japhy Ryder", a character who is actually based on Gary Snyder. Kerouac was impressed with Snyder and they were close for a number of years. In the spring of 1955 they lived together in Snyder's Mill Valley cabin. Most Beats were urbanites and they found Snyder almost exotic, with his rural background and wilderness experience, as well as his education in cultural anthropology and Oriental languages. Lawrence Ferlinghetti called him "the Thoreau of the Beat Generation."
As documented in the conclusion of The Dharma Bums, Snyder moved to Japan in 1955, in large measure in order to intensively practice and study Zen Buddhism. He would spend most of the next 10 years there. Buddhism is one of the primary subjects of The Dharma Bums, and the book undoubtedly helped to popularize Buddhism in the West and remains one of Kerouac's most widely read books.
The Beats also spent time in the Northern Pacific Northwest including Washington and Oregon. Kerouac wrote about sojourns to Washington's North Cascades in The Dharma Bums and On the Road.
Reed College in Portland, Oregon was also a locale for some of the Beat poets. Gary Snyder studied anthropology there, Philip Whalen attended Reed, and Allen Ginsberg held multiple readings on the campus around 1955 and 1956. Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen were students in Reed's calligraphy class taught by Lloyd J. Reynolds.
|Discussion of biographies of Beat poets Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bob Kaufman, and others, October 22, 1996, C-SPAN|
Burroughs was introduced to the group by David Kammerer, who was in love with Carr. Carr had befriended Ginsberg and introduced him to Kammerer and Burroughs. Carr also knew Kerouac's girlfriend Edie Parker, through whom Burroughs met Kerouac in 1944.
On August 13, 1944, Carr killed Kammerer with a Boy Scout knife in Riverside Park in what he claimed later was self-defense. He waited, then dumped the body in the Hudson River, later seeking advice from Burroughs, who suggested he turn himself in. He then went to Kerouac, who helped him dispose of the weapon.
Carr turned himself in the following morning and later pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Kerouac was charged as an accessory, and Burroughs as a material witness, but neither was prosecuted. Kerouac wrote about this incident twice in his own works: once in his first novel, The Town and the City, and again in one of his last, Vanity of Duluoz. He wrote a collaboration novel with Burroughs, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, concerning the murder.
Poet Gary Snyder was an important member of the beat movement and is widely regarded as a member of the Beat Generation circle of writers. He was one of the poets who read at the famous Six Gallery reading, and he was written about in one of Kerouac's most popular novels, The Dharma Bums. Some critics argue that Snyder's connection with the Beats is exaggerated and that he might better be regarded as a member of the West Coast group the San Francisco Renaissance, which developed independently.
Neal Cassady was introduced to the group in 1947, providing inspiration to several of the Beat authors. He became something of a muse to Ginsberg; they had a romantic affair, and Ginsberg became Cassady's personal writing-tutor. Kerouac's road trips with Cassady in the late 1940s became the focus of his second novel, On the Road. Cassady's verbal style is one of the sources of the spontaneous, jazz-inspired rapping that later became associated with "beatniks". Cassady impressed the group with the free-flowing style of his letters, and Kerouac cited them as a key influence on his spontaneous prose style.
The female contemporaries of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs were intimately involved in the creation of Beat philosophy and literature, and yet remain markedly absent from the mainstream interpretation of the most important aspects and figures of the movement.
Beat Generation women who have been published include Edie Parker; Joyce Johnson; Carolyn Cassady; Hettie Jones; Joanne Kyger; Harriet Sohmers Zwerling; Diane DiPrima; and Ruth Weiss, who also made films. Carolyn Cassady wrote her own detailed account about life with husband Neal Cassady which also included details about her affair with Jack Kerouac. She titled it Off the Road, and it was pubished in 1990. Poet Elise Cowen took her own life in 1963. Poet Anne Waldman was less influenced by the Beats than by Allen Ginsberg's later turn to Buddhism. Later, female poets emerged who claimed to be strongly influenced by the Beats, including Janine Pommy Vega in the 1960s, Patti Smith in the 1970s, and Hedwig Gorski in the 1980s.
Although African Americans were not widely represented in the Beat Generation, the presence of the two Black writers this movement did have, contributed to the movement’s progression. While many of the Beats briefly discusses issues of race and sexuality, they spoke from their own perspectives—most being White males. However, women and people of color added a sense of “self” to the discussion of these topics; their work supplied readers with personal views of occurrences in the world. In particular, the African American Beat writers, Robert “Bob” Kaufman and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), shared through their writings as well as their daily lives active pursuit of the change they wrote about. Poet Bob Kaufman depicted experiences in various places doing various activities. Following his time in the military, he had trouble with police officers and the criminal justice system. Like many of the Beats, Kaufman was also a fan of Jazz and incorporated it into his work to describe relationships with others. LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) married Beat writer, Hettie Cohen, who became Hettie Jones, in 1958. They worked together with Diane DiPrima, to develop Yugen magazine. Mr. and Mrs. Jones ran in the same circle as most of the Beats (Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso). That is, until the assassination of the human right leader, Malcolm X. During this time, LeRoi Jones branched off from the other Beat writers, including his wife, to find his identity among the African American and Islamic communities. The change in his social setting along with awakening influenced his writing and brought about the development of many of his most notable works, like “Somebody Blew Up America, in which he reflected on the attacks of 9/11 and America’s reaction to this incident in relation to other occurrences in America
One of the key beliefs and practices of the Beat Generation was free love and sexual liberation, which strayed from the Christian ideals of American culture at the time. Some Beat writers were openly gay or bisexual, including two of the most prominent (Ginsberg and Burroughs). Some met each other through gay connections, including David Kammerer's interest in Lucien Carr. Considered racy at the time, Kerouac's writings are now considered mild. On the Road mentions Neal Cassady's bisexuality without comment, while Visions of Cody confronts it. However, the first novel does show Cassady as frankly promiscuous. Kerouac's novels feature an interracial love affair (The Subterraneans), and group sex (The Dharma Bums). The relationships among men in Kerouac's novels are predominantly homosocial.
The original members of the Beat Generation used a number of different drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, benzedrine, morphine, and later psychedelic drugs such as peyote, Ayahuasca, and LSD. They often approached drugs experimentally, initially being unfamiliar with their effects; their drug use was broadly inspired by intellectual interest and many Beat writers felt their drug experiences enhanced creativity, insight or productivity. The use of drugs was a key influence on many of the social events of the time that were personal to the Beat generation.
Gregory Corso considered English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley a hero, and he was buried at the foot of Shelley's grave in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome. Ginsberg mentions Shelley's poem Adonais at the beginning of his poem Kaddish, and cites it as a major influence on the composition of one of his most important poems. Michael McClure compared Ginsberg's Howl to Shelley's breakthrough poem Queen Mab.
Ginsberg's main Romantic influence was William Blake, and studied him throughout his life. Blake was the subject of Ginsberg's self-defining auditory hallucination and revelation in 1948. Romantic poet John Keats was also cited as an influence.
Writers of the Beat Generation were heavily influenced by Jazz artists like Billie Holiday and the stories told through Jazz music. Writers like Jack Kerouac (On the Road), Bob Kaufman (“Round About Midnight,” “Jazz Chick,” and “O-Jazz-O”), and Frank O’Hara (“The Day Lady Lied”) incorporated the emotions they felt toward Jazz. They used their pieces to discuss feelings, people, and objects they associate with Jazz music, as well as life experiences that reminded them of this style of music. Kaufman‘s pieces listed above ”were intended to be freely improvisational when read with Jazz accompaniment” (Charters 327). He and other writers found inspiration in this genre and allowed it to help fuel the Beat movement.
The Beats were inspired by early American figures such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville and especially Walt Whitman, who is addressed as the subject of one of Ginsberg's most famous poems, A Supermarket in California. Edgar Allan Poe was occasionally acknowledged, and Ginsberg saw Emily Dickinson as having an influence on Beat poetry. The 1926 novel You Can't Win by outlaw author Jack Black was cited as having a strong influence on Burroughs.
In many ways, Surrealism was still considered a vital movement in the 1950s. Carl Solomon introduced the work of French author Antonin Artaud to Ginsberg, and the poetry of André Breton had direct influence on Ginsberg's poem Kaddish. Rexroth, Ferlinghetti, John Ashbery and Ron Padgett translated French poetry. Second-generation Beat Ted Joans was named "the only Afro-American Surrealist" by Breton.
Philip Lamantia introduced Surrealist poetry to the original Beats. The poetry of Gregory Corso and Bob Kaufman shows the influence of Surrealist poetry with its dream-like images and its random juxtaposition of dissociated images, and this influence can also be seen in more subtle ways in Ginsberg's poetry. As the legend goes, when meeting French Surrealist Marcel Duchamp, Ginsberg kissed his shoe and Corso cut off his tie. Other influential French poets for the Beats were Guillaume Apollinaire, Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire.
Gary Snyder defined wild as "whose order has grown from within and is maintained by the force of consensus and custom rather than explicit legislation". "The wild is not brute savagery, but a healthy balance, a self-regulating system.". Snyder attributed wild to Buddhism and Daoism, the interests of some Beats. "Snyder's synthesis uses Buddhist thought to encourage American social activism, relying on both the concept of impermanence and the classically American imperative toward freedom."
While many authors claim to be directly influenced by the Beats, the Beat Generation phenomenon itself has had an influence on American culture leading more broadly to the hippie movements of the 1960s.
In 1982, Ginsberg published a summary of "the essential effects" of the Beat Generation:
- Spiritual liberation, sexual "revolution" or "liberation," i.e., gay liberation, somewhat catalyzing women's liberation, black liberation, Gray Panther activism.
- Liberation of the world from censorship.
- Demystification and/or decriminalization of cannabis and other drugs.
- The evolution of rhythm and blues into rock and roll as a high art form, as evidenced by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and other popular musicians influenced in the later fifties and sixties by Beat generation poets' and writers' works.
- The spread of ecological consciousness, emphasized early by Gary Snyder and Michael McClure, the notion of a "Fresh Planet."
- Opposition to the military-industrial machine civilization, as emphasized in writings of Burroughs, Huncke, Ginsberg, and Kerouac.
- Attention to what Kerouac called (after Spengler) a "second religiousness" developing within an advanced civilization.
- Return to an appreciation of idiosyncrasy vs. state regimentation.
- Respect for land and indigenous peoples and creatures, as proclaimed by Kerouac in his slogan from On the Road: "The Earth is an Indian thing."
The term "Beatnik" was coined by Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 1958, a portmanteau on the name of the recent Russian satellite Sputnik and Beat Generation. This suggested that beatniks were (1) "far out of the mainstream of society" and (2) "possibly pro-Communist." Caen's term stuck and became the popular label associated with a new stereotype—the man with a goatee and beret reciting nonsensical poetry and playing bongo drums while free-spirited women wearing black leotards dance.
An early example of the "beatnik stereotype" occurred in Vesuvio's (a bar in North Beach, San Francisco) which employed the artist Wally Hedrick to sit in the window dressed in full beard, turtleneck, and sandals, creating improvisational drawings and paintings. By 1958 tourists who came to San Francisco could take bus tours to view the North Beach Beat scene, prophetically anticipating similar tours of the Haight-Ashbury district ten years later.
A variety of other small businesses also sprang up exploiting (and/or satirizing) the new craze. In 1959, Fred McDarrah started a "Rent-a-Beatnik" service in New York, taking out ads in The Village Voice and sending Ted Joans and friends out on calls to read poetry.
While some of the original Beats embraced the beatniks, or at least found the parodies humorous (Ginsberg, for example, appreciated the parody in the comic strip Pogo) others criticized the beatniks as inauthentic poseurs. Jack Kerouac feared that the spiritual aspect of his message had been lost and that many were using the Beat Generation as an excuse to be senselessly wild.
During the 1960s, aspects of the Beat movement metamorphosed into the counterculture of the 1960s, accompanied by a shift in terminology from "beatnik" to "hippie". Many of the original Beats remained active participants, notably Allen Ginsberg, who became a fixture of the anti-war movement. Notably, however, Jack Kerouac broke with Ginsberg and criticized the 1960s politically radical protest movements as an excuse to be "spiteful".
There were stylistic differences between beatniks and hippies—somber colors, dark sunglasses, and goatees gave way to colorful psychedelic clothing and long hair. The beats were known for "playing it cool" (keeping a low profile),
Beyond style, there were changes in substance: The Beats tended to be essentially apolitical, but the hippies became actively engaged with the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement.
Among the emerging novelists of the 1960s and 1970s, a few were closely connected with Beat writers, most notably Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Though they had no direct connection, other writers considered the Beats to be a major influence, including Thomas Pynchon (Gravity's Rainbow) and Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues).
As there was focus on live performance among the Beats, many Slam poets have claimed to be influenced by the Beats. Saul Williams, for example, cites Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, and Bob Kaufman as major influences.
The Postbeat Poets are direct descendants of the Beat Generation. Their association with or tutelage under Ginsberg at The Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and later at Brooklyn College stressed the social-activist legacy of the Beats and created its own body of literature. Known authors are Anne Waldman, Antler, Andy Clausen, David Cope, Eileen Myles, Eliot Katz, Paul Beatty, Sapphire, Lesléa Newman, Jim Cohn, Thomas R. Peters, Jr. (poet and owner of beat book shop), Sharon Mesmer, Randy Roark, Josh Smith, David Evans.
The Beats had a pervasive influence on rock and roll and popular music, including the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison. The Beatles spelled their name with an "a" partly as a Beat Generation reference, and John Lennon was a fan of Jack Kerouac. The Beatles even put Beat writer William S. Burroughs on the cover of their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Ginsberg later met and became friends of members of the Beatles, and Paul McCartney played guitar on Ginsberg's album Ballad of the Skeletons.
Jim Morrison cites Kerouac as one of his biggest influences, and fellow Doors member Ray Manzarek has said "We wanted to be beatniks." In his book Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors, Manzarek also writes "I suppose if Jack Kerouac had never written On the Road, The Doors would never have existed." Michael McClure was also a friend of members of The Doors, at one point touring with Manzarek.
Ginsberg was a friend of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, a group of which Neal Cassady was a member, which also included members of the Grateful Dead. In the 1970s, Burroughs was a friend of Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Patti Smith.
Singer-songwriter Tom Waits, a Beat fan, wrote "Jack and Neal" about Kerouac and Cassady, and recorded "On the Road" (a song written by Kerouac after finishing the novel) with Primus. He later collaborated with Burroughs on the theatrical work The Black Rider.
Jazz musician/film composer Robert Kraft (not to be confused with NFL Team owner Robert Kraft) wrote and released a contemporary homage to Jack Kerouac and Beat Generation aesthetics entitled "Beat Generation" on the 1988 album Quake City.
Musician Mark Sandman, who was the bass guitarist, lead vocalist and a former member of the alternative jazz rock band Morphine, was interested in the Beat Generation and wrote a song called "Kerouac" as a tribute to Jack Kerouac and his personal philosophy and way of life.
There was a resurgence of interest in the beats among bands in the 1980s. Ginsberg worked with the Clash and Burroughs worked with Sonic Youth, R.E.M., Kurt Cobain, and Ministry, among others. Bono of U2 cites Burroughs as a major influence, and Burroughs appeared briefly in a U2 video in 1997. Post-punk band Joy Division named a song "Interzone" after a collection of stories by Burroughs. Laurie Anderson featured Burroughs on her 1984 album Mister Heartbreak and in her 1986 concert film, Home of the Brave. The band King Crimson produced the album Beat inspired by the Beat Generation.
The Beat Generation was met with scrutiny and assigned many stereotypes. Several magazines, including Life and Playboy, depicted members of the Beat Generation as nihilists and as unintellectual. This criticism was largely due to the ideological differences between American culture at the time and the Beat Generation, including their Buddhist-inspired beliefs.
Norman Podhoretz, a student at Columbia with Kerouac and Ginsberg, later became a critic of the Beats. His 1958 Partisan Review article "The Know-Nothing Bohemians" was a vehement critique primarily of Kerouac's On the Road and The Subterraneans, as well as Ginsberg's Howl. His central criticism is that the Beat embrace of spontaneity is bound up in an anti-intellectual worship of the "primitive" that can easily turn toward mindlessness and violence. Podhoretz asserted that there was a link between the Beats and criminal delinquents.
Ginsberg responded in a 1958 interview with The Village Voice, specifically addressing the charge that the Beats destroyed "the distinction between life and literature". In the interview, he stated that "the bit about anti-intellectualism is a piece of vanity, we had the same education, went to the same school, you know there are 'Intellectuals' and there are intellectuals. Podhoretz is just out of touch with twentieth-century literature, he's writing for the eighteenth-century mind. We have a personal literature now—Proust, Wolfe, Faulkner, Joyce."
Kerouac was a casualty too. And there were many other casualties that most people have never heard of, but were genuine casualties. Just as, in the 60s, when Allen and I for a period there were almost publicly recommending people to take acid. When I look back on that now I realize there were many casualties, responsibilities to bear.
Three writers do not a generation make.
(sometimes also attributed to Gary Snyder).
Nobody knows whether we were catalysts or invented something, or just the froth riding on a wave of its own. We were all three, I suppose.
These early books, too, are windows into the poet's efforts to find a place for his homosexual identity in the repressive pre-Stonewall United States.
And then, before the end of the decade, Burroughs had gone—leaving cold-war America to escape his criminalization as a homosexual and drug addict, to begin 25 years of expatriation.
Alene Lee (1931–1991) was an African-American member of the Beat generation in New York City whose romantic relationship with Jack Kerouac was the central theme in his novel The Subterraneans. Kerouac used the pseudonym Mardou Fox for Lee. Lee was also the model for the character of Irene May in Book of Dreams and Big Sur.
During her lifetime, Lee shunned publicity, but her daughter has written about her life.Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg (; June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was an American poet, philosopher and writer. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation during the 1950s and the counterculture that soon followed. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism, and sexual repression and was known as embodying various aspects of this counterculture, such as his views on drugs, hostility to bureaucracy and openness to Eastern religions. He was one of many influential American writers of his time known as the Beat Generation, which included writers such as Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.
Ginsberg is best known for his poem "Howl", in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States. In 1956, "Howl" was seized by San Francisco police and US Customs. In 1957, it attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial, as it described heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state. "Howl" reflected Ginsberg's own sexuality and his relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that "Howl" was not obscene, adding, "Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?"Ginsberg was a practicing Buddhist who studied Eastern religious disciplines extensively. He lived modestly, buying his clothing in second-hand stores and residing in downscale apartments in New York's East Village. One of his most influential teachers was the Tibetan Buddhist Chögyam Trungpa, the founder of the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. At Trungpa's urging, Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman started The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics there in 1974.Ginsberg took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. His poem "September on Jessore Road", calling attention to the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, exemplifies what the literary critic Helen Vendler described as Ginsberg's tireless persistence in protesting against "imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless."His collection The Fall of America shared the annual U.S. National Book Award for Poetry in 1974. In 1979, he received the National Arts Club gold medal and was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Ginsberg was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1995 for his book Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986–1992.Beat Generation (play)
Beat Generation is a play written by Jack Kerouac upon returning home to Florida after his seminal work On the Road had been published in 1957. Gerald Nicosia, a Kerouac biographer and family friend has said that theatre producer Leo Gavin suggested that Kerouac should write a play; the outcome being Beat Generation.
It was rejected by theatre companies and was shelved in warehouse storage until being re-discovered in a New Jersey warehouse in 2005.
A part of Beat Generation went on to provide the script for the 1959 film Pull My Daisy, which starred Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers, Alice Neel, David Amram, Richard Bellamy and Delphine Seyrig. It was named after the poem "Pull My Daisy" by Kerouac, Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. Kerouac provided improvised narration to the film.
Since then excerpts have appeared in Best Life Magazine (July 2005), and the play has been published by OneWorld Classics. Beat Generation received its world premiere as part of the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival from October 10-14 in Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. The play will be presented in a staged reading format by Merrimack Repertory Theatre and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.Beatnik
Beatnik was a media stereotype prevalent throughout the 1950s to mid-1960s that displayed the more superficial aspects of the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s. Elements of the beatnik trope included pseudo-intellectualism, drug use, and a cartoonish depiction of real-life people along with the spiritual quest of Jack Kerouac's autobiographical fiction.Heart Beat (film)
Heart Beat is a 1980 American drama film written and directed by John Byrum, based on the autobiography by Carolyn Cassady. The film is about seminal figures in the Beat Generation. The character of Ira, played by Ray Sharkey, is based on Allen Ginsberg. The film stars Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek and John Heard.
The movie received generally mixed reviews, although the soundtrack was met with critical acclaim. According to Box Office Mojo, its worldwide gross receipts were $954,046, making the movie a box-office disappointment.International Poetry Incarnation
The International Poetry Incarnation was an event at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 11 June 1965.Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac (; born Jean-Louis Kérouac (though he called himself Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac); March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) was an American novelist and poet of French-Canadian descent.He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his method of spontaneous prose. Thematically, his work covers topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. He became an underground celebrity and, with other beats, a progenitor of the hippie movement, although he remained antagonistic toward some of its politically radical elements.In 1969, at age 47, Kerouac died from an abdominal hemorrhage caused by a lifetime of heavy drinking. Since his death, Kerouac's literary prestige has grown, and several previously unseen works have been published. All of his books are in print today, including The Town and the City, On the Road, Doctor Sax, The Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody, The Sea Is My Brother, and Big Sur.Jan Kerouac
Janet Michelle "Jan" Kerouac (February 16, 1952 – June 5, 1996) was an American writer and the only child of beat generation author Jack Kerouac and Joan Haverty Kerouac.Jazz poetry
Jazz poetry has been defined as poetry that "demonstrates jazz-like rhythm or the feel of improvisation" and also as poetry that takes jazz music, musicians, or the jazz milieu as its subject. Some critics consider it a distinct genre though others consider the term to be merely descriptive. Jazz poetry has long been something of an "outsider" art form that exists somewhere outside the mainstream, having been conceived in the 1920s by African Americans, maintained in the 1950s by counterculture poets like those of the Beat generation, and adapted in modern times into hip-hop music and live poetry events known as poetry slams.Kill Your Darlings (2013 film)
Kill Your Darlings is a 2013 American biographical drama film written by Austin Bunn and directed by John Krokidas in his feature film directorial debut. The film had its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, garnering positive first reactions. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and it had a limited theatrical North American release from October 16, 2013. Kill Your Darlings became available on Blu-ray and DVD, March 18, 2014 in the US, followed by its UK release on April 21, 2014.The story is about the college days of some of the earliest members of the Beat Generation (Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac), their interactions, and the killing in Riverside Park in Manhattan, New York City.Lucien Carr
Lucien Carr (March 1, 1925 – January 28, 2005) was a key member of the original New York City circle of the Beat Generation in the 1940s; later he worked for many years as an editor for United Press International.Minor Characters
Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir (1987) is a memoir by Joyce Johnson documenting her time and affair with Jack Kerouac providing a very intimate biography of sorts for the man, along with commentary on Allen Ginsberg, among others. The book also tells the story of women of the Beat generation, the "minor characters" of its title.
The book won a National Book Critics Circle Award.North Beach, San Francisco
North Beach is a neighborhood in the northeast of San Francisco adjacent to Chinatown, the Financial District, and Russian Hill. The neighborhood is San Francisco's "Little Italy" and has historically been home to a large Italian American population. It still has many Italian restaurants, though many other ethnic groups currently live in the neighborhood. It was also the historic center of the beatnik subculture and has become one of San Francisco's main nightlife districts as well as a residential neighborhood populated by a mix of young urban professionals, families, and Chinese immigrants.
The American Planning Association (APA) has named North Beach as one of ten "Great Neighborhoods in America".Poetry for the Beat Generation
Poetry for the Beat Generation is the debut album of American novelist and poet Jack Kerouac and was originally released in 1959.Pull My Daisy
Pull My Daisy is a 1959 American short film directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, and adapted by Jack Kerouac from the third act of his play, Beat Generation.Kerouac also provided improvised narration. It features poets Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, artists Larry Rivers and Alice Neel, musician David Amram, art dealer Richard Bellamy, Delphine Seyrig, dancer Sally Gross, and Pablo Frank, Robert Frank's son.
Based on an incident in the life of Beat icon Neal Cassady and his wife, the painter Carolyn, the film tells the story of a railway brakeman whose wife invites a respected bishop over for dinner. However, the brakeman's bohemian friends crash the party, with comic results.
Originally intended to be called The Beat Generation, the title Pull My Daisy was taken from the poem of the same name written by Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Cassady in the late 1940s. Part of the original poem was used as a lyric in Amram's jazz composition that opens the film.
The Beat philosophy emphasized spontaneity, and the film conveyed the quality of having been thrown together or even improvised. Pull My Daisy was accordingly praised for years as an improvisational masterpiece. It was filmed in Alfred Leslie's loft at Fourth Ave. & 12th St. in Manhattan.Leslie and Frank discuss the film at length in Jack Sargeant's book Naked Lens: Beat Cinema. An illustrated transcript of the film's narration was also published in 1961 by Grove Press.
Pull My Daisy was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1996, as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".Readings by Jack Kerouac on the Beat Generation
Readings by Jack Kerouac on the Beat Generation is the third and final spoken word album by the American novelist and poet Jack Kerouac, released in January 1960 on Verve Records. The album was recorded during 1959, prior to the publication of Kerouac's sixth novel, Doctor Sax.San Francisco Renaissance
The term San Francisco Renaissance is used as a global designation for a range of poetic activity centered on San Francisco, which brought it to prominence as a hub of the American poetry avant-garde. However, others (e.g., Alan Watts, Ralph J. Gleason) felt this renaissance was a broader phenomenon and should be seen as also encompassing the visual and performing arts, philosophy, cross-cultural interests (particularly those that involved Asian cultures), and new social sensibilities.The Beat Generation
The Beat Generation is a 1959 American crime film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starring Steve Cochran and Mamie Van Doren, with Ray Danton, Fay Spain, Maggie Hayes, Jackie Coogan, Louis Armstrong, James Mitchum, Vampira, and Ray Anthony. It is a sensationalistic interpretation of the beatnik culture of the "Beat Generation" (and is sometimes considered one of the very last films noir to be produced.) The movie was also shown under the title This Rebel Age.
The director was Charles F. Haas. Richard Matheson and Lewis Meltzer are credited with the screenplay.The Dharma Bums
The Dharma Bums is a 1958 novel by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac. The basis for the novel's semi-fictional accounts are events occurring years after the events of On the Road. The main characters are the narrator Ray Smith, based on Kerouac, and Japhy Ryder, based on the poet and essayist Gary Snyder, who was instrumental in Kerouac's introduction to Buddhism in the mid-1950s.
The book concerns duality in Kerouac's life and ideals, examining the relationship of the outdoors, mountaineering, hiking, and hitchhiking through the west US with his "city life" of jazz clubs, poetry readings, and drunken parties. The protagonist's search for a "Buddhist" context to his experiences (and those of others he encounters) recurs throughout the story. The book had a significant influence on the Hippie counterculture of the 1960s.
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