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Beat Generation Poetry

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Morteza Yazdanjoo

on 14 May 2017

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Transcript of Beat Generation Poetry

- Rejected the formalist, impersonal writing encouraged by the New Criticism & Modernists --> literature and other art was usually biographical

- Open-form Dionysian poetry in defiance of the prevailing structured Apollonian poetry of the formalists
“What would Henry David Thoreau think if he could see this place now?”

- Liberate poetry from academic preciosity and bring it “back to the streets.”

- The measure of poetry should not be a line, or stanza, or traditional metrical patterns, but rather “breath” of the poet

- Poetry is ultimately located in experience itself; reproductions of the circumstances which brought them into being

- Poetry and art as experience rather than an activity separated from the social life.
Neal Cassady
Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg
Inventions & Innovations
1: 1950s; A Historical Review

2: Artistic Movements; From Jazz Music to Abstract Expressionism

3: Beat Generation; A Product of & Reaction against the 1950s Conformity

4: Reading "Sunflower Sutra"
- In 1946 3.4 million babies were born, 26 percent more than in 1945 --> Baby boom

- In the 1950s, the overall economy grew by 37%--> the economic boom

- Establishing The Department of Health, Education and Welfare

- Glorification of nuclear family, household, suburbs

-Civil Rights Act: Increasing social acceptance of an integrated society, thus, leading to the integration of schools

- Martin Luther King heard about Park's brave effort and created a protest called "Boycott of Montgomery"

The Military-Industrial America
- First credit card invented by Ralph Schneider (1950)

- Charles Ginsberg invented 1st video tape recorder (1951)

- Hovercraft invented by Christopher Cockerell (1956)

- The Disneyland theme park in California opened (1955)

- Barbie Doll invented (1959)

- Air Conditioners, Dishwashers, Washing Machines
The Struggle of Civil Rights
Eisenhower Doctrine & The Red Scare
A Culture of Consumption
- Began at Colombia University when students Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr met--> well-educated>

- Kerouac coined the phrase, borrowing it from the jazz musicians; tired, beaten down, exhausted, and oppressed

- Attributed a philosophical dimension to the term; beatitude and beatific, the fulfillment of a spiritual quest; the innocence & blessedness

- Intertwined with San Francisco Renaissance movement, originated in New York (especially Greenwich Village) in the 1940's

- Gained prominence in San Francisco in the 1950's -- City Lights bookstore
“The beats were attracted to the ‘madness’ as a sustained presence; a lucid, singular, and obsessive way to illuminate the shadows of the day”
Elvis Presley; King of Rock and Roll
Charlie Parker; Jazz
Prose Poems & Projective Verse

- Regarded modern American life complacent and materialistic

- Frantic desire to drop out, hit the road, head for the hills, and share a car with a trusted buddy

- "We follow the turn of the road and it leads us on. Where? To actuality; ourselves, others and God. "

- Homosexuality, open relationships, and group sex; “sexual revolution”
- Norman Mailer termed the “hipster” in his essay “the White Negro”

- "Laugh the sadness of the world out of existence, illuminating his despair in music or drugs“

- Express forbidden impulses and actively violate social taboos

- Fought for freedom of expression, gay rights, and the legalization of marijuana

- Incarcerated & institutionalized
“Angel-headed Hipsters”
-Psychological candor
- to “reach different parts of the mind”
- suspension of habitual thought

- Hallucinogenic drugs; Marijuana, cocaine, opiates, Benzedrine

Drugs and Alcohol
- Buddhism kept the people sane, homeless, begging

- “An awakened emptiness” or “no Self”

- “It involves a sort of nakedness of mind, and, ultimately, of soul; a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness" John Holmes
Eastern Religions
A Quest for Self-knowledge and Experience
Romantic poets & Transcendental Movement as the Sources of Inspiration
Thoreau & Simple Living
- Rejected middle class values, commercialism, and conformity

- Cherished the stance of the alienated, the dispossessed, and even the nominally insane

- "It occurs to me that I am America/ I am talking to myself again".

- Thoreau and Walden were admired as symbols of protests (rebuild the relationship of man and its origins)

- Snyder &“Deep Ecology” movement
William Blake
Walt Whitman
Fats Domino; Rhythm & Blues
- Identify poetry with prophecy

- The pursuit of “visionary consciousness” through music or meditation, drugs, mantras, or poems

- Effect a "marriage of heaven and hell"; a dialectic between the unconscious and the superconscious

- "The divinity of the individual self"

- Vision of an America where poets, rather than presidents, would
lead a utopian community.

Leaves of Grass
seemed nothing but disjointed prose
1: The Duluoz Legend

- Represents a contemporary instance of the archetypal quest for identity, community, and spiritual knowledge achieved by means of a journey

- Is the liberating, creative, redemptive forces within humankind, a prophecy of the universal heart, a contemporary Everyman.

2: Solomon Vs. Moloch

- "Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks!" (part 2, line 17)

- "Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Rock land where you’re madder than I am"; Solomon is a lunatic–saint cruelly incarcerated in a mental asylum by an uncomprehending society.
- a complete statement of Person
The Divine Insanity of Noble Minds

- Develop experimental techniques involving spontaneity and unpredictability

- The centrality of rhythmic music and Dionysian ecstasy

- “typewriterjazz”; aimed at catching the abrupt, syncopated rhythms, and the improvisational dash

- Poetry as public performance
- "derangement of the senses" to arrive at spiritual clarity

- Surrealistic, hallucinatory, dreamlike style

- “poetry adapted from prose seeds, journals, scratchings, arranged by phrasing or breath into little short-line patterns”
Arthur Rimbaud
"America when will we end the human war?

Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.

I don’t feel good don’t bother me.

I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.

America when will you be angelic?

When will you take off your clothes?

When will you look at yourself through the grave?”

With a love a madness for Shelley
Chatterton Rimbaud
and the needy-yap of my youth
has gone from ear to ear:
Especially old poetmen who retract
who consult other old poetmen
who speak their youth in whispers,
saying:--I did those then
but that was then
that was then--
O I would quiet old men
say to them:--I am your friend
what you once were, thru me
you'll be again--
Then at night in the confidence of their homes
rip out their apology-tongues
and steal their poems.

Gregory Corso "I Am 25"
- Discussed the need for a "new vision," to contradict the conservative, formal, literary ideals

- Cultivated styles based on spontaneity, improvisation, and undisturbed flow from the mind; Ginsberg’s mantra, ‘First thought, best thought’

- "I think what is coming is a romantic period [...] Eliot & Pound are like Dryden & Pope. What gives now is much more personal" (Allen Ginsberg)
“The washed land awakes again to wilderness

the only sound a vast thrumming of crickets

a cry of seabirds high over

in empty eternity

as the Hudson retakes its thickets

and Indians reclaim their canoes. . .”
Ferlinghetti "Wild Dreams of a New Beginning"
"Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!"
On the Road
; a philosophical travel narrative that blends stream of consciousness and drug-vision

- "Spontaneous Prose"; Three weeks on a 120-foot roll of paper
Turning Popular Culture to Myth
“The Madman is Holy as You My Soul are Holy"
The Narcotic Tobacco Haze of Capitalism
The Cold War
The Korean War

The Space Race
Communist witch hunts
Containment Culture of George Kennan
The House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC)
"Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?"
Part I
Part I is about the “best minds of (Ginsberg’s) generation" and who they are.
The best minds include drunks, drug addicts, travelers, people desperate for sex, homeless, wanderers, protesters, activists, suicidals, mentally unstable people, poets and writers (like Ginsberg), and other people who are “destroyed” (oppressed) by everything in Part II.
Part II
Part II focuses on what destroyed the “best minds” in Part I, which is represented by Moloch, a god in which sacrifices were made to.
Moloch represents the evils of money, capitalism, war, government, mainstream culture, and industrialized society.

Moloch, in essence, is everything that Ginsberg hated about America, and everything that he saw as destructive.
Part III
Part III is about Carl Solomon, whom Ginsberg had met in the Columbia Presbyterian Psychological Institute
Part III presents Carl Solomon as a survivor of Moloch, but it shows that he still suffered at the hand of Moloch. The suffering is irreversible.
Part III also acts as a transition from the darkness of Part II to the more lightly-mooded footnote
Carl Solomon
The footnote aims to redefine the meaning of holiness.

Ginsberg wants it to include writers and poets, the outliers, and everyone and everything.
Let's Beat It
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved" (Kerouac,
On the Road
- A drug addict who accidentally killed his wife (Joan Vollmer)

- "Cut-up": a form in which the text is cut up and rearranged> a blatant disregard for narrative

Naked Lunch
: drawn from his experience as a heroin addict as he lived in Mexico City, London, Paris, & Tangier
- A Canaanite god associated with child sacrifice

- Moloch is associated with war, government, capitalism, and mainstream culture; the "machine" or "machinery."

- Moloch is an inhuman monster that kills youth and love.

- "Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Rockland where you’re madder than I am...I’m with you in Rockland where you imitate the shade of my mother"

Jackson Pollock & Drip Painting
Full transcript