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Beat Culture

Editorial Advisors
Gordon Ball, Virginia Military Institute

Michael Davidson, University of California, San Diego

Hilary Holladay, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Jaap van der Bent, Catholic University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Wen Chu-an, Sichuan University, China

Beat Culture

Icons, Lifestyles, and Impact

Edited by William T. Lawlor,

University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point

Santa Barbara, California Denver, Colorado Oxford, England

Copyright 2005 by William T. Lawlor

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Thematic Entry List, ix

I. General Introduction, xiii
II. Chronology, xix
III. Entries, 1

A Black Mountain, North Burroughs, William

Adam, Helen, 1 Carolina, and Black Mountain Seward, 29
Algiers, Louisiana, 2 College, 16 Burroughs, William
Allen, Donald, 2 Blackburn, Paul, 18 Seward, Jr. (III), 43
Allen, Steve, 3 Blakey, Art (Abdullah Ibn
Amram, David, 4 Buhaina), 19
Caen, Herb, 45
Anarchy, Christian, 4 Bohemian Movements:
Cage, John, 45
Anderson, Joan, Letter Predecessors of the
Cannastra, Bill, 46
about, 6 Beats, 19
Carr, Lucien, 46
Aphorisms and Slogans, 7 Bowles, Jane, 20 Carroll, Paul, 47
Apollinaire, Guillaume, 7 Bowles, Paul, 21 Cassady, Carolyn, 47
Apomorphine Treatment, 8 Brautigan, Richard, 22 Cassady, Neal, 49
Atomic Era, 8 Bremser, Bonnie (Brenda Censorship, 51
Frazer), 23 Charters, Ann, 56
B Bremser, Ray, 24 Charters, Sam, 56
Baraka, Amiri (LeRoi Breton, André, 25 Chase, Haldon “Hal,” 57
Jones), 11 Brooks, Eugene (Eugene Brooks Cherry Valley, New York, 58
Beat and Beatnik, 12 Ginsberg), 25 China, Beats in, 58
Beat Conferences, University of Brossard, Chandler, 26 Clausen, Andy, 60
Massachusetts, Lowell, 14 Bruce, Lenny, 26 Cold War, 60
Beatitude, 14 Buckley, Lord, 27 Coleman, Ornette, 63
Be-In, 14 Bukowski, Charles, 27 Coltrane, John, 64
Berman, Wallace, 15 Burroughs, Ilse Herzfeld Communism and the Workers’
Big Sur, 15 Klapper, 29 Movement, 64


Confession, 66 Gaillard, Slim, 115 Kerouac, Jan, 184

Conformity, 67 Genet, Jean, 116 Kerouac, Joan Haverty, 185
Conner, Bruce, 69 Gillespie, John Brinks Kesey, Ken Elton, 186
Corso, Gregory, 70 (Dizzy), 116 Kinsey Report, 189
Cowen, Elise, 73 Ginsberg, Allen, 117 Kline, Franz, 190
Creeley, Robert, 74 Ginsberg Archive, Sale Konitz, Lee, 190
Cunningham, Merce, 75 of the, 136 Krebs, Maynard G., 190
Curriculum, Beats in the, 76 Glass, Philip, 137 Krim, Seymour, 191
Goddard, Dwight, 138 Krupa, Gene, 191
D Goodrow, Garry, 138 Kupferberg, Tuli, 192
Dance, 79
Gordon, Dexter, 139 Kyger, Joanne, 192
de Kooning, Willem, 81
Gorky, Arshile, 139
DeFeo, Jay, 82
Grauerholz, James, 139 L
Denver, Colorado, 82 La Vigne, Robert, 195
Gray, Wardell, 139
Desolation Peak, 83 Lamantia, Philip, 195
Guthrie, Woody, 140
di Prima, Diane, 83 Landesman, Jay, and Fran
Gysin, Brion, 142
Dorn, Edward, 86 Landesman, 197
Drugs, 86 H Language and Idiom of the
Duncan, Robert, 89 Happening, 143 Beats, 199
Dylan, Bob, 90 Hawkins, Coleman, 143 Leary, Timothy, 200
Herms, George, 143 Legacy, 203
E Holiday, Billie, 144 Legman, Gershon, 204
Eastern Culture, 95
Holmes, John Clellon, 145 Lexington, Kentucky, 204
Ellvins, Kells, 97
Huncke, Herbert, 149 Library Holdings, 204
Environmentalism, 98
Hunt, Tim, 152 Lipton, Lawrence, 206
Europe, Bohemian Movements
Literary Forms, 207
Related to the Beat I
Little Magazines, 209
Movement in, 100 Influences, 153
London, 211
Everson, William (Brother
Antoninus), 101
J Lowell, Massachusetts, 211
Joans, Ted, 159
F Johnson, Joyce, 160
Mailer, Norman, 215
Fariña, Richard, 103 Jones, Hettie, 162
Marriage, 216
Fellaheen, 104 Juvenile Delinquency, 163
Marshall, Edward, 217
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence, 105
Film, 107
K Martinelli, Sheri, 217
Kammerer, David Eames, 167 Materialism, 218
First Poetry-Jazz Concert, 111
Kandel, Lenore, 169 McClure, Joanna, 220
Florida House of Kerouac, 112
Kaufman, Bob, 170 McClure, Michael, 220
Frank, Robert, 112
Kenton, Stan, 172 Mead, Taylor, 224
Furthur/Further, 113
Kerouac Archive, Sale of Mekas, Jonas, 225
G the, 172 Meltzer, David, 225
Gaddis, William, 115 Kerouac, Jack, 173 Memory, 227


Mental Illness, 228 On the Road, Sale of the Scroll Sampas Kerouac, Stella, 308
Merry Pranksters, 230 of, 268 San Francisco, 308
Merton, Thomas, 232 Orlovsky, Peter, 269 San Francisco
Mexico City, 232 Renaissance, 312
Micheline, Jack, 237 Sanders, Ed, 316
Pad, The Beat, 271
Miles, Barry, 238 Scholarship and Critical
Painting, 273
Mingus, Charles, 239 Appreciation, a Survey
Paris, the Beats in, 278
Moloch (also Molech), 239 of, 318
Parker, Charles Christopher
Monk, Thelonious Sphere, 239 (Charlie), 279 Sculpture, 321
Montgomery, John McVey, 240 Parker, Edie, 280 Sea, The Beats at, 322
Motherwell, Robert, 240 Party, The Beat, 281 Selby, Hubert, Jr., 323
Mountains, Beats in the, 241 Patchen, Kenneth, 282 Sexism and Misogyny, 324
Museum of Modern Art Paterson, New Jersey, 284 Sexual Attitudes and
Exhibition: “Fantastic Art, Performance Humor, 284 Behavior, 325
Dada, and Surrealism” Perkoff, Stuart Z., 286 Sexual Freedom, 327
(1936), 243 Perry Lane, 287 Shearing, George, 328
Music, 243 Photography, 288 6 Gallery Reading, 328
Pleasure in Life, 289 Snyder, Gary, 330
N Plymell, Charles, 290 Sociological
Nakedness, 249 Pollock, Jackson, 290 Interpretations, 336
Naropa Institute, 249 Pommy Vega, Janine, 291 Solomon, Carl, 337
Native American Cultures, 250 Publishers, 293 Sommerville, Ian, 338
New Orleans, 252 Spicer, Jack, 339
New Waverly, Texas, 253 R
Spontaneity, The Beat
Rauschenberg, Robert, 295
New York City, 254 Generation and the Culture
Red Scares (First and
New York University of, 340
Second), 295
Conferences on Beat Culture Styles of dress, the Beats
Reich, Wilhelm, 297
(1994 and 1995), 259 and, 342
Reinhardt, Ad, 298
News Media and Publicity, The Suffering, 344
Religion, the Beats and, 299
Beats and, 260
Rexroth, Kenneth, 302 T
Nicosia, Gerald, 262
Rimbaud, Arthur, 304 Tangier, 347
Norse, Harold, 262 Rivers, Larry, 304 Teachers, Beats as, 348
O Rocky Mount, North
Technology, Beats and, 349
O’Hara, Frank, 265 Carolina, 305
Theater, 350
Rosenthal, Bob, 305
Olson, Charles, 266 Thompson, Hunter
Rosenthal, Irving, 305
On the Road, New York Times Stockton, 353
Rumaker, Michael, 306
Review of, 267 Travel: The Beats as
On the Road, 1982 Conference S Globetrotters, 354
the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Saint Mark’s Poetry Project, 307 Trungpa, Chögyam, 356
of the Publication of, 268 Sampas, Sebastian, 307 Tytell, John, 357


U Warhol, Andy, 367 Williams, Charles Melvin

Upton, Charles, 359 Watts, Alan, 368 “Cootie,” 375
Wavy Gravy (Hugh Williams, William
V Romney), 369 Carlos, 376
Vancouver Poetry Conference
Welch, Lew, 369 Wobblies, 377
(1963), 361
Whalen, Philip, 371 Wolfe, Tom, 378
Venice West, 361
White, Josh, 373
Vollmer Adams Burroughs,
Whitney Museum Exhibition:
Joan, 362 Young, Lester, 379
Beat Culture and the New
W America 1950–1965, 374
Waldman, Anne, 365 Wieners, John, 374

Index, 381

Thematic Entry List

People Carr, Lucien Gillespie, John Brinks

Adam, Helen Carroll, Paul Ginsberg, Allen
Allen, Donald Cassady, Carolyn Glass, Philip
Allen, Steve Cassady, Neal Goddard, Dwight
Amram, David Charters, Ann Goodrow, Garry
Apollinaire, Guillaume Charters, Sam Gordon, Dexter
Baraka, Amiri Chase, Haldon “Hal” Gorky, Arshile
Berman, Wallace Clausen, Andy Grauerholz, James
Blackburn, Paul Coleman, Ornette Gray, Wardell
Blakey, Art Coltrane, John Guthrie, Woody
Bowles, Jane Conner, Bruce Gysin, Brion
Bowles, Paul Corso, Gregory Hawkins, Coleman
Brautigan, Richard Cowen, Elise Herms, George
Bremser, Bonnie Creeley, Robert Holiday, Billie
Bremser, Ray Cunningham, Merce Holmes, John Clellon
Breton, André de Kooning, Willem Huncke, Herbert
Brooks, Eugene DeFeo, Jay Hunt, Tim
Brossard, Chandler di Prima, Diane Joans, Ted
Bruce, Lenny Duncan, Robert Johnson, Joyce
Buckley, Lord Dylan, Bob Jones, Hettie
Bukowski, Charles Ellvins, Kells Kammerer, David Eames
Burroughs, Ilse Herzfeld Everson, William (Brother Kandel, Lenore
Klapper Antoninus) Kaufman, Bob
Burroughs, William Seward Fariña, Richard Kenton, Stan
Burroughs, William Seward, Jr. Ferlinghetti, Lawrence Kerouac, Jack
(III) Frank, Robert Kerouac, Jan
Caen, Herb Gaddis, William Kerouac, Joan Haverty
Cage, John Gaillard, Slim Kesey, Ken Elton
Cannastra, Bill Genet, Jean Kline, Franz

Thematic Entry List

Konitz, Lee Reinhardt, Ad Desolation Peak

Krebs, Maynard G. Rexroth, Kenneth Europe, Bohemian Movements
Krim, Seymour Rimbaud, Arthur Related to the Beat
Krupa, Gene Rivers, Larry Movement in
Kupferberg, Tuli Rosenthal, Bob Florida House of Kerouac
Kyger, Joanne Rosenthal, Irving Lexington, Kentucky
La Vigne, Robert Rumaker, Michael London
Lamantia, Philip Sampas, Sebastian Lowell, Massachusetts
Landesman, Jay, and Fran Sampas Kerouac, Stella Mexico City
Landesman Sanders, Ed Naropa Institute
Leary, Timothy Selby, Hubert, Jr. New Orleans
Legman, Gershon Shearing, George New Waverly, Texas
Lipton, Lawrence Snyder, Gary New York City
Mailer, Norman Solomon, Carl Paris, the Beats in
Marshall, Edward Sommerville, Ian Paterson, New Jersey
Martinelli, Sheri Spicer, Jack Rocky Mount, North Carolina
McClure, Joanna Thompson, Hunter Stockton San Francisco
McClure, Michael Trungpa, Chögyam Tangier
Mead, Taylor Tytell, John Venice West
Mekas, Jonas Upton, Charles
Meltzer, David Vollmer Adams Burroughs, Joan Events
Merton, Thomas Waldman, Anne Anderson, Joan, Letter about
Micheline, Jack Warhol, Andy Beat Conferences, University of
Miles, Barry Watts, Alan Massachusetts, Lowell
Mingus, Charles Wavy Gravy Be-In
Monk, Thelonious Sphere Welch, Lew First Poetry-Jazz Concert
Montgomery, John McVey Whalen, Philip Ginsberg Archive, Sale of the
Motherwell, Robert White, Josh Happening
Nicosia, Gerald Wieners, John Kerouac Archive, Sale of the
Norse, Harold Williams, Charles Melvin Kinsey Report
O’Hara, Frank Williams, William Carlos Museum of Modern Art
Olson, Charles Wolfe, Tom Exhibition: “Fantastic Art,
Orlovsky, Peter Young, Lester Dada, and Surrealism”
Parker, Charles Christopher (1936)
Parker, Edie Places New York University
Patchen, Kenneth Algiers, Louisiana Conferences on Beat Culture
Perkoff, Stuart Z. Big Sur (1994 and 1995)
Plymell, Charles Black Mountain, North Carolina, On the Road, 1982 Conference
Pollock, Jackson and Black Mountain College on the Twenty-Fifth
Pommy Vega, Janine Cherry Valley, New York Anniversary of the Publication of
Rauschenberg, Robert China, Beats in On the Road, New York Times
Reich, Wilhelm Denver, Colorado Review of

Thematic Entry List

On the Road, Sale of the Scroll Painting News Media and Publicity, The
of Performance Humor Beats and
6 Gallery Reading Photography Pad, The Beat
Vancouver Poetry Conference Publishers Party, The Beat
(1963) Saint Mark’s Poetry Project Pleasure in Life
Whitney Museum Exhibition: San Francisco Renaissance Religion, the Beats and
Beat Culture and the New Scholarship and Critical Sexism and Misogyny
America 1950–1965 Appreciation, a Survey of Sexual Freedom
Sculpture Spontaneity, The Beat
Forms and Movements Sea, The Beats at Generation and the
Anarchy, Christian Teachers, Beats as Culture of
Apomorphine Treatment Theater Styles of Dress, The Beats and
Bohemian Movements: Wobblies Suffering
Predecessors of the Beats Technology, Beats and
Censorship Themes Travel: The Beats as
Communism and the Workers’ Aphorisms and Slogans Globetrotters
Movement Beat and Beatnik
Curriculum, Beats in the Beatitude Contexts
Dance Confession Atomic Era
Drugs Eastern Culture Cold War
Film Environmentalism Conformity
Influences Fellaheen Juvenile Delinquency
Legacy Furthur/ Further Marriage
Library Holdings Language and Idiom of the Materialism
Literary Forms Beats Mental Illness
Little Magazines Memory Red Scare (First and Second)
Merry Pranksters Moloch (also Molech) Sexual Attitudes and
Mountains, Beats in the Nakedness Behavior
Music Native American Cultures Sociological Interpretations

General Introduction

This encyclopedia of Beat Culture examines the linghetti, Ed Sanders, and others. Even so, the rad-
meaning of “beat,” the people and writers of the ical Beats never abandoned their admiration for
Beat Generation, the participants in artistic move- Kerouac, always seeing past intolerance and intox-
ments surrounding the Beats, and the culture and ication to remember the “Great Rememberer.” As
history of the era. Ginsberg stood at Kerouac’s open casket in Lowell,
The Beat literary movement, which had its be- Massachusetts, in October 1969, he said to Ann
ginnings in New York City in the 1940s and grew in Charters, “I think Jack dreamed us all” (quoted in
the 1950s through interaction in San Francisco with Charters, Beats and Company, 24).
artists from the San Francisco Literary Renaissance Yet Charters herself argues that Ginsberg, not
and communication with artists at the Black Moun- Kerouac, was the source of unity for the Beats.
tain School in Black Mountain, North Carolina, is Charters writes that Ginsberg “brought the whole
chiefly represented by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Ker- Beat Generation into being with the strength of his
ouac, and William S. Burroughs, but dozens of vision of himself and his friends as a new begin-
other writers are associated with the Beat spirit—a ning—as a new generation. He wove the threads
spirit so diverse that the best unifying principles are that kept them together, just as he held together
individuality and intensity of expression. the threads that tied his life and his art to the gen-
Perhaps the Beat Generation should be referred erations of poets before him—Blake, Whitman,
to as Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation. A pro- Mayakovsky, William Carlos Williams—and to his
found, prolific, and innovative writer, Kerouac was father and to the memory of his mother Naomi”
the so-called King of the Beats, the incarnation of (Charters, Beats and Company, 24). Ginsberg was
the Beat spirit. Kerouac coined the phrase “Beat a master of communications and persuasion, and
Generation,” and he ultimately became the Suffer- applying his early experience in marketing, he con-
ing Servant who endured personal tragedy, hostil- nected ideas with thinkers, books with readers, and
ity, and misunderstanding. Through his literature, performances with audiences. He was the charis-
which expressed a broad love for the United States matic person whose personal contacts and public
and its ceaseless parade of startling individuals, he oratory helped the Beats to emerge, flourish, and
sought to redeem and bless the world. endure.
Granted, Kerouac was an alcoholic, and through Behind the marketing and the spirituality
alcoholism he descended into death. In his final loomed William S. Burroughs, the oldest of the
years, he was a political conservative, and he re- three major Beat writers and the last to die. A Har-
jected the Beat Generation and the political dis- vard man, Burroughs had the intellectual resources
sent expressed by Ginsberg, Lawrence Fer- to stimulate diverse reading and conversation

General Introduction

among his younger colleagues. At the same time, Even as these pervasive historical and cultural
Burroughs had a taste for the world of petty crime, forces antagonized the Beats, artistic activities
drugs, and homosexuality. His conventional dress were inspiring. Spontaneity became the hallmark
and appearance effectively disguised his readiness of creativity as Charlie Parker and other musicians
to challenge literary and societal conventions. Bur- demonstrated their spur-of-the-moment innova-
roughs acted as an undercover agent bent on tion in jazz, as Jackson Pollock made the act of
breaking down the forces of control. Kerouac ad- painting the focus of artistry, as Merce Cunning-
mired Burroughs for his intelligence and erudition, ham relied on chance for the outcome of his dance,
and Ginsberg insisted that Naked Lunch would as performance humor thrived on improvisation, as
“drive everybody mad” (“Howl,” dedication page). Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie made capturing
The literary movement led by Kerouac, Gins- the moment the object of film, as LeRoi Jones and
berg, and Burroughs sprang from many sources Diane di Prima made The Floating Bear an artistic
and events, but the legendary reading at the 6 newsletter of immediacy, as the Living Theatre
Gallery in San Francisco on 7 October 1955, which made drama vibrate with the here and now, and as
included Ginsberg’s first public reading of “Howl,” Neal Cassady’s “Joan Anderson Letter” provided a
is often cited as a seminal occurrence, perhaps be- lesson in instantaneous personal exuberance.
cause the reading led to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Kerouac insisted that American literature was
publication of Howl and Other Poems and the sub- “waiting and bleeding for” the features that writers
sequent “Howl” censorship trial that enhanced were systematically revising out of their works (let-
sales of the book and generated national publicity. ter to Malcolm Cowley on September 11, 1955, Se-
In September 1957, Kerouac’s On the Road, aided lected Letters, I, 516). “First thought best thought,”
by Gilbert Millstein’s prescient and insightful re- a phrase attributed to Chögyam Trungpa, stands
view in the New York Times, became a best-seller. high in Ginsberg’s list of aphorisms and slogans
With these successes, the Beat literary writers, long (Cosmopolitan Greetings, 13). Burroughs sought an
an underground and marginalized group, came artistic answer to the stagnating forces of control and
into public view, provoking unceasing reactions, conformity through cut-ups. Happy with the willful
objections, and cultural transformations. and playful derangement of the senses, Gregory
The “new vision” of the Beat spirit was born as Corso experimented with “goofing,” a seemingly
World War II raged toward a nuclear conclusion. nonsensical contortion of language that piqued the
While the end of the war led many citizens to seek imagination with the power of surrealism: “Radio
fulfillment through family, career, and con- belly! Cat shovel!”; “Telephone snow, ghost park-
sumerism, the war’s end also led to the Korean War, ing”; “The top of the Empire State / arrowed in a
an arms race, the Cold War, the Red Scare, Mc- broccoli field in Sicily” (The Happy Birthday of
Carthyism, the military-industrial complex, secret Death, 30, 31, and in the foldout section).
FBI files, and the ongoing threat of the nuclear ter- With an emphasis on spontaneity and a desire to
mination of human civilization. What good were a dismantle control and conformity, the key themes
house with a picket fence, a shiny car, and a wash- of the Beat spirit came to the fore. Candor, confes-
ing machine if one had to dig a fallout shelter and sion, and honesty—especially about sexuality (in-
be ready to enter it at a moment’s notice? What cluding homosexuality)—made the revelation of
good were a career and social status if society re- “secret scatological thought” (Kerouac, Pull My
quired conformity in dress, language, taste, and Daisy, 23) not only permissible but also desirable.
thought? What good was a family if divergence Pretenses and artificiality had to be stripped away;
from expectations about marriage and parenthood nakedness became the rule not only for the body
meant that sons and daughters might be committed but also for the soul.
to institutions for mental health and undergo elec- In addition to candor, at the heart of the Beat out-
troshock treatment? look were sympathy and tenderness. One needed to

General Introduction

see others and recognize with imaginative insight into personal myth and legend; the journey of life
their history, backgrounds, values, goals, predica- on the road inevitably was metaphoric, drawing al-
ments, joys, satisfactions, and sorrows. One needed lusively on the imaginative flight of Cervantes’s
not to intrude but to savor with compassionate ap- Don Quixote, Twain’s Huck Finn, Wolfe’s Eugene
preciation and understanding that reached back to a Gant, Bunyan’s Christian, and countless figures
primordial past and ahead to a heavenly future. from the Bible.
Faced with suffering and death, the Beats rejoiced Nevertheless, when publicity catapulted the
optimistically and innocently in the blessings of Beats to national attention, the aforementioned
life—beatitude. The Beats set out for what Kerouac themes and artistry went largely unnoticed while a
on The Steve Allen Show in 1959 called “pleasure in popular, often sensationalized image of the Beats
life,” seeking what Ferlinghetti’s dog sought by was consolidated. The Beats became associated with
“touching and tasting and testing everything” the Beat party held at the Beat pad, where liquor
(“Dog,” in A Coney Island of the Mind, 68), pene- and drugs intensified an orgy. Columnist Herb Caen
trating the real reality. Such experience gave the coined the term “beatnik,” converting Beat artistry
Beats the means to talk about ontology, eschatology, into a caricature of laziness and dirtiness. Feature
Dionysian fervor, and religious philosophy. Always stories in Life, Time, Esquire, and Playboy, if they
aware of the inevitability of suffering and death, the did not make the Beats look like rebels under the
Beats, as Kerouac insisted, were primarily religious flag of foolishness, emphasized hedonism. On TV,
(quoted by Holmes, “The Philosophy of the Beat Maynard G. Krebs became the American standard
Generation” [67]). for the beatnik. In darker assessments, delinquency
The religious dimensions of the Beats are evi- and violence were associated with the Beats, who re-
dent in the boyhood of Kerouac, whose connection portedly were angry and rebellious. The stabbing of
to Catholicism especially permeates his novels set David Kammerer, the shooting of Joan Vollmer
in Lowell, Massachusetts, where he was educated Adams Burroughs, and the arrest of Allen Ginsberg
in the Catholic schools. Ginsberg’s connection to in connection with stolen goods were stories ripe for
Jewish tradition is apparent in “Kaddish,” a poem sensationalism, and journalists exploited this angle
in honor of Ginsberg’s mother written in a scheme to the exclusion of piety, literary innovation, sensitiv-
parallel to that of Jewish prayers for the dead. Ex- ity, and spontaneity.
plorations of Eastern religions and meditation are Like the sensationalized publicity, literary criti-
found not only in the works of Kerouac and Gins- cism was initially sour. Despite favorable reviews
berg, but also in the writings of Gary Snyder, Philip by Richard Eberhart in the New York Times Book
Whalen, Joanne Kyger, Lenore Kandel, Diane di Review and Gilbert Millstein in the New York
Prima, and many others. Zen Buddhism was often Times, Norman Podhoretz, John Ciardi, John Hol-
a refuge for the Beats, but flexibility and individu- lander, Diana Trilling, Herbert Gold, Ernest van
ality prevailed, with each person discovering the den Haag, George Will, and others charged that
combination of beliefs and practices that yielded the Beats had no talent and no ideas. To some de-
the greatest personal satisfaction. gree, the negativity, although painful for the Beats
The themes of the Beats could not be expressed to endure, ultimately proved helpful to the Beats
in standard metrical cadences, but had to find life because the remarks were vituperative and said
in numerous and various literary forms, in the more about the critics than about the Beats. Ironi-
rhythms and accents of natural speech, or in the cally, the scorn of literary critics only heightened
unpredictable flow of jazz phrasing. The long lines the Beat mystique.
of Walt Whitman, his catalogs of particular details, The photographic record of the Beats soon be-
the imagism of William Carlos Williams and Ezra came a significant part of their reputation and ap-
Pound, and the surrealism of poets and painters peal. In the famous San Francisco Scene issue of
were influences. Autobiography was transformed Evergreen Review (1957), photos of writers by

General Introduction

Harry Redl supplemented the mystique behind Jones fought for these goals. In 1962, Ken Kesey
Henry Miller, Kenneth Rexroth, Michael McClure, published One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, creat-
and Allen Ginsberg. In Lawrence Lipton’s The ing Randle McMurphy, the Promethean hero de-
Holy Barbarians (1959), a sequence of photos re- termined to resist Nurse Ratched and the oppres-
vealed the phases of the artistic life in Venice West. sive Combine. Kesey turned society’s concept of
Life (September 1959) ran a photo spread con- mental illness topsy-turvy. When Neal Cassady
trasting “square” life in Hutchinson, Kansas, with joined Kesey and became the driver of Further, the
“cool” life in Venice, California. The photos made bus that carried the Merry Pranksters across Amer-
thousands of readers hungry to be cool, not square, ica, the challenge to society’s control of drugs was
and even when Life (November 1959) presented a on. Leary, Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and others ex-
lengthy, derisive article and a satirical photographic perimented with drugs and founded a psychedelic
impression of the Beats in their pad, the taste for revolution aimed at the improvement of the world
the cool could not be abated. Soon the photos by through drugs. Some critics charge that the Beats
Fred McDarrah were a dominant part of The Beat themselves fell short of their goals because of
Scene (1960), an anthology of Beat writings that abuse of drugs, abuse of alcohol, racism, sexism,
thrived on images of the scorned and forbidden an- and misogyny, but in spite of these weaknesses, the
gels of the cool. Beats were unmistakably forerunners of the social
Anthologies soon became the vehicle to unify changes of the sixties.
various emerging streams of writing. Donald Allen’s A second generation of the Beats emerged in the
The New American Poetry (1960) became the stan- East Village in New York City in the mid- and late
dard for inventive diversity as Allen identified vari- 1960s. Ed Sanders operated the Peace Eye Book-
ous schools in the innovative wave and unified them store, published Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts,
in a single volume. Seymor Krim’s The Beats, Stan- and joined with Ed Weaver and Tuli Kupferberg to
ley Fisher’s Beat Coast East (1960), Lawrence Fer- form the Fugs, the controversial musical group.
linghetti’s Beatitude Anthology (1960), and other Anne Waldman led poetry programs at Saint Mark’s
anthologies pushed forward the Beats with energy, in the Bowery for ten years and established Angel
humor, and personal expression. The “generation” Hair Press. Ted Berrigan, who interviewed Jack
that once consisted of a few men engaged in con- Kerouac for Paris Review, published a little maga-
versation in a Manhattan apartment became a zine known as C and also wrote his Sonnets (1964).
broad, loosely knit association of innumerable writ- The ecological focus of the Beats became espe-
ers and artists whose travels ranged from New York cially apparent in Turtle Island (1974), by Gary
to San Francisco, from Lowell to Los Angeles, from Snyder, which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in
Cherry Valley to New Orleans, and from Denver to 1975. Snyder’s imagistic poems incorporated Na-
St. Petersburg. The Beats were globetrotters, visit- tive American traditions and honored the compati-
ing Cuba, Nicaragua, Czechoslovakia, England, bility of native lifestyles with the environment. In
Tangier, Israel, Cambodia, India, Japan, Peru, “Four Changes,” a prose section at the end of Tur-
France, China, Mexico, and many other places. The tle Island, Snyder emphasized the need for popula-
lives, creativity, and legend of the Beats became an tion control. Similar ideas appeared in the writings
enduring inspiration throughout the world. of Ferlinghetti and McClure, who resisted the en-
In particular, the Beats inspired the sixties, when croachment of corporate development and interna-
goals included civil rights, peace, free speech, tional exploitation.
women’s liberation, gay liberation, liberalization of When the Vietnam War came to an end and as
drug laws, environmental conservation, and height- society addressed, to some degree, the issues of
ened consciousness. Beats such as Ginsberg, Fer- racism and sexism, the Beats—perhaps because the
linghetti, Gary Snyder, Anne Waldman, Timothy objects of their protests had undergone construc-
Leary, Ed Sanders, Bob Kaufman, and Hettie tive change—declined in notoriety; indeed, accord-

General Introduction

ing to William A. Henry in Time, when Ginsberg Libraries anticipated the growth of Beat studies as
read “Howl” at Columbia University in 1981 on the extensive collections developed at Columbia Uni-
twenty-fifth anniversary of the poem’s publication, versity libraries, the New York Public Library, the
the reading created a playful fascination with ex- University of California in Berkeley, Stanford Uni-
pressions such as “nowhere Zen New Jersey.” The versity, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the
Beats seemed to be a peculiar part of the past. State University of New York in Buffalo, and the
Ironically, although the place of women was University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Muse-
often mentioned in attacks on the Beats, the ums honored the Beat tradition and helped to
women of the Beat Generation substantially sus- broaden the appreciation of visual arts associated
tained the Beat movement. Memoirs by Beat with the Beats with exhibits at the National Gallery
women provided new perspectives on Beat history. in Washington, D.C.; the Whitney Museum in New
Joyce Johnson’s Minor Characters (1983) related York; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; and
her coming of age in New York City with special at- the deYoung Memorial Museum in San Francisco.
tention to her love relationship with Jack Kerouac. With honors and recognition accumulating for
Hettie Jones, who with LeRoi Jones edited Yugen, the Beats, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Na-
one of the little magazines that featured the Beats, tional Book Award, and several memberships in
published How I Became Hettie Jones (1990), the the National Institute of Arts and Letters, scholar-
story of her love relationship with LeRoi Jones. ship and editing gained new importance. In the
Carolyn Cassady wrote Heart Beat (1976), and 1990s, various new anthologies of Beat writing ap-
later Off the Road (1990), to reveal her connection peared, as well as volumes of collected writings by
to Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Gins- various artists. Ann Charters edited The Portable
berg. Scholarship about the Beats was diligently Beat Reader (1992), The Portable Jack Kerouac
done by women such as Ann Charters, who edited (1995), and two volumes of Kerouac’s letters. Vol-
The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America umes of collected and selected letters by Bur-
(1983) and wrote a biography and bibliography of roughs, Ginsberg, Snyder, Ferlinghetti, Cassady,
Kerouac. Jennie Skerl, Helen Vendler, Regina and many other Beats appeared. Video, audio, and
Weinreich, Ann Douglas, Hilary Holladay, and Internet resources became widely available. Criti-
many other women did much of the research, edit- cal rejection of the Beats and even hostility toward
ing, reviewing, and writing that kept the Beats them persisted, but despite this obstacle, the Beats
alive. penetrated the curriculum, meriting references in
In time, the stamp the Beats had made on history 258 college catalog descriptions for courses in lit-
and culture generated recognition and renewed re- erature, American studies, history, sociology, reli-
sponse. In 1982, in Boulder, Colorado, the Naropa gious studies, writing, and political science.
Institute hosted a celebration of the twenty-fifth an- In the twenty-first century, the outlook for the
niversary of the publication of On the Road. The Beats is bright. “Howl,” On the Road, and Naked
celebration was a reunion for dozens of people from Lunch continue to be popular, especially on college
the Beat era, and the press coverage was substantial. campuses. With painting, music, photography,
In succeeding years, conferences on Beat writers drama, and film clearly in the sphere of the Age of
and culture became regular events, including sym- Spontaneity, the Beat spirit has a broad base for the
posia held at the University of Massachusetts, Low- future. As war, threats to the environment, material-
ell (1995–2003); conferences held at New York Uni- ism, and challenges to personal freedom loom,
versity (1994, 1995); international conferences in young people draw inspiration from bohemian pred-
the Netherlands and in Prague (1998); conferences ecessors. Young artists seek paths to creativity still to
on popular culture in Albuquerque, New Mexico be revealed, and even as members of the Beat Gen-
(2002, 2003); and an interdisciplinary conference on eration die with each passing day, their immortality
the Age of Spontaneity in Chengdu, China (2004). becomes more certain.

General Introduction

Bibliographic References Beats in Venice Beach is contrasted with

Ann Charters is a prolific editor, bibliographer, traditional Americans in Hutchinson, Kansas, in
biographer, photographer, and scholar on the Beat Life 21 September 1959: 31–37, but the Beats are
Generation, and her Beats and Company, 1986, characterized as foolish rebels in Paul O’Neil,
features large photos and a compact introduction “The Only Rebellion Around,” in Life 30
to principal figures in the movement; Charters is November 1959: 114–116. One finds early
the editor of Beat Down to Your Soul, 2001, which appreciation of the Beats in Richard Eberhart,
gathers various writings that contribute to a “West Coast Rhythms,” New York Times Book
definition of Beat life, philosophy, and art; Review 2 September 1956: 7 and Gilbert
Charters also is the editor of The Beats: Literary Millstein, “Books of the Times,” New York Times 5
Bohemians in Postwar America, 1983; The September 1957: 7, but negative responses are
Portable Beat Reader, 1992; The Portable Jack frequent and persistent: see John Hollander,
Kerouac, 1995; and the two-volume collection of “Poetry Chronicle,” Partisan Review 24 (Spring
Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1995 and 1999; 1957): 296–304; Herbert Gold, “Hip, Cool, Beat—
Charters’s biography Jack Kerouac, 1983, and Frantic,” Nation 16 November 1957:
complements A Bibliography of Works by Jack 349–355; Norman Podhoretz, “The Know-Nothing
Kerouac, 1939–1975, 1975. Allen Ginsberg’s Howl Bohemians,” Partisan Review 25 (Spring 1958):
and Other Poems, 1956, is filled with key 305–311; Ernest van den Haag, “Conspicuous
references to the Beats and people they admire, Consumption of Self,” National Review 11 April
especially in the dedication of the title poem; 1959: 656–658; Diana Trilling, “The Other Night
Kaddish and Other Poems, 1961, includes at Columbia: A Report from the Academy,”
“Kaddish,” which reveals Ginsberg’s adaptation of Partisan Review 26.2 (Spring 1959): 214–230;
Jewish prayers for the dead; Ginsberg’s John Ciardi, “Epitaph for the Dead Beats,”
Cosmopolitan Greetings, 1986, incorporates the Saturday Review 6 February 1960: 11–13; William
title poem, which includes the phrase “First A. Henry, III, “In New York: ‘Howl’ Becomes a
thought, best thought.” Jack Kerouac, Good Hoot,” Time 7 December 1981: 8; and George
Blonde & Others, ed. Donald Allen, 1993, Will, “Ginsberg Turned Paranoia into Marketable
includes many of Kerouac’s contributions to Commodity,” Rocky Mountain News 10 April
magazines; Gregory Corso’s The Happy Birthday 1997: 56A. Major works that mark the
of Death, 1960, includes “Marriage” and “Bomb,” continuation of the counterculture spirit include
and these poems include the lines cited earlier as Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,
examples of goofing. Jack Kerouac, Pull My Daisy, 1962; Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets, 1967; and Gary
1960, provides the text for Kerouac’s narration of Snyder’s Turtle Island, 1974. The importance of
the film and provides photos from the production women in sustaining the Beats and developing
process; Lawrence Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of scholarship about them is evident in numerous
the Mind, 1958, includes “Dog,” the poem that works: Carolyn Cassady’s Heart Beat, 1976, and
characterizes the Beat artist as an inquisitive dog. Off the Road, 1990, are supplemented by Joyce
John Clellon Holmes quotes Kerouac about the Johnson’s Minor Characters, 1983; Jennie Skerl’s
significance of religion to the Beats in “The William S. Burroughs, 1985, is complemented by
Philosophy of the Beat Generation,” which Regina Weinreich’s The Spontaneous Poetics of
appears in Passionate Opinions, 1988. Numerous Jack Kerouac, 1987; the women’s outlook on the
anthologies of the Beats appeared as the Beats is especially clear in Hettie Jones, How I
movement gained popularity, including Became Hettie Jones, 1990; significant articles by
Ferlinghetti, ed., Beatitude Anthology, 1960; women include Ann Douglas, “On the Road
Stanley Fisher, ed., Beat Coast East, 1960; Donald Again,” New York Times Book Review 9 April
Allen, ed., The New American Poetry, 1960; 1995: 2, and Helen Vendler, “American X-Rays:
Seymour Krim, ed., The Beats, 1960; and Elias Forty Years of Allen Ginsberg’s Poetry,” New
Wilentz, ed., The Beat Scene, 1960; Wilentz’s book Yorker 4 November 1996: 98–102. In “A Compact
includes many photos by Fred McDarrah, and a Guide to Sources for Teaching the Beats,” College
series of early photos is also included in Lawrence Literature 27.1 (Winter 2000): 232–255, one finds
Lipton, The Holy Barbarians, 1959, and data about the number of college course offerings
Evergreen Review 2 (1957). The coolness of the about the Beats.



Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1905 Naomi Ginsberg, a In Pittsburgh, viewers

Russian émigré, arrives pay a nickel to see
in New York City. short “moving
1906 Earthquake and fire Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
destroy a large part of appear on the market.
San Francisco. The Victrola, an
enclosed phonograph,
appears on the market.
1907 Immigration to the Pablo Picasso: Les
United States rises Demoiselles
to 1.2 million, with d Avignon.
immigrants coming
mainly from Europe’s
southern and eastern
1908 Henry Ford introduces Gustav Klimt:
the Model T. The Kiss.
1909 W. E. B. DuBois Instant coffee is
founds the NAACP. available to consumers.
1910 Laura Lee and Mortimer World population reaches
Burroughs marry and 1.5 billion. Of these, 850
move to Detroit. million are Asians.
1911 Gabrielle Levesque (Jack The Chinese revolution
Kerouac’s mother) begins against the Manchu dynasty
work at a shoe factory in deposes the emperor.
Nashua, New Hampshire.
1912 Marcel Duchamp: The Titanic sinks.
Nude Descending
a Staircase.
1913 Umberto Boccioni:
Unique Forms of
Continuity in Space.
1914 5 February: Birth of The Harrison Act World War I begins.
William S. Burroughs. requires individuals
to have prescriptions
from medical doctors
for preparations
including narcotics. continues
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1915 Kerouac’s parents marry. The Great Migration of

blacks to the North begins.
1917 The United States enters The Russian Revolution ousts
World War I. the czar.
1918 The Spanish influenza epidemic
kills 21 million people.
1919 Birth of Lawrence Prohibition makes
Ferlinghetti on 24 March. alcoholic beverages illegal.
1920 Women get the right Bubonic plague strikes India.
to vote. The League of Nations is
1922 Birth of Jack Kerouac King Tut’s tomb is discovered
on 12 March. in Egypt.
1923 Americans dance
the Charleston.
Talking movies are
1924 J. Edgar Hoover becomes
the director of the FBI.
1925 William S. Burroughs The Scopes trial pits the F. Scott Fitzgerald Moviegoers see Charlie Hitler publishes Mein
attends the John theory of evolution writes The Great Gatsby. Chaplin and Harold Kampf.
Burroughs School, a against creationism. Lloyd.
private school named The “flapper” style is
after a naturalist. popular.
1926 Gerard Kerouac, older Hemingway publishes
brother of Jack, dies The Sun Also Rises.
of rheumatic fever. Winnie the Pooh by
Allen Ginsberg is A. A. Milne is published.
born on 3 June.
1927 Kerouac enters The pop-up toaster Economic collapse in Germany
school and begins to provides new creates a crisis.
learn English. convenience. Trotsky is expelled from the

A tornado in St. Louis, Communist Party.
the home town of
William S. Burroughs,
kills 300 people. continues

Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1928 After an accidental explosion The first scheduled D. H. Lawrence Bubble gum is invented. Chiang Kai-Shek is elected
involving a chemistry set, television broadcast publishes Lady president of China.
William S. Burroughs is occurs in Schenectady, Chatterly’s Lover. Fleming accidentally discovers
treated at a hospital at New York. Constantin Brancusi: penicillin.
University City and is given The first color motion Bird in Space.
an adult dose of morphine. picture is shown in
Rochester, New York.
1929 Naomi Ginsberg enters The stock market collapses William Faulkner The car radio is Leon Trotsky is expelled from
Bloomingdale Sanitarium and the Great Depression publishes The Sound introduced. the Soviet Union.
after a nervous breakdown. begins. and the Fury. The Nazis win 107 seats in the
Three months before the Ernest Hemingway German Reichstag and win
stock market crash, publishes A Farewell national and international
Mortimer Burroughs, father to Arms. attention.
of William S. Burroughs, Erich Masria
sells his remaining shares Remarque publishes
of the Burroughs Company All Quiet on the
for $276,000. Western Front.
Burroughs attends Los
Alamos Ranch School.
1930 Boston bans the writings Sinclair Lewis wins the Sliced bread is on
of Trotsky. Nobel Prize for literature. store shelves.
Charlie Chaplin appears
in City Lights.
1931 “The Star Spangled Pearl Buck’s The Good The monument of Christ is
Banner” is declared the Earth sells widely. mounted in Rio de Janeiro,
national anthem. Robert Frost wins the Brazil.
The Empire State Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
Building is completed. Salvador Dali: The
Persistence of Memory.
1932 Burroughs studies Franklin Delano Air conditioning is
English at Harvard. Roosevelt is elected invented.
President. Zippo lighters appeal
to smokers.
1933 FDR begins the New Renee Magritte: The Americans eat Adolf Hitler becomes
Deal. Human Condition. cheeseburgers for the chancellor of Germany.
Prohibition ends in the first time.
United States.
1934 John Dillenger is shot Luigi Pirandello wins the In Venice, Hitler and Mussolini
by the FBI. Nobel Prize for literature. meet.
The Dust Bowl ruins lives. continues
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1935 Naomi Ginsberg enters The United States Social The German Luftwaffe is
Greystone Sanitarium. Security Act is signed by formed.
Roosevelt. Germany creates the
Nuremberg Laws, which
worsen conditions for Jews.
1936 In Lowell, Massachusetts, The Hoover Dam is Eugene O’Neill wins Life magazine begins Hitler and Mussolini declare
the Merrimack River completed. the Nobel Prize for its run. their alliance.
overflows. The flood ruins literature. Americans admire Dale King Edward VIII of England
the printing business of The Pulitzer Prize goes to Carnegie for How to Win abdicates.
Kerouac’s father. Margaret Mitchell for Friends and Influence The Spanish Civil War begins.
Burroughs tours Europe, Gone with the Wind. People.
attends medical school in
Vienna, and marries
Ilse Klapper.
1937 Naomi Ginsberg attempts The Golden Gate Bridge John Steinbeck publishes Italy withdraws from
suicide. opens for traffic. Of Mice and Men. the League of Nations.
Chiang Kai-Shek, Mao
Tse-Tung, and Chao En-Lai
resist Japanese aggression.
Amelia Earhart disappears on a
Pacific flight.
1938 Kerouac falls in love with The Supreme Court rules Orson Welles surprises Benny Goodman’s style Hitler and Mussolini meet in
Mary Carney. His best that the University of America with War of of jazz gains popularity. Rome.
friend is Sebastian Sampas. Missouri Law School the Worlds. The United States and
Burroughs studies must admit blacks. Thomas Wolfe dies. Germany withdraw
anthropology at Harvard. Pearl Buck wins the ambassadors.
Nobel Prize for literature. Hitler annexes Austria.
Thornton Wilder publishes
Our Town.
1939 Kerouac graduates from James Joyce publishes Hitler invades Poland.
Lowell High School and Finnegan’s Wake. World War II begins.
enrolls at Horace Mann For The Grapes of Wrath, Mein Kampf is translated into
School for Boys in John Steinbeck wins the English.
Manhattan. Pulitzer Prize. Refugees on the St. Louis are
refused entry to any country.


Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1940 With a football scholarship, FDR wins a third term. Slim Gaillard, jazz Nylon stockings enter World War II rages in Europe.
Kerouac attends Columbia Mount Rushmore is musician, gains national the marketplace. Trotsky is assassinated in
University. During a completed. fame. Mexico.
practice, he suffers a The Manhattan Project Charlie Parker’s first
broken leg. begins. known recordings are
made at a Wichita radio
Hemingway publishes
For Whom the Bell Tolls;
Richard Wright publishes
Native Son; Thomas
Wolfe’s You Can’t Go
Home Again is published
after the author’s death.
1941 Kerouac reenters Louis Armstrong appears The Japanese bomb Pearl
Columbia but soon in the film Birth of the Harbor.
drops out. Blues. The United States declares war
In Harlem clubs, one can on Japan, Germany, and Italy.
hear Lester Young, Dizzy Wilhelm Reich sends an orgone
Gillespie, Thelonious energy accumulator to Albert
Monk, and Charlie Einstein. Einstein dismisses the
Christian. idea as foolishness.
1942 As a merchant seaman, Japanese Americans are
Kerouac sails to interned.
Greenland. Late in
the year, he enlists in
the navy.
1943 Lucien Carr attempts At home in Lowell, Rationing limits supplies Lady Chatterley’s Lover European influence over Hitler pursues a “scorched
suicide and is subsequently Massachusetts, Jack of canned goods, meat, survives a censorship women’s fashions declines earth” policy in Europe.
hospitalized in Cook Kerouac writes The cheese, butter, and shoes. trial. as the war inhibits trade. The Casablanca Conference
County Hospital. Later Sea Is My Brother. A Supreme Court decision Oklahoma by Rodgers Americans dance the plots strategy against the Axis
he registers for classes affirms the right of and Hammerstein Jitterbug to jive music. forces.
at Columbia University. schoolchildren not to shines on Broadway. Eisenhower assumes leadership
William Burroughs begins salute the flag if their over Allied forces in Europe.
residence in New York. religion proscribes such In the Warsaw Ghetto, an
Jack Kerouac is honorably saluting. uprising challenges German
discharged from the U.S. The Young Communist authority.
Navy despite difficulties League in the United
with his mental health States, by its own
during his time of service. proclamation, comes
As a merchant seaman, he to an end. continues
sails to Liverpool.
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
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Edie Parker introduces Jack

Kerouac to Lucien Carr.
Allen Ginsberg meets
Lucien Carr. Carr later
connects William Burroughs
and David Kammerer with
1944 February: David Kammerer Kerouac, Carr, and Citizens in the United Billy Eckstein’s band In the movies, the Allied forces land in Normandy.
introduces Burroughs to Ginsberg debate and States no longer have to includes Dexter Gordon, stars are Bing Crosby, German occupation in Paris and
Kerouac. formulate their New endure the rationing of Charlie Parker, and Gary Cooper, Bob Brussels ends as Allied forces
Spring: Lucien Carr Vision, including meat. Consumer goods Sarah Vaughan. Hope, Betty Grable, arrive.
introduces Kerouac candor and psychic return to the marketplace. Duke Ellington plays at Spencer Tracy, Greer Germans enhance their
and Ginsberg. experimentation. The Communist Political Carnegie Hall. Garson, Humphrey firepower with a huge missile
14 August: Angered by George Leite Association replaces the Tennessee Williams Bogart, Abbot and (1,600 pounds), which has a
unwanted sexual publishes Circle, a Communist Party. writes The Glass Costello, Cary Grant, firing range of 200 miles.
advances, Lucien Carr small literary The Supreme Court rules Menagerie. and Bette Davis.
stabs to death David magazine that against the denial of voting Jean Paul Sartre Censorship embroils
Kammerer. Kerouac features Henry rights based on race. writes No Exit. Lillian Smith, author
and Burroughs become Miller, Robert Franklin D. Roosevelt is In Waldport, Oregon, of Strange Fruit, and
material witnesses. After Duncan, William elected to a fourth term. the Civilian Public Kathleen Winsor,
a trial for manslaughter Everson, and At Harvard, a huge but Service Camp for author of Forever
(6 October), Lucien Carr Kenneth Rexroth. functional computer is conscientious objectors Amber. Both books
begins a jail term at Burroughs and developed. provides a productive are best-sellers.
Elmira Reformatory. Kerouac collaborate and interdisciplinary Because of shortages
22 August: Kerouac on “And the Hippos environment for artists. of materials during
marries Edie Parker and Were Boiled in Their Americans see the war, some
they move to Grosse Tanks.” Appalachian Spring by publishers offer
Point, Michigan. Aaron Copland on paperback editions.
Philip Lamantia works Broadway. The “football player
at View magazine. look” emphasizes
At 419 West 115th oversize shoulders
Street in Manhattan, and jutting lapels.
Edie Parker and Joan Ball-point pens are
Vollmer establish a marketed.
communal apartment.


Beat Writing
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1945 Authorities at Columbia In the apartment at In Open City, Roberto The marketing of About 7.2 million U.S. soldiers
University determine that 419 West 115th Rosselini makes the Tupperware begins. are active; 292,000 soldiers are
Ginsberg, a resident in a Street, conversations docudrama reveal the Paperback books sell recorded as dead in battle;
university dormitory, has culminate in the atrocities of the well. 613,611 are recorded wounded.
harbored Kerouac in the Night of the Nazis committed The new sound in U.S. Marines achieve victory on
dorm and has written vulgar Wolfeans, with against Italian Catholics. jazz is “bebop.” Iwo Jima after thirty-six days of
and racist words in the dust Kerouac and Hal Miles Davis and hard fighting.
on a window. The university Chase taking the Charlie Parker record Hitler commits suicide.
authorities suspend Ginsberg Wolfean side and together. Germany surrenders on the
for twelve months, and Ginsberg and George Orwell writes Italian front.
Ginsberg takes up residence Burroughs taking the Animal Farm. VE (Victory in Europe)
at the apartment at 419 West non-Wolfean side. established on 8 May.
115th Street. The United Nations begins in
1 August: Neal Cassady San Francisco. The U.S. Senate
marries LuAnne Henderson. firmly approves the United
August: After a stay at his Nations Charter (89–2).
home in St. Louis, Atomic bombs devastate
Burroughs returns to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
New York. Japan surrenders.
Ginsberg spends four
months in the Merchant
Marine Academy.
Kerouac is hospitalized for
result of his use of
1946 Burroughs, under the Kerouac begins The The Atomic Energy Charged with treason, Ezra Ranch and split-level John D. Rockefeller’s gift makes
influence of Herbert Town and the City. Commission is created. Pound begins a twelve-year homes dominate new possible the construction of the
Huncke, becomes an Frances X. Cabrini commitment to St. home construction. headquarters for the United
addict. becomes the first U.S. Elizabeth’s sanitarium. Las Vegas competes Nations in New York City.
Burroughs lives at citizen to be declared Herman Hesse wins for leadership in In Vietnam, the French engage
Joan Vollmer’s a saint by the Roman the Nobel Prize in entertainment. in a military conflict.
communal apartment. Catholic Church. literature. Parents show confidence Fourteen Nazis are convicted
Burroughs is arrested In Mississippi, blacks John Hersey writes in Dr. Spock’s The as war criminals at the
for trying to use a vote in primary Hiroshima. Common Sense Book Nuremberg trials.
falsified prescription elections for the of Baby and Child Churchill makes current the
and is left under his first time. Care. phrase “Iron Curtain” during a
family’s supervision in The bikini becomes speech in Fulton, Missouri. He
St. Louis. available. refers to the barrier separating
The communal apartment the Soviet Union from the rest
ceases in the summer. of the world.
Vollmer suffers from continues
Beat Writing
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Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

drug-induced illusions and is

sent to Bellevue for treatment.
Burroughs returns to New
York to get Vollmer out of
the hospital. William
Burroughs III is conceived,
and the couple moves to
New Waverly, Texas, where
they plan to grow a crop
of marijuana. Kerouac
annuls his marriage to
Edie Parker and lives at
Leo Kerouac, Jack
Kerouac’s father, dies of
stomach cancer.
Ginsberg is at sea as a
merchant marine.
December: Cassady arrives
in New York with LuAnne
Henderson and meets
Kerouac and Ginsberg.
1947 At the San Remo, a The plan to “contain” Americans see A Streetcar For $1,700, one can fly The Marshall Plan, led by
bar in New York City, Soviet expansion is Named Desire by around the world on Pan Secretary of State George
avant-garde artists gather declared by Truman, and Tennessee Williams. American Airlines. Marshall, offers help to
to socialize and exchange the policy is known as The play wins a Pulitzer. Polaroid cameras make devastated nations in Europe.
ideas. the Truman Doctrine. instant photography India and Pakistan become
Gregory Corso enters Charged with abuses, possible. independent nations.
Clinton State Prison and unions face limitations People compete to blow On the raft named Kon-Tiki,
pursues reading and the under the Taft-Hartley the best bubbles with Thor Heyerdahl sets sail to
writing of poetry. Bill. bubble gum. demonstrate the possibility of
Herbert Huncke joins Jackie Robinson signs a Women adopt “the New early trans-Pacific migration.
Joan Vollmer and William contract to play major- Look,” accenting a narrow The Dead Sea Scrolls are
Burroughs in New league baseball for the waist and salient breasts. discovered.
Waverly, Texas. Burroughs Brooklyn Dodgers. Many Americans follow
develops an interest in The House Un-American Oral Roberts, a faith
the work of psychologist Activities Committee healer.
Wilhelm Reich. A bond seeks out those who have Kraft Television Theater

forms between Neal associations with successfully markets cheese
Cassady and Allen communist activities; products, affirming the
Ginsberg. blacklisting of individuals power of television to sell.


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On 4 March, Cassady makes employment in The arts enjoy financial

departs from New York. Hollywood and other areas support from big
In the weeks that follow, very difficult. businesses, such as
he meets Carolyn Chrysler, Pepsi-Cola,
Robinson and begins a and others.
relationship with her
in Denver.
Ginsberg joins Cassady
in Denver.
On 21 July, William
Burroughs III is born.
Ginsberg and Cassady
join Burroughs in New
Waverly, Texas.
Gary Snyder begins
formal work at Reed
College in Oregon.
Ginsberg sails for
Dakar as a merchant
seaman aboard the
John Blair.
Burroughs, Huncke,
and Cassady fail in
their efforts to transport
marijuana to New York
for sale and profit.
Charlie Parker
recuperates from
addiction at Camarillo
State Hospital.
1948 Neal Cassady marries Kerouac completes a In a spy trial, Alger Hiss The long-playing record Television features Mahatma Gandhi is the victim
Carolyn Robinson on draft of On the Road. is accused of giving is developed. Howdy Doody and Meet of assassination in India.
1 April. In May, Kerouac secrets to communist George Balanchine and the Press. Israel achieves nationhood.
Ginsberg has a vision completes his first spies. Lincoln Kirstein are the Tensions between the United
of William Blake in an version of The Town The Supreme Court rules first directors of the States and the Soviet Union are
uptown Manhattan and the City. that New York’s obscenity New York City Ballet. referred to as the “Cold War.”
apartment, and the law, including its Jean Genet avoids life
vision inspires Ginsberg suppression of Edmund imprisonment when
for many years. Wilson’s Memoirs of fellow writers rise in
On Christmas Eve, Hecate County, is his support.
William Everson has a appropriate. T. S. Eliot wins the
vision that transforms The Supreme Court finds Nobel Prize in literature. continues
Beat Writing
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his religious outlook. that in public schools Norman Mailer writes

He becomes the religious education is a The Naked and the
Dominican monk known violation of the First Dead.
as Brother Antoninus. Amendment. W. H. Auden wins the
In Rocky Mount, North Harry Truman is elected Pulitzer for “The Age
Carolina, Cassady, President. of Anxiety.”
LuAnne Henderson, Alfred Kinsey publishes
and Al Hinkle visit Sexual Behavior in the
Kerouac at the home Human Male.
of his sister.
Kerouac takes his first
trip with Cassady.
Burroughs takes the
cure for addiction in
Lexington, Kentucky,
and moves to Algiers,
1949 Kerouac, Cassady, LuAnne Barney Rosset Cortisone becomes George Orwell’s 1984 On television, I European nations and the
Henderson, and Al Hinkle establishes Grove a source of relief for appears. Remember Mama and United States found the North
begin a transcontinental Press. rheumatoid arthritis. Death of a Salesman The Goldbergs prove Atlantic Treaty Organization.
journey, including a visit On 29 March Cigarette smoking is by Arthur Miller debuts to be successful. Apartheid makes the separation
to Burroughs in Louisiana. Harcourt Brace linked to cancer, on Broadway and the The post–World War of blacks and whites in South
After arriving in San pays an advance according to the American play wins the Pulitzer. II baby boom slows. Africa the rule of law.
Francisco, Kerouac and of $1,000 to Cancer Society and the Miles Davis and the Women wear bikinis to China becomes a communist
Cassady go separate ways, Kerouac for The National Cancer Institute. Modern Jazz Quartet the beach. nation.
with Kerouac eventually Town and the City. make cool jazz a new The Soviets have the atomic
riding the bus back to In a conversation art form. bomb.
New York. with John Clellon
Huncke makes Ginsberg’s Holmes, Kerouac
New York apartment a uses the term
site for storage of stolen Beat Generation.
Huncke’s accomplices are
Vicki Russell and Little
Jack Melody.
While driving in a car
loaded with stolen goods,
Allen Ginsberg, Vicki

Russell, and Little Jack
Melody are arrested for


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Burroughs is arrested on
drug charges in Louisiana.
Kerouac moves to Denver
and sets up residence with
his mother.
In response to Ginsberg’s
arrest, authorities decide to
send him to the Columbia
Psychiatric Institute. There
Ginsberg meets Carl
Solomon, to whom Ginsberg
later dedicates “Howl.”
Ginsberg spends time in
Paterson, New Jersey, with
his family. Ginsberg meets
William Carlos Williams.
Burroughs and Joan Vollmer
move to Mexico City.
Near the end of the year,
Carl Solomon leaves
Columbia Psychiatric Institute.
1950 Robert Duncan and Jess Burroughs begins work Senator Joseph McCarthy The Dave Brubeck Responding to the According to the United
Collins begin a homosexual on the manuscript later of Wisconsin stirs Quartet popularizes jazz. nuclear threat, Americans Nations, 480 million of the
partnership. to be titled Junky and controversy with Jackson Pollock paints construct family bomb world’s 800 million children
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, sends the manuscript accusations against the Lavender Mist. The shelters. suffer from undernourishment.
then known as Lawrence to Ginsberg. State Department, painting initiates Peanuts debuts as The United States invades
Ferling, arrives in San Kerouac is inspired by which he says is under the Pollock’s series of action a comic strip. North Korea.
Francisco. the spontaneity and influence of communists. paintings. The United States is President Truman directs the
Gary Snyder discovers freshness in Neal The McCarran Act, also 97 percent literate. Atomic Energy Commission to
friendship with Philip Cassady’s letter to known as the Internal Sociologist David develop the hydrogen bomb.
Whalen and Lew Welch Kerouac, now known Security Act, calls for the Riesman’s The Lonely
at Reed College. as the Joan Anderson registration of communists Crowd draws
27 February: Allen Letter. and their organizations. widespread attention.
Ginsberg is formally Harcourt Brace pub- McCarthyism leads to According to Life
discharged from the lishes Kerouac’s The blacklisting. magazine, teens admire
Columbia Psychiatric Town and the City. Among others, Gypsy Rose Louisa May Alcott, Joe
Institute. Gershon Legman and Lee, Arthur Miller, Pete DiMaggio, Franklin Delano
Ginsberg hears William Jay Landesman edit Seeger, Zero Mostel, Roosevelt, Abraham
Carlos Williams at the Neurotica, a magazine Howard K. Smith, and Lincoln, Roy Rogers,
Guggenheim and begins that features writers who Orson Welles face General Douglas
a correspondence with are later associated with blacklisting. MacArthur, Clara Barton,
him. the Beats, including Doctors successfully Doris Day, Sister continues
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Ginsberg and Corso Carl Solomon, who transplant kidneys and Elizabeth Kenny, Babe
meet in Greenwich Village. writes “Report from aortas. Ruth, and Florence
Neal Cassady, while still the Asylum” under the Alger Hiss is convicted of Nightingale.
married to Carolyn pen name Carl Goy. perjury. Dress emphasizes casual
Cassady, marries Diana In Los Angeles, the comfort, with short hair
Hansen, who is pregnant Mattachine Society is and dungarees.
with his child. established to work for The modern credit
Lucien Carr visits William homosexual rights. card is introduced.
Burroughs and Jane
Vollmer in Mexico City.
On 17 November, Kerouac
marries Joan Haverty.
After the marriage,
Kerouac goes to Denver
with Cassady and then visits
Burroughs in Mexico City.
1951 Gary Snyder graduates Cassady starts The Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Psychological therapy, North Korea participates in
from Reed College. First Third, his are convicted of conspiracy thanks to Carl Rogers, talks to declare a truce in the
Burroughs seeks the autobiography. involving the passing of places emphasis on the Korean conflict.
drug yagé in Ecuador. Holmes shares the secret documents to the patient.
Ginsberg and Carr visit manuscript for the Soviet Union. Television reinforces the
Joan Vollmer in Mexico autobiographical American Telephone and trend toward relaxed
City. novel entitled Go Telegraph sets a new styles in dress.
On 6 September, with Kerouac. Cid record as a widely held Color television becomes
Burroughs accidentally Corman initiates stock with more than 1 available.
shoots Joan Vollmer in publication of Origin. million shareholders.
Mexico City. The shooting In April, Kerouac A mass-produced computer,
occurs when Burroughs engages in a legendary the UNIVAC I, enters the
fails to shoot a glass off three-week typing U.S. market.
her head and instead marathon that results Images and sound are
shoots a bullet into her in the scroll of On recorded on magnetic tape
forehead. Burroughs is the Road. by means of a video camera.
imprisoned. On 8 Kerouac associates Television signals are
December, officially himself with broadcast across the nation
declared “a pernicious “spontaneous prose” for the first time; the
foreigner,” Burroughs and “bop prosody.” broadcast occurs between
leaves Mexico. Monologist Lord New York and San
Kerouac meets Corso Buckley records the Francisco.

in New York. routines that become The United States
Kerouac pursues studies selections on the LP detonates the first
of Buddhism. records The Best of hydrogen bomb.
Lord Buckley. continues

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1952 Jan Kerouac is born in Kerouac completes a DNA is revealed to be the The success of Samuel Mad debuts. Jonas Salk refines an effective
New York, but Jack manuscript later to be genetic basis of viruses. Beckett’s Waiting for On television, viewers vaccine to prevent polio.
Kerouac refuses to published as Visions Republicans Eisenhower Godot draws attention see I’ve Got a Secret,
acknowledge paternity of Cody. and Nixon take control to the theater of the The Adventures of
and tries not to pay for During a stay with of the White House; absurd. Ozzie and Harriet,
child support. Burroughs, Kerouac Republicans dominate Invisible Man by Dragnet, and The Today
Ginsberg takes peyote. composes Dr. Sax. Congress as well. Ralph Ellison appears. Show.
Burroughs writes The Supreme Court allows Panty raids become a
Queer. schools to refuse to hire special sport on
Burroughs accepts an “subversives” as teachers. college campuses.
advance of $1,000 from When a strike threatens to 3-D movies briefly
Ace Books for the halt production in steel capture national attention.
publication of Junkie. mills, the president orders Additions to the
Holmes makes Kerouac that the mills be seized; dictionary: hot rod,
envious when Holmes the Supreme Court finds miniaturization, globalist,
gets a $20,000 advance that such a seizure is in Pentagonese, telethon,
for Go. violation of the psycholinguistics, hack.
16 November: In the Constitution. Car seat belts are
New York Times George Jorgensen becomes introduced
Magazine, Holmes Christine Jorgensen
contributes “This Is through sex-change
the Beat Generation.” surgery.
Peter Martin edits the Tests begin to determine
magazine City Lights if Thorazine can help
in San Francisco. patients with schizophrenia.
1953 In Central and South Ace Books publishes The Rosenbergs are Gerry Mulligan and Comic books achieve After losing more than 25,000
America, Burroughs Junkie by William executed. Chet Baker create the wide popularity. soldiers, the United States
resumes his quest for Burroughs, and the Earl Warren becomes West Coast sound in jazz. TV dinners sell well. agrees to end the war in Korea.
yagé. paperback, printed chief justice of the The first Newport Jazz Hugh Hefner initiates Edmund Hillary and Tenzing
Snyder ascends together with The Supreme Court. Festival is staged. publication of Playboy. Norkay ascend Mount Everest.
Sourdough Mountain Narcotics Agent by The U.S. Communist Hemingway wins the American activities are Stalin dies; Khrushchev assumes
to serve as a fire lookout. Morris Helbrant, sells Party is compelled by Nobel Prize in reflected in language leadership in the Soviet Union.
Snyder studies Oriental more than 100,000 the Justice Department literature. such as cookout, drag Queen Elizabeth II is crowned.
languages at the University copies. to register itself as an On the Waterfront, strip, split-level, and
of California, Berkeley. City Lights Bookstore, organization under the starring Marlon Brando, girlie magazine.
Burroughs visits Ginsberg under the direction of direction of the Soviet wins an Academy Award.
in New York and briefly Peter Martin and Union.
they are lovers. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, The Department of
Burroughs visits Venice, opens in San Francisco. Health, Education, and
Italy, and then begins The store is perhaps the Welfare is founded.
residence in Tangier. first bookstore to sell General Electric declares
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Kerouac has an affair with only paperback books. that all communist
Alene Lee. Kerouac writes employees will be
“Essentials of dismissed from the
Spontaneous Prose.” company’s payroll.
Kerouac writes The Sexual Behavior in the
Subterraneans and Human Female by Alfred
Maggie Cassidy. Charles Kinsey is
Burroughs writes published.
“Roosevelt After B. F. Skinner publishes
Inauguration,” his Science of Human
first routine. He also Behavior.
starts to write Naked
1954 Bob Kaufman begins Black Mountain In Brown v. Board of On television, The
life in San Francisco. Review begins its run. Education, the Supreme Wonderful World of
Michael McClure meets Court rules that Disney is shown for
Robert Duncan at the segregation of schools the first time.
Poetry Center at San by race is against the Juvenile delinquency
Francisco State University. Constitution. stirs controversy.
Kerouac tutors Ginsberg The stock market reaches Coffee, beer, wine, and
about Buddhism. its highest level since liquor are popular
The Cassadys are 1929. beverages; almost half
inspired by the writings Senator McCarthy faces of all Americans smoke
of Edgar Cayce. the Army-McCarthy twenty cigarettes a day.
Ginsberg spends the hearings and is eventually The Cold War and the
first half of the year in censured for conduct atomic bomb prove to be
Mexico City. unbecoming a senator. hot topics for book
Kerouac visits the Plastic contact lenses sales.
Cassadys in San Jose. prove to be effective. Davy Crockett is a smash
In March, Robert Communists, fascists, and hit on TV and the theme
Creeley joins Black Ku Klux Klan members music is marketed
Mountain College in are barred from the U.S. broadly.
North Carolina. He Steelworkers Union.
teaches and also edits The Salk vaccine turns
Black Mountain Review. the tide in the struggle
Ginsberg lives with the against polio.
Cassadys briefly and
then ventures into San


Beat Writing
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1955 In the milieu at Black Kerouac’s “Jazz of the In Montgomery, James Dean dies in a Juvenile delinquency is Winston Churchill resigns as
Mountain College are Beat Generation,” a Alabama, blacks refuse car crash. associated with rock- prime minister in Britain.
Robert Duncan and John selection from On to ride on segregated Charlie Parker dies. and-roll music. Juan Peron resigns the
Wieners. the Road, appears in buses. Tennessee Williams wins Reserpine and thorazine presidency of Argentina.
September: Kerouac New World Writing. Martin Luther King the Pulitzer Prize for are approved for use as
joins Ginsberg, Snyder, On 7 October, the 6 gains recognition as a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. prescription medications
and Whelen in San Gallery in San Francisco leader of passive for the treatment of
Francisco. is the scene for a resistance. schizophrenia.
Kerouac lives in legendary reading Marian Anderson is Disneyland opens in
Mexico City. hosted by Kenneth the first African Anaheim, California.
Ginsberg, in Berkeley Rexroth and featuring American to sing at the Americans begin their
as a graduate student, Lamantia, McClure, Metropolitan Opera; fascination with pizza.
meets Robert La Vigne Snyder, Whalen, and Arthur Mitchell is the Lawrence Welk brings
and Peter Orlovsky. Ginsberg. The reading first black person to his style of music to
Ginsberg’s analyst tells of material from dance with the New television.
Ginsberg to be himself, “Howl” proves York City Ballet. The first McDonald’s
move in with Orlovsky, especially provocative. The Presbyterian Church restaurant opens.
and be a poet. Corso publishes The allows the ordination
With Snyder, Kerouac Vestal Lady on Brattle. of women.
goes mountain climbing Ferlinghetti publishes In San Francisco, the
and discusses Buddhism. Pictures of the Gone Daughters of Bilitis
Kerouac returns to North World as the first organizes to fight for
Carolina to be with his title in the Pocket lesbian rights.
mother, sister, and Poets Series by City
brother-in-law. Lights Books.
Ginsberg continues
the writing of
“Howl,” composing
the initial and final
Kenneth Patchen
publishes Poems of
Humor and Protest.
In Mexico City,
Kerouac writes Mexico
City Blues and begins
Snyder works on
translations of Han
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1956 Creeley joins Kerouac Kerouac writes Eisenhower is reelected. Under the direction of Teens dress as “weenies” Jordan and Israel accept United
and Ginsberg in San Visions of Gerard, Eleven arrests in architect Frank Lloyd or “greasers.” Nations truce proposals.
Francisco. The Scripture of the Montgomery, Alabama, Wright, workers begin Ed Sullivan features Pakistan becomes an Islamic
Kerouac spends sixty Golden Eternity; he mark the struggle to construction of the Elvis Presley on national republic.
days on Desolation starts Desolation desegregate the bus lines. Guggenheim Museum TV and Elvis subsequently Citizens rebel against
Peak as a fire lookout. Angels and The The transatlantic telephone in New York City. dominates the pop charts. communist rule in Hungary.
5 May: Gary Snyder Dharma Bums. James cable becomes operational. Following the successful In Minnesota, Southdale
departs for Japan. Harmon and Michael The suspension of run of My Fair Lady establishes the trend
9 June: Naomi Ginsberg McClure edit ArkII/ Autherine Lucy, the first on Broadway, women toward shopping malls.
dies. Moby I, another little black student on the adopt the “Edwardian Americans see movies at
magazine drawing campus of the University Look”; men prefer the the drive-in theater.
together several schools of Alabama, prompts “Madison Avenue Look.” Suburbia proves attractive
of writers. violence. Eventually Lucy Dizzy Gillespie, sponsored to the lower middle
McClure publishes is expelled. by the U.S. State class.
Passages. Lung cancer is clearly Department, begins a The police are called
City Lights publishes attributed to cigarette series of jazz the fuzz; a psychiatrist
Ginsberg’s Howl and smoking. performances. is a headshrinker
Other Poems. The CIO disassociates Britain’s “angry young or shrink; a wonderful
Viking accepts On the itself from James Hoffa men” are reflected in person is the most.
Road for publication. and the Teamsters. John Osbourne’s play One in eight new cars
In Michigan, the world’s Look Back in Anger. sold is a station wagon.
longest suspension bridge John Coltrane joins the
carries traffic. Miles Davis Group.
The Devil Outside, a book Peyton Place is a
by John Howard Griffith best-seller.
whose sale had led to the Richard Hamilton:
arrest of a bookseller in Just What Is It That
Michigan, is declared Makes Today’s Homes So
acceptable reading material Different, So Appealing?
by the Supreme Court.
Venereal disease becomes
more prevalent, reversing
trends established since 1948.
Eisenhower sends soldiers
to Little Rock, Arkansas,
to guarantee the right of
blacks to attend Little Rock
Central High School.
Medications enable many

long-term patients in mental
hospitals to leave them.
Congress passes new civil
rights legislation, the first

such legislation since 1872. continues


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1957 After traveling by sea The Cellar proves to be NASA is founded. Videotape is applied in In Mademoiselle, public With the launching of Sputnik I
to Tangier, Kerouac a venue for combining the production of attention is drawn to and Sputnik II, the Soviet
assists Burroughs by jazz and poetry, as television programming artists in the San Union challenges the United
typing the manuscript revealed by the for Truth or Francisco Renaissance. States to venture into space.
and providing the title appearances of Consequences. Americans are In Britain, the Wolfenden
for Naked Lunch. On Ferlinghetti and Juvenile delinquency fascinated by TV game Report comments on
the return trip, Kerouac Rexroth. becomes a topic for shows and the prizes homosexuality and prostitution.
visits Paris and London. In Dissent, Norman the Broadway show they award.
Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Mailer’s essay “The West Side Story. The “sack dress” is a
and Alan Ansen arrive in White Negro” appears. Elvis Presley acquires prominent fashion.
Tangier and contribute to City Lights Books Graceland. At the movies, America
the editing of Naked Lunch. republishes the essay. Albert Camus wins sees Rock Hudson,
In San Francisco, U.S. Black Mountain the Nobel Prize in John Wayne, Pat Boone,
Customs seizes copies of Review’s last issue, Literature. Elvis Presley, Frank
Ginsberg’s Howl and Other coedited by Creeley Eugene O’Neill wins Sinatra, Gary Cooper,
Poems, which City Lights and Ginsberg, features the Pulitzer Prize William Holden, James
had contracted to a British Beat and Black for Long Day’s Journey Stewart, Jerry Lewis,
printer. Customs authorities Mountain writers. into Night. and Yul Brynner.
deem the material obscene Kerouac’s On the Road, Dizzy Gillespie and Many American women
but, when challenged by the favorably reviewed in Stan Getz record style their hair in a
ACLU, they later release the New York Times, together. “bouffant.”
the books. At City Lights sells well. Children enjoy silly
Books, Ferlinghetti and Barney Rosset begins putty.
Shig Murao are arrested by publication of Dick Clark’s American
San Francisco authorities, Evergreen Review. Bandstand proves
who press for convictions The second issue, popular.
on obscenity charges. which focuses on the
Nevertheless, Judge “San Francisco Scene,”
Clayton Horn on 3 gathers Beat and
October clears the West Coast writers.
accused of charges. Ginsberg begins
The publicity of the trial “Kaddish” in Paris.
makes the poetry book Kerouac completes
sell well. The Dharma Bums.
LeRoi Jones and Hettie
Jones begin their literary
activities in Greenwich
Ginsberg and Orlovsky
live in Paris at the “Beat
Hotel” (9 rue Git-le-Coeur).
Kerouac travels with his
mother to San Francisco, continues
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where he meets Whalen

and Cassady.
Kerouac meets Joyce
Glassman in New York.
1958 Kerouac moves to Viking publishes The John Birch Society Lolita by Vladimir Membership at Catholic Fidel Castro resists Batista in
Northport, Long Island. Kerouac’s The Dharma establishes its highly Nabokov is successful and Protestant churches Cuba.
Welch moves to the East- Bums. conservative principles and controversial. rises. Charles De Gaulle is elected
West House in San Through Grove Press, in Joseph Welch’s The The phrase pop art first Hula hoops become a president of France.
Francisco and studies Zen Kerouac publishes Blue Book of the John appears in the writing of craze.
with Snyder. The Subterraneans. Birch Society. Lawrence Alloway. Ford Motors debuts the
Neal Cassady is arrested In Chicago Review, The copying machine is Dexter Gordon and Edsel.
for possession of marijuana an excerpt from introduced to business by Jackie McLean record Barbie dolls appear on
and is sentenced to five Naked Lunch prompts Xerox. for the Blue Note the market.
years to life at San Quentin. calls for censorship. The Daily Worker, the label.
LeRoi and Hettie Jones newspaper of the Miles Davis and Gil
initiate the publication Communist Party, Evans record Porgy and
of Yugen, an avant- ceases to publish. Bess and Sketches of
garde small magazine. Elvis Presley registers Spain.
Random House pub- for the military draft. Boris Pasternak, author
lishes Holmes’s The Serial murderer Charles of Dr. Zhivago, wins the
Horn. Starkweather and Carol Nobel Prize.
Diane di Prima pub- Fugate, his teenage
lishes This Kind of girlfriend, face prosecution.
Bird Flies Backwards. America responds to
Corso publishes Bomb Sputnik with Explorer 1,
and Gasoline. America’s first satellite.
Ferlinghetti publishes
A Coney Island of the
Robert Frank and
Alfred Leslie produce
the film Pull My Daisy,
including Kerouac as
narrator and Ginsberg,
Orlovsky, Corso, David
Amram, and Larry
Rivers as actors.
John Wieners publishers

The Hotel Wentley Poems.

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1959 When Chicago Review In Paris, Olympia Press Seven American A Raisin in the Sun by Televisions are in 86 Castro assumes power in Cuba.
faces censorship, Ginsberg publishes The Naked astronauts prepare for Lorraine Hansberry percent of American
and Corso help raise funds Lunch. space travel. succeeds on Broadway. homes.
to defend the magazine. In Big Table, Nikita Khrushchev Motown Records opens On television, The
Welch drives Kerouac from Burroughs’s “In Quest visits the United States. for business under the Many Loves of Dobie
San Francisco to New York. of Yage” is included, A quiz show scandal direction of Berry Gordy. Gillis makes Maynard G.
Snyder returns to Japan for and the Post Office unfolds; Charles Van In film, French New Krebs a popular caricature
a five-year stay. tries to prevent Doren, a successful Wave cinema proves of the Beat male.
distribution through participant, is the influential. Movies strain to compete
the mail. informer. Miles Davis makes the with television. Albert
In San Francisco, In Greensboro, North album Kind of Blue. Zugsmith’s The Beat
Beatitude begins its run. Carolina, nonviolent Dizzy Gillespie and Generation distorts and
New Directions demonstrations end Duke Ellington record trivializes Beat life.
publishes a segment segregation at lunch together. Articles in Life and the
from Kerouac’s Visions counters. Gunter Grass’s The New York Post bring
of Cody; Kerouac pub- Tin Drum appears. Beats to wide public
lishes Dr. Sax through attention.
Grove Press; through According to the pop
Avon Books he pub- charts, Americans like
lishes Maggie Cassidy; these songs: “The Battle
through Grove of New Orleans,”
Weidenfeld he pub- “Stagger Lee,” and “He’s
lishes Mexico City Blues. Got the Whole World in
On the Fantasy record His Hands.”
label, Ginsberg records A plane crash kills Buddy
Howl and Other Poems. Holly, Richie Valens, and
Newly inspired, he the Big Bopper (“the
resumes the composition day the music died”).
of “Kaddish.”
Robert Frank publishes
The Americans, a collection
of photos. Kerouac writes
the introduction.
For Hanover records,
Kerouac and Steve
Allen record Poetry for
the Beat Generation.
Jack Kerouac appears
on the Steve Allen Show.
City Lights releases Bob
Kaufman’s “Abomunist
Manifesto” as a broadside.
Snyder publishes Riprap.
McClure publishes Hymns
to St. Geryon.
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
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1960 Ginsberg experiments with Donald M. Allen’s Television gains a central John Coltrane releases Americans listen to
yagé in Peru. anthology The New influence in national Village Blues. Chubby Checker and
Judge Hoffman clears Big American Poetry: politics with the broadcast Ornette Coleman leads do the “twist.”
Table of obscenity charges. 1945–1960 presents of the Nixon-Kennedy “Free jazz.” Compact cars dominate
Neal Cassady leaves San various schools of debates. For To Kill a new car sales.
Quentin on Independence contemporary poetry The Southern Presbyterian Mockingbird, Harper
Day after serving two years. together for a Church allows that sex Lee wins the Pulitzer
Jack Kerouac stays at general audience. within marriage without Prize.
Ferlinghetti’s cabin near Big Other anthologies the intent to have children
Sur. He sees Ferlinghetti, include Beat Coast is morally acceptable.
the McClures, Lew Welch, East, ed. Stanley Kennedy and Johnson win
Philip Whalen, and Lenore Fisher; The Beat the presidential election.
Kandel. Kerouac experiences Scene, ed. Elias The payola scandal
a psychological crisis. Wilentz; The Beats, emerges, involving Alan
Ginsberg and Timothy ed. Seymour Krim Freed and others in
Leary experiment with (with photos by Fred bribery charges.
mushrooms and conclude McDarrah); Beatitude Civil rights advocates
that the best hope for Anthology, ed. stage sit-ins at segregated
humankind’s future is drugs. Lawrence Ferlinghetti. dining areas in the South.
Ginsberg takes LSD at Corso publishes The
Harvard. Happy Birthday of
Welch lives with Lenore Death through New
Kandel at the East-West Directions.
House. Robert Duncan
publishes The Opening
of the Field.
Brion Gysin, William
Burroughs, Gregory
Corso, and Sinclair
Beiles collaborate on
Minutes to Go, an
experimental work
revealing the cut-up
In Evergreen Review,
“Deposition: Testimony
Concerning a Sickness”
is published.

1961 Diane di Prima and Diane di Prima and Freedom Riders resist Joseph Heller publishes The American invasion at the
LeRoi Jones found the LeRoi Jones publish segregation on public Catch 22. Bay of Pigs proves insufficient
New American Theater Floating Bear. buses. to depose Castro.


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for Poets. Ginsberg publishes The Berlin Wall goes up.

The Post Office seizes Kaddish and Other Moscow closes synagogues.
Floating Bear #9. Poems through City
Ginsberg travels to the Lights.
Near and Far East, McClure, Ferlinghetti,
where he meets Buber, Meltzer, and Snyder
Swami Shivananda, and edit The Journal for
the Dalai Lama. the Protection of All
Thomas Parkinson
edits A Casebook on
the Beat.
City Lights publishes
Kerouac’s Book of
1962 Dexter Gordon leaves The U.S. edition of The Bossa Nova dance
the United States for Naked Lunch appears; craze begins.
Europe. in Paris, Olympia Press
At the International publishes Burroughs’s
Writers Conference in The Ticket That
Edinburgh, Mary Exploded.
McCarthy and Norman Kerouac publishes
Mailer praise the works Big Sur.
of William Burroughs. Kesey publishes One
Kerouac lives in Flew over the
Northport, Long Island, Cuckoo’s Nest.
with his mother. Stanley
Twardowicz becomes
Kerouac’s friend.
Joan Haverty’s lawsuit
obliges Kerouac to
acknowledge paternity
of Jan Kerouac, for whom
he must pay child support.
Welch breaks with Kandel
and leaves San Francisco.
1963 Naked Lunch is banned in City Lights publishes John F. Kennedy is shot
Boston. A trial follows. The Yage Letters by dead.
Kerouac paints with Burroughs and Martin Luther King
Sanley Twardowicz in Ginsberg. delivers his “I Have a
Northport, Long Island. LeRoi Jones edits Dream” speech.
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

The Moderns and

publishes Blues People.
Kerouac publishes
Visions of Gerard.
1964 Kerouac’s sister Nin Burroughs publishes Johnson defeats Goldwater In addition to Miles The World’s Fair shines
dies of a heart attack at Nova Express. and becomes president. Davis, the Miles Davis in New York.
age forty-five. Dr. Timothy Leary Martin Luther King wins Quintet features Wayne
With Neal Cassady as publishes The the Nobel Peace Prize. Shorter, Herbie Hancock,
driver, Ken Kesey and Psychedelic Experience. Involvement of the United Rony Carter, and Tony
the Merry Pranksters LeRoi Jones publishes States in the Vietnam War Williams.
travel across the nation Dutchman and The increases. The Beatles tour the
in the bus known as Slave. He also publishes United States.
“Further.” The Dead Lecturer. Cassius Clay wins the
Kerouac sees Cassady Dutchman wins an heavyweight boxing
for the last time at a Obie Award. championship and
party for the Merry becomes Muhammad
Pranksters in New York. Ali.
Kerouac lives with his
mother in Tampa, Florida.
Snyder returns to the
United States, where he
teaches at the University
of California, Berkeley.
Welch returns to San
Francisco and begins a
relationship with Magda
1965 Burroughs lives in the In Florida, Kerouac United States troops in Norman Mailer publishes Ralph Nader publishes
United States for about writes Satori in Paris. Vietnam double in An American Dream. Unsafe at Any Speed.
a year. His father dies. He publishes number. Robert Lowell publishes
Ginsberg travels to Desolation Angels. In Harlem, Malcolm X For the Union Dead.
Cuba. He also travels to Michael McClure is assassinated.
Prague, where he is publishes The Beard. An antiwar movement
proclaimed King of Bob Kaufman grows in the Unites
May. Ginsberg is publishes Solitudes States.
outspokenly against the Crowded with A giant blackout leaves
war in Vietnam. Loneliness. much of the East Coast
Kerouac travels to Joanne Kyger without power.

France. publishes The
Welch teaches at the Tapestry and the
extension of the Web.


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University of California
in San Francisco.
Snyder returns to Japan.
He ends his marriage
with Joanne Kyger.
1966 Burroughs settles in Lenore Kandel Catholics are given Indira Gandhi becomes prime
London. publishes The Love permission to eat meat minister of India.
Naked Lunch is cleared Book. on Fridays.
of obscenity charges in Kerouac publishes Quotations from
the United States. Satori in Paris. Chairman Mao Tse-tung
Kerouac and his mother The Beats become a becomes available in
move to Cape Cod. topic for Monarch bookstores in the United
Kerouac’s mother suffers Notes, a series of States.
a stroke, and Kerouac study guides for
marries Stella Sampas. students.
The family returns to
Snyder does literary
readings in the United
Whalen lives in Japan.
LeRoi Jones moves to
New York and founds
Spirit House.
1967 The Human Be-In occurs Ann Charters, in Thurgood Marshall takes Dustin Hoffman stars The United States bombs
in San Francisco and cooperation with a seat on the Supreme in The Graduate. Hanoi.
includes Ginsberg, Kerouac, compiles A Court. France launches a nuclear
Snyder, Ferlinghetti, Bibliography of Works submarine.
McClure, and Kandel. by Jack Kerouac. The People’s Republic of China
Snyder returns to Japan, In Lowell, Kerouac develops a hydrogen bomb.
lives at Banyam Ashram, writes Vanity of
and marries Masa Uehara. Duluoz.
Jan Kerouac visits Jack Holmes’s Nothing
in Lowell. More to Declare
contributes to the
development of the
Beat essay.
1968 Cassady dies in Mexico. Kerouac publishes Robert F. Kennedy is
Burroughs and Ginsberg Vanity of Duluoz. assassinated.
observe the Democratic Janine Pommy Vega Martin Luther King is
National Convention in publishes Poems to assassinated. continues
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

Chicago and report on Fernando. Riots plague the

it for Esquire. They see Gary Snyder Democratic National
Kerouac for the last time. publishes The Back Convention in Chicago.
Kerouac moves to St. Country. Promising to end the war,
Petersburg, Florida. Tom Wolfe publishes Nixon wins the
Snyder returns to the The Electric Kool-Aid presidential election.
United States. Acid Test.
LeRoi Jones becomes
Amiri Baraka.
1969 Kerouac dies in Florida Diane di Prima Eisenhower dies. Duke Ellington wins
and is buried in Lowell, publishes Memoirs of Woodstock immortalizes the Presidential Medal
Massachusetts. a Beatnik. three days of peace and of Freedom.
Allen Ginsberg participates Gary Snyder love. Samuel Beckett wins
in the trial of the Chicago publishes Earth The Chicago Eight go to the Nobel Prize for
Seven, who allegedly House Hold. trial. Judge Hoffman literature.
provoked people to riot Bonnie Bremser decides to separate Bobby
at the Democratic publishes Troia: Seale’s case from the case
Convention. Mexican Memoirs. of the seven other
defendants, who become
known as the Chicago
1970 Ginsberg and Chögyam With Scenes Along National Guard troops The Beatles dissolve. Aswan High Dam is finished
Trungpa meet. the Road, Ann shoot students at Kent in Egypt.
Ginsberg travels to India Charters adds to the State University,
and West Bengal and views growing photographic Kent, Ohio.
the effects of flooding. record of the Beats. The first Earth Day is
Burroughs’s mother dies. Corso publishes celebrated.
Elegiac Feelings
Daniel Oldier publishes
The Job: Interviews
with W. S. Burroughs.
1971 City Lights publishes The antiwar march on
Neal Cassady’s Washington draws
autobiography The national attention.
First Third.
Bruce Cook’s The

Beat Generation
develops the
journalistic view of
the Beats in book form. continues

Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

Scattered Poems by
Kerouac is published.
1972 Allen Ginsberg The Watergate scandal Terrorists attack and kill
publishes The Fall of begins to unfold. athletes at the Olympics
America. The book in Munich, West Germany.
eventually wins the The Strategic Arms Limitation
National Book Award. Treaty (SALT) is signed by the
John Wieners publishes United States and the Soviet
Selected Poems. Union.
1973 Ann Charters publishes Abortion is legalized in Phillips, a Dutch
her biography of the United States. electronics manufacturer,
Kerouac. The United States markets a video compact
The full run of withdraws from Vietnam. cassette recorder. Though
Floating Bear is The Arab Oil Embargo expensive and unreliable,
reprinted in one large cuts supplies of fuel in this invention marks the
volume. the United States. beginning of the home
The complete version video age.
of Visions of Cody
goes to press.
Ring of Bone by Lew
Welch is published.
1974 With Anne Waldman and Gary Snyder Nixon resigns as president Mikhail Baryshnikov The Terra Cotta army is
Chögyam Trungpa, publishes Turtle of the United States. defects from the Soviet discovered in China.
Allen Ginsberg founds Island. The book The country endures an Union to the United
the Jack Kerouac School eventually wins the economic recession. States.
of Disembodied Poetics Pulitzer Prize. Ford becomes president.
in Boulder, Colorado. Ferlinghetti publishes
Burroughs resumes City Lights Anthology.
residence in New York.
1975 Ed Sanders publishes Microsoft is founded. The United Nations declares
Tales of Beatnik Glory. the International Year of the
Anne Waldman Woman.
publishes Fast Talking
Love Is the Silence by
Stuart Perkoff is
Diane di Prima
publishes Selected
Poems: 1956–1975.
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1976 Louis Ginsberg, the father Carolyn Cassady The nation celebrates
of Allen Ginsberg, dies contributes to the its 200th year of
at eighty years of age. development of the independence.
At a retreat near Beat memoir with
Snowmass, Colorado, Heart Beat.
W. S. Merwin and his John Tytell publishes
companion, Dana Naone, his critical study
are denied their preference Naked Angels.
not to participate in a nude
Halloween party. Chögyam
Trungpa directs several
party people to compel
Merwin and Naone to be
at the party and stripped
of their garments. The
incident proves a lingering
embarrassment and source
of tension.
1977 Gordon Ball edits the Elvis Presley dies.
journals of Allen Star Wars is a successful
Ginsberg, and Creative film.
Arts Books publishes
the correspondence
between Ginsberg and
1978 Ray Bremser publishes The first test-tube baby Jim Jones leads a mass suicide
Blowing Mouth: The is born. in Guyana.
Jazz Poems. Love Canal is evacuated.
Barry Gifford and
Lawrence Lee publish
Jack’s Book, an oral
history of Kerouac and
his times.
Arthur Winfield Knight
and Kit Knight publish
The Beat Journey.
Anne Waldman and
Marilyn Webb edit

Talking Poetics from
Naropa Institute.

Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1979 Ginsberg, Corso, and Neeli Cherkovski At Three Mile Island a Sony offers the Iran takes Americans hostage.
Orlovsky give readings in publishes a biography nuclear accident occurs. Walkman.
Europe. of Ferlinghetti.
Burroughs moves to Dennis McNally writes
Lawrence, Kansas. a biography of Kerouac
and a history of the Beats.
Aram Saroyan writes
Genesis Angels.
1980 Ginsberg publishes John Lennon is Rubik’s Cube is popular.
Composed on the assassinated in New Americans read Carl
Tongue. York. Sagan’s Cosmos.
Huncke publishes The Pink Floyd releases College freshmen exceed
Evening Sun Turned The Wall. their predecessors in a
Crimson. desire for power, status,
Snyder publishes The and wealth. Many enter
Real Work: Interviews business management.
and Talks 1964–1979.
1981 Ginsberg takes up residence The Beats: Essays in President Reagan survives Pac-Man is popular. The Pope survives an
in Boulder, Colorado. Criticism, ed. Lee an assassination attempt. Millions see the wedding assassination attempt.
Ginsberg visits Nicaragua. Bartlett, presents a AIDS becomes a plague. of Prince Charles and
William Burroughs III dies. variety of views of the IBM introduces personal Lady Diana on TV.
Beats. computers.
Tim Hunt’s Kerouac’s
Crooked Road analyzes
the sequence of
composition of
Kerouac’s works.
Bob Kaufman’s The
Ancient Rain: Poems
1956–1978 appears.
1982 At the Naropa Institute in Michael McClure’s Michael Jackson’s E.T. is a popular film. Argentina invades the Falkland
Boulder, Colorado, and at Scratching the Beat Thriller is a success. Islands.
the University of Colorado Surface assesses the
in Boulder, the twenty-fifth formation of the
anniversary of the publication Beat spirit.
of On the Road inspires a Burroughs’s Letters
celebration. In attendance to Allen Ginsberg
are Burroughs, Corso, appears.
Orlovsky, Ferlinghetti,
McClure, di Prima, Kesey,
Berrigan, Huncke, Leary,
Ginsberg, and many others. continues
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1983 Ann Charters edits The President Reagan Cabbage Patch Kids Terrorists bomb the U.S.
Beats: Literary announces a defense dominate the toy embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.
Bohemians in Postwar system called Star Wars. market.
America. Flashdance succeeds at
Gerald Nicosia’s lengthy the box office and
biography of Kerouac, influences fashions.
Memory Babe, appears.
1984 With Toni Morrison, Gary Joyce Johnson publishes The Vietnam War A very large leak of poison gas
Snyder, and William Gass, Minor Characters. Memorial opens in occurs in Bhopal, India, at the
Ginsberg travels to China. Lewis Hyde edits On Washington. Union Carbide plant. 2000
the Poetry of Allen people die, and 200,000 others
Ginsberg, a collection suffer permanent harm.
of articles about
1985 John Antonelli’s Rock Hudson dies The New Coke is A hole is discovered in
biographical film, of AIDS. marketed. the ozone layer of the
Kerouac, is released. Crack cocaine leads to Bruce Springsteen atmosphere.
Howard Brookner’s a rise in imprisonments releases “Born in the Mikhail Gorbachev pursues the
biographical film, and violent crimes. U.S.A.” policy of Glasnost and
Burroughs, is released. Perestroika.
Rudi Horemans edits
Beat Indeed!
Fred McDarrah gathers
photos and other
materials in Kerouac
and Friends.
Jennie Skerl publishes
William S. Burroughs.
1986 Ginsberg accepts a post as Ann Charters’s Beats The Challenger space A nuclear accident occurs
distinguished professor at and Company shuttle explodes. in Russia at the Chernobyl
Brooklyn College of the presents a collection The Iran-Contra scandal plant.
City University of New York. of photos related to captures headlines. The United States bombs
the Beats. Libya.
Warren French
publishes Jack Kerouac.
Allen Ginsberg pub-
lishes Howl: Original

Draft Facsimile.
Beat Writing

and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1987 Chögyam Trungpa dies. 11 April 1987 is pro- Black Monday is the Americans read Nazi Klaus Barbie is sentenced
claimed Bob Kaufman occasion for a drastic drop Cultural Literacy by to life in prison.
Day in San Francisco. in prices at the New York E. D. Hirsch and
A street is named in Stock Exchange. The Closing of the
Kaufman’s honor. DNA proves effective for American Mind by
Displaced Person: identification of criminals. Allan Bloom.
The Travel Essays by
John Clellon Holmes
is published.
Park Honan edits The
Beats: An Anthology
of Beat Writing.
Huncke publishes
Guilty of Everything.
Regina Weinreich
publishes The
Spontaneous Prose
of Jack Kerouac.
1988 Passionate Opinions Funding is created for the Pan Am Flight 103 explodes
and Representative Human Genome Project. over Scotland.
Men by Holmes are The United States shoots down
published. an Iranian airbus.
Arthur and Kit Knight
publish Kerouac and
the Beats: A Primary
Ted Morgan publishes
Literary Outlaw: The
Life and Times of
William S. Burroughs.
Jack Kerouac Alley is
established in San
Jack Kerouac Park is
dedicated in Lowell,

1989 Ginsberg meets Tibetan Corso’s Mindfield The Alaskan coast is The Berlin Wall comes down.
Lama Gelek Rinpoche. appears as a set of damaged by the spill of Students are massacred in
collected poems. millions of gallons of oil Tiananmen Square in China.
Michael Davidson from the Exxon Valdez.
publishes The San
Francisco Renaissance.
Barry Miles publishes continues
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

Ginsberg: A Biography.
Gregory Stephenson
publishes The Daybreak
Boys, a collection of
essays on the Beats, and
Exiled Angel, a study of
Gregory Corso. continues
1990 Carolyn Cassady writes The Hubble Telescope is Dances with Wolves is The grunge look Nelson Mandela is freed from
Off the Road. positioned in space. named best picture becomes a popular style prison.
Diane di Prima of dress among young
publishes Pieces of people.
a Song. Hip Hop music
Allen Ginsberg’s becomes broadly
Photographs presents popular.
black and white photos
of the Beats in an
oversize format.
The Jack Kerouac
Collection appears on
tape and on CD.
Hettie Jones publishes
How I Became Hettie
John Arthur Maynard
publishes Venice West.
Ed Sanders publishes
an enlarged version of
Tales of Beatnik Glory.
Rebecca Solnit’s Secret
Exhibition examines
visual arts related to the
Beat Generation.
1991 Amiri Baraka publishes Anita Hill accuses Clarence The Soviet Union collapses.
The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Thomas of sexual South Africa ends Apartheid.
Baraka Reader. harassment. The United States launches
Ann Charters edits The Citizens view live Operation Desert Storm in
Portable Beat Reader. coverage of the Gulf War Kuwait.
Ed Foster publishes on CNN.

Understanding the Beats.
Jon Halper edits Gary
Snyder, a collection of

articles and commentaries. continues


Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

Jennie Skerl and Robin

Lydenbert edit William
Burroughs at the Front,
a collection of essays
about Burroughs.
1992 A set of tapes, The Beat The verdict in the The Cold War ends.
Generation, offers a Rodney King case leads World Wide Web is initiated.
re-creation of the mood to riots.
and spirit of the Beats.
Burroughs publishes
Nova Express, Port of
Saints, and The Wild
Charters’s The Portable
Beat Reader appears
in paperback. Patrick
Murphy publishes
Understanding Gary
Michael Schumacher
writes Dharma Lion.
1993 Oliver Harris edits A raid on a cult group in Toni Morrison wins Users of the Internet grow
Burroughs, Letters Waco, Texas, leads to fire the Nobel Prize for much more numerous.
1945–1959. and death. Literature.
Ginsberg’s Snapshot The World Trade Center Schindler’s List is
Poetics contributes to is bombed. named best picture
the photographic
history of the Beats.
Howls, Raps, and
Roars, compiled by
Ann Charters, offers
recordings of
numerous Beats in
Ferlinghetti publishes
These Are My Rivers,
a set of new and
collected poems.
Kerouac’s Good
Blonde and Others and
Old Angel Midnight are
published. continues
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

1994 Ginsberg sells his archives In honor of Lawrence Lorena Bobbit cuts off Forrest Gump wins the A tunnel beneath the English
to Stanford University for Ferlinghetti, Via the penis of her husband. Oscar for best picture Channel connects France and
1 million dollars. He Ferlinghetti is O. J. Simpson is arrested Britain.
purchases loft space established in San for an alleged double Genocide in Rwanda begins.
in Manhattan. Francisco. murder. Nelson Mandela becomes
Ginsberg publishes president of South Africa.
Ginsberg’s Holy Soul
Jelly Roll: Poems and
Songs 1949–1993 offers
a rich selection of
Ginsberg’s recordings.
1995 Burroughs publishes The Oklahoma City The Ebola virus affects Zaire.
My Education. bombing shocks the nation. Poison gas is spread by
Charters edits The terrorists in the subways of
Portable Jack Kerouac. Tokyo.
A Jack Kerouac
Romnibus offers
diverse materials in
the format of a
Carol Tonkinson edits
Big Sky Mind:
Buddhism and the
Beat Generation.
1996 Ginsberg publishes The Unabomber is arrested. Mad cow disease affects Britain.
Selected Poems
Brenda Knight edits
Women of the Beat
A. Robert Lee edits
The Beat Generation
Writers, a collection
of articles on the Beats.
Fred McDarrah and
Gloria McDarrah

publish in an oversize
format numerous
photos of the Beats in

Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

Beat Generation: Glory

Days in Greenwich
Ashleigh Talbot
publishes Beat Speak:
An Illustrated Beat
Glossary circa
Lisa Phillips edits Beat
Culture and the New
America: 1950–1965.
Snyder publishes
Mountains and
Rivers without End.
Waldman edits The
Beat Book.
Chuck Workman
releases The Source,
a film on the
development of the
Beat Generation.
1997 5 April: Allen Ginsberg dies. Ferlinghetti publishes Hong Kong is unified with
2 August: William A Far Rockaway of China.
Burroughs dies. the Heart. Princess Diana dies in a car
Kerouac’s Some of the crash.
Dharma is published Scientists produce a cloned
in a facsimile format. sheep.
Bill Morgan authors The tallest building in the world
The Beat Generation rises in Kuala Lumpur.
in New York: A
Walking Tour of
Jack Kerouac’s City.
Richard Peabody edits
A Different Beat:
Writings by Women
of the Beat Generation.
Ben Shafer edits The
Herbert Huncke Reader.
1998 Burroughs’s collected President Clinton is impeached. Titanic proves to be the India and Pakistan develop
writings appear in Viagra is marketed. most successful movie nuclear capabilities.
Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

Word Virus, edited by ever. 100 million people have access

James Grauerholz and 98 percent of homes in to the World Wide Web.
Ira Silverberg. the United States have
Steven Clay and televisions. 74 percent
Rodney Phillips publish are connected to cable
A Secret Location on television.
the Lower East Side, a
study of the small press
and little literary
David Sterritt publishes
Mad to Be Saved, a
study of films related
to the Beats.
Ferlinghetti is named
first Poet Laureate of
San Francisco.
1999 Charters edits the Students murder their Gunter Grass wins The fear of the Y2K NATO attacks Serbia.
second volume of Jack fellow students in the Nobel Prize. Bug dominates the The Panama Canal is placed
Kerouac: Selected Columbine High School. news. under Panamanian authority.
Letters. John F. Kennedy Jr.
Holly George Warren dies in a plane crash.
edits The Rolling Stone
Book of the Beats.
Ginsberg’s Death and
Fame is published.
Kerouac’s Atop an
Underwood presents
Kerouac’s short prose.
George Plimpton edits
Beat Writers at Work,
a collection of interviews
from Paris Review.
Snyder’s The Gary
Snyder Reader appears.


Beat Writing
and Arts News Taste and
Beat Lives Publication National Events and Events Fashion World Events

2000 Ginsberg’s Deliberate Timothy McVeigh is Eminem wins two Grammy A federal court thwarts Violence between Palestianians
Prose, a collection of executed for the awards. the downloading of music and Israelis intensifies.
essays, is published. Oklahoma City After eighteen years on from the Internet by U.S. Navy destroyer Cole is
James Grauerholz edits Bombing. Broadway, Cats closes. shutting down Napster. the object of a terrorist attack.
Last Words: The Final Vermont is the first Kids enjoy collapsible
Journals of William S. state to allow same-sex scooters.
Burroughs. marriages.
Ed Sanders publishes The Supreme Court
America: A History in declares George Bush
Verse and The Poetry president.
and Life of Allen
Ginsberg: A Narrative
Teaching Beat
Literature, a special
issue of College
Literature, offers
articles on teaching
the Beats.
2001 Enron goes bankrupt and George Harrison, an 50% of homes in the Terrorists hijack airliners and
leaves employees without original Beatle, dies of U.S. have access to crash into the World Trade
retirement benefits. cancer. the Internet. Center and the Pentagon.
The United States invades
2003 City Lights Books SARS breaks out in China,
celebrates its fiftieth stalling tourism.
anniversary in San The United States invades
Francisco. Iraq.
2004 The scroll of On the On December 26, a tsunami
Road begins a road devastates portions of
trip to libraries and Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand,
museums across the and South India, causing
country. approximately 300,000 deaths.
2005 Beat enthusiasts note Clint Eastwood’s Million A barrel of crude oil sells for a
the fiftieth anniversary Dollar Baby wins record price—$56
of the 6 Gallery reading. various Oscars, including
best picture.
2006 Readers celebrate the
fiftieth anniversary of
the publication of Gins-
berg’s Howl and Other Poems
2007 Readers celebrate the fiftieth
anniversary of the
publication of On the Road.
Adam, Helen (1909–1992) New York in 1964, hopeful about bringing the play
Poet, playwright, actor, and performance artist. to Broadway. San Francisco’s Burning was staged
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1909, but raised in in an off-Broadway production in 1964 but never
Dundee, where she gained fame as a child prodigy rose to the heights of a full Broadway production.
because of her ability to speak spontaneously in In 1975, Helen Adam read at the Naropa Insti-
verse. Her first book, The Elfin Pedlar (1923), was tute, where she was introduced by Allen Ginsberg,
published when she was fourteen and was a collec- who acknowledged her subtle influence on the
tion of 120 ballads. Throughout her life she main- Beat writers.
tained an interest in magic and spells, and these in- —William Lawlor
terests recur in her ballads and plays.
With her sister and mother, Helen Adam came
Principal Works
to Hartford, Connecticut, in 1939, but soon relo- Helen Adam’s early works include The Elfin Pedlar,
cated to New York City. After seven years, the trio 1923; Tales Told by Pixie Pool, 1923; and
moved to San Francisco, where Helen became a Charms and Dreams from the Elfin Pedlar’s
friend of Robert Duncan and a significant artist in Pack, 1924; San Francisco’s Burning, 1963, was
the San Francisco Renaissance. Helen Adam at- reprinted by Hanging Loose Press in 1985; other
works by Helen Adam are found in Selected
tended the poetry workshops led by Duncan, par-
Poems and Ballads, 1974, and Stone Cold
ticipated in Jack Spicer’s Magic Workshop, and es- Gothic, 1984.
tablished in 1957 a group dedicated to poetry
performance called The Maidens, which included Bibliographical References
Madeline Gleason, Duncan, James Broughton, and The Poetry/Rare Books Collection, State University
others. of New York, Buffalo, houses the Helen Adam
Adam’s play San Francisco’s Burning premiered Archive; see Brenda Knight, “Helen Adam:
in March of 1962 at Broughton’s theater space, The Bardic Matriarch” in Women of the Beat
Generation, ed. Brenda Knight, 1996; Kristin
Playhouse. Broughton revised the play, making it a
Prevallet, “The Worm King Emerges: Helen
musical, and these revisions irked Duncan, who Adam and the Forgotten Ballad Tradition” in
felt that the spirit of the original verse play was lost. Girls Who Wore Black, eds. Ronna Johnson and
Despite the dispute among friends, the play ran Nancy Grace, 2002, provides ample recognition
successfully for twelve weeks. With a grant from of Helen Adam’s artistic gifts.
the Merrill Foundation (which came as a result of See also Duncan, Robert; San Francisco Renaissance;
Duncan’s support), Helen and her sister traveled to Spicer, Jack.

Algiers, Louisiana

Algiers, Louisiana Cowie). The ensuing events are minutely described

A small community across the Mississippi River in Junky: Burroughs’s Algiers house was searched,
from New Orleans; William S. Burroughs (1914– and he was charged, questioned, and held for fur-
1997) resided there from June 1948 to April 1949. ther interrogation while an agonizing withdrawal
In May 1948, Burroughs moved his family—his syndrome began. Within two days Burroughs’s
common-law wife Joan Vollmer (1923–1951), her lawyer secured his release, on bail, to Charity Hos-
daughter Julie, and their infant son Bill, Jr.—to pital with a quick transfer to Touro Infirmary.
New Orleans. They stayed first in a small house on Eight days later, Burroughs was released to his
US Highway 61, in Harahan Junction west of wife, “AMA”—against medical advice. By 27 May
Metairie, but in August Burroughs purchased the Burroughs and Vollmer and their children were liv-
one-story “shotgun”-style house at 509 Wagner ing again in Pharr, Texas, on the Mexican border,
Street in Algiers, on the “Right Bank” of the river. contemplating an ominous New Orleans court ap-
Algiers at that time had a population of less than pearance five months away, 27 October. Bur-
27,000 and was mostly quiet and residential. The roughs’s father took over the Burgundy house pur-
nearby Canal Street Ferry landing gave Burroughs chase, and the Wagner Street house sold in late
easy access to the hotspots of the French Quarter. July; the “swamp land” was sold at sheriff’s auction
As recounted in his autobiographical book, Junky the following spring. Burroughs visited Mexico
(1953), he looked into the queer scene in the Quar- City in August 1949. Two months later that city be-
ter but was mostly repelled by the southern came his little family’s next home, when he fled the
queens’ style. He had been off junk only four United States rather than face his court date.
months when he met a forty-three-year-old junky, —James Grauerholz
Joe Ricks, who introduced him to the local drug
scene, quickly readdicting him and involving him
Bibliographical References
in a complex new social scene. For information on Algiers and the Beats, see Ted
Burroughs dabbled in real estate: in October he Morgan, Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of
bought a tract of “swamp land” near Highway 61 in William S. Burroughs, 1988; Oliver Harris, ed.,
the Airline Park neighborhood and told Allen Gins- The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945–1959,
berg he wanted to build a house there. He feuded 1993; and Carolyn Cassady, Off the Road: My
Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg,
with his Italian American neighbors in Algiers;
1990. The fictional development of Algiers in
then in January he and Joan received visitors arriv- Beat literature is revealed in William S.
ing from New York on a cross-country road trip: Burroughs, Junky, 1953, and Jack Kerouac, On
Neal Cassady; his then-wife, LuAnne Henderson; the Road, 1957.
one of Neal’s Denver friends and his new wife, Al See also Burroughs, William Seward
and Helen Hinkle; and Jack Kerouac, who de-
scribed the visit in his 1957 novel, On the Road, in-
cluding a visit to the horse races.
On 4 March 1949, three days after Mardi Gras Allen, Donald (1912–2004)
that year, Burroughs suddenly listed his Algiers Don Allen was the most important editor and pub-
home for sale; evidently his parents visited him and lisher of poetry during the counterculture period
Vollmer in Algiers during Mardi Gras week and that included the Beats and the hippie movement.
found the house unsuitable for their son. His father Allen was born in 1912 and educated in the Mid-
Mortimer selected 1128–30 Burgundy in the west. As a young man, he was interested in theater
French Quarter and contracted to buy the house. A as much as poetry and later translated the plays of
few weeks later Burroughs was arrested on 5 April Eugene Ionesco. He served in the U.S. Navy as an
1949, in a car with two older junkies (Ricks and Ho- intelligence officer and translator during World
race Guidry) and a young merchant seaman (Alan War II on the Pacific front. After getting a master’s

Allen, Steve (1921–2000)

degree at the University of California, Berkeley, in Allen, Steve (1921–2000)

the late 1940s, he moved to New York and worked Author, composer, comedian, musician, and televi-
for New Directions on a number of projects, in- sion talk-show host. He originated and hosted
cluding a collection of stories by Dylan Thomas. In NBC’s Tonight Show (1954–1957) and was the star
the mid-1950s he went to work for Grove Press and of The Steve Allen Show (1956–1960) and many
founded Evergreen Review with coeditor and other television shows known by the same title
Grove publisher Barney Rosset. Allen edited the (1960–1976). Steve Allen’s connection to the Beat
“San Francisco Scene” issue of Evergreen Review Generation is immortal because of the memorable
and then expanded that project into a full-scale an- appearance of Jack Kerouac on Allen’s show: Ker-
thology published in 1960, The New American Po- ouac did a poignant reading of selections from Vi-
etry. Allen subsequently moved to San Francisco sions of Cody and On the Road while Allen impro-
and then to Bolinas, where he began publishing vised on piano. Kerouac later combined with Allen
poetry under his own imprints, Four Seasons and on a long-playing record. On the video The Beat
Gray Fox. He continued to edit other books, most Generation: An American Dream, one can view se-
notably the Collected Poems of Lew Welch, and lections from Kerouac’s appearance on the Allen
several posthumous collections of Frank O’Hara’s show and hear Allen’s comments about his connec-
poetry. Allen also published and edited or coedited tion to Kerouac.
books of interviews with Philip Whalen and Allen —William Lawlor
Ginsberg and published early novels by Richard
Brautigan. In 1973 Allen coedited The Poetics of
the New American Poetry, and in 1982 he coedited
an updated version of New American Poetry, The
Postmoderns. In 1998 the University of California
Press reprinted the original edition of New Ameri-
can Poetry.
—Bill Mohr

Principal Projects as Editor or Co-Editor

Evergreen Review, 1957–1960; New American
Poetry, 1960; The Poetics of the New American
Poetry, 1973; The Collected Poems of Frank
O’Hara, 1971; The Selected Poems of Frank
O’Hara, 1974; The Postmoderns: The New
American Poetry Revised, 1982.

Bibliographical References
Donald Allen’s role in the emergence of the Beat
Generation and the shift toward postmodern
poetry remains a virtually unexamined field. His
editorial archives are at the University of
California, San Diego. He makes furtive
appearances in a biography of Frank O’Hara, City
Poet, 1993, as well as Tom Clark’s biography,
Charles Olson, 1991, but plays a more prominent
role in Lewis Ellingham and Kevin Killian, Poet
Be Like God, 1998, which is a biography of Jack
Steve Allen hosted a memorable reading by Jack Kerouac
See also Little Magazines on the Steve Allen Show in 1959. (Bettmann/Corbis)

Amram, David (1930–)

Bibliographical References closer examination, however, a direct link can be

For background on Steve Allen, see Gerald established between the Beats and radical Chris-
Nachman, Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians tians of the Roman Catholic Church. According to
of the 1950’s and the 1960’s, 2003, and Bernard
John Clellon Holmes in his essay “The Philosophy
Timberg and Bob Erler, Television Talk: A
History of the TV Talk Show, 2002. of the Beat Generation,” which appears in Passion-
ate Opinions (1988), Jack Kerouac (often consid-
See also Performance Humor
ered the King of the Beats) once stated that “the
Beat Generation is basically a religious genera-
tion.” In Kerouac’s mind, the Beats were on a mys-
Amram, David (1930–) tic spiritual quest to find truth through a Buddha,
David Amram is a musician and composer who has and in Kerouac’s case through awareness of Christ.
worked with numerous jazz greats, including Char- In a confusing postwar America where hypocrisy
lie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Charles seemed to reign supreme as an acceptable way to
Mingus, and George Barrow. Amram’s music cele- deal with the terror and the pain brought on by the
brates music and culture from around the world. He bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Ker-
has traveled to Kenya, Central America, the Middle ouac and many other members of the Beat Gener-
East, China, and Cuba, and he brings both the ation looked for new answers that could only be
music and the instruments of diverse cultures, in- found through profound spiritual search well be-
cluding Native American cultures, to his perform- yond the intellect and art.
ances. He is best known to admirers of the Beat The connection between Beats and contempo-
Generation for his work with Jack Kerouac in the rary Christian Anarchists can be directly traced to
first jazz-poetry concert at the Brata Art Gallery in one of the most organized of all formal religions by
New York in 1957 and for his appearance with Allen way of the Catholic Worker movement. Aside from
Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Larry Rivers in Pull the fact that Jack Kerouac had been raised a
My Daisy, a film created by Robert Frank and Al- Catholic (serving as an altar boy in Lowell, Massa-
fred Leslie. Kerouac narrated the film, and Amram chusetts) and that he insisted on being buried with
composed an original musical score. his rosary in his hands, much of Kerouac’s writings
—William Lawlor also make apparent that he lived a spiritual life torn
between his Catholic beliefs and his newly found
Principal Works devotion to Zen Buddhism. Still, these facts do not
See Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac, 2002, connect the Beats to Christian Anarchists.
which is a memoir of Amram’s life, times, and art. Specific historical incidents demonstrate that
An earlier autobiographical text is Vibrations: The the Beats, indeed, had some ties to traditional reli-
Adventures and Musical Times of David Amram, gion through the radical Catholic left. The direct
connection between radical Christianity and the
See also Music; First Poetry-Jazz Concert; Film Beats comes through the Catholic Worker move-
ment founded in the early 1930s in New York City
by former communist, anarchist, and Catholic con-
Anarchy, Christian vert Dorothy Day and by Peter Maurin, who had
Initially, there may seem to be little connection be- been raised a peasant in France by the liberal
tween the Christian Anarchist movement and Christian Brothers order. Maurin and Day based
beatnik hipsters of the 1950s and 1960s. On the their new organization on what they understood to
surface, these two groups seem contradictory, and be anarchist Catholicism. According to Fred
one might consider any relationship between the Boehrer, this basis meant they subscribed to a
two to be an inconsistency either of Christian ideals “persona list” philosophy that “the lack of rules and
or of the Beats’ self-styled Eastern spirituality. On clearly defined expectations created an environ-

Anarchy, Christian

ment which permitted individuals to freely express City. In 1962, Dorothy Day was so offended and
their own views—sometimes consistent, other enraged at Ed Sanders (founder of the Fugs and a
times incompatible with views of other community younger member of the Beat Generation) for his
members” (104). The Catholic Worker movement local literary publication Fuck You: A Magazine of
was Christian and communitarian, but it was never the Arts that she angrily cleared the Catholic
Marxist or even liberal in the common definition of Worker House of all who had published in and as-
that term. In this way, these ideals fit with the sociated with the magazine. This act became
ideals of many Beats, especially Jack Kerouac, who known throughout the Lower East Side as the
never saw himself as a liberal, a left-wing agitator, “Dorothy Day Stomp.” Day felt the literature pub-
an anti-American protestor, or a radical. With this lished in Fuck You was pornographic and not help-
distaste for externally imposed rules as a basic phi- ful to the Anarchist resolutions to end violence and
losophy and common ground, these two seemingly poverty and to address other serious issues of the
different groups connected. Although Catholic 1960s; from Day’s perspective, these young radicals
Workers were radically left, they also had a strong and bohemians abused drugs and misused sex. She
belief in traditional Roman Catholicism. This belief felt that they were not only endangering their own
may seem an impossible pairing, but the Catholic lives, but that their childish actions were jeopardiz-
Worker movement remains to this day heavily in- ing the antiwar efforts of the radical left, keeping
volved in secular, left-wing politics and important the Christian Anarchists from being taken more se-
social issues as part of the Catholic Church’s teach- riously by the community as a whole. For Day,
ings on social justice (i.e., dignity of the human these Beats were more nihilistic than revolutionary.
person, the concept of common good, and the Ed Sanders responded in his magazine with this
rights of workers to organize and be treated fairly statement: “Several staff members of the Catholic
by employers). Dorothy Day had strong commit- Worker were stomped off the Worker set as a result
ments to doing the work of mercy to serve society’s of publishing in Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts
poor and downtrodden. In addition, Day and oth- or as a result of continued association with its edi-
ers in the movement had a sincere desire to elimi- tor (Sanders): the head stomper (Day) at the CW
nate war, poverty, and the overall hypocrisy of post- has succumbed to Jansenist dialectic and flicked 4
war America. These very acts and beliefs drew people off the set there. This outburst of Calvinis-
members of the Beat Generation into various lev- tic directives seems to us not in the spirit of anar-
els of engagement with the Catholic Workers. chy, nonviolence, and the view of Christ in every
Whether Jack Kerouac ever actually interacted man. However, we understand the need of the
with Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers is not grand old lady of pacifism for a closed metaphysi-
known, but Allen Ginsberg in fact did first read his cal system where there are no disturbances”
famous long poem “Kaddish” in its entirety in 1960 (Miller 484–485). However, long before Day’s
at the office of the Catholic Worker newspaper. death in 1980, Dorothy and Ed Sanders had settled
This location for Ginsberg’s reading is interesting their differences from the early 1960s.
because it places Ginsberg in a clearly religious (al- This incident was not the last connection be-
beit left-wing) venue reading a kaddish (a Jewish tween the Beat Generation or the subsequent hip-
prayer-poem that may have seemed heretical to pie movement and the Catholic Worker movement,
many orthodox Jews) in front of an audience filled which went on to lead the way for many latter-day
with radical Catholics (Dickstein 5). Beats and hippies in the anti–Vietnam War move-
Another famous incident that directly ties the ment of the 1960s and 1970s. Day, along with two
Beats to the Catholic Worker movement is that brothers, Catholic priests Daniel and Philip Berri-
several members of the Beat Generation lived, for gan, Catholic Worker editor Tom Cornell, and
a time, at Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker House in many other Christian Anarchists, played a major
the Bowery on the Lower East Side of New York role in the antiwar movement. In fact, Tom Cornell

Anderson, Joan, Letter about

and David Miller, representatives from the Catholic and the conservative mood of the nurse and the
Worker, were among the first arrested and impris- married couple who care for Joan. Cassady
oned for burning their draft cards in public as an act abruptly shifts to an account of a madcap meeting
of defiance against America’s unjust and immoral with “Cherry Mary.” Once again, sexual energy be-
war in Southeast Asia. Although the Beats and the tween Cassady and his partner is disrupted by the
Christian Anarchists had, at times, radically differ- arrival of a conservative person, in this case the
ent agendas and moral beliefs, in many other areas mother of a child for whom Cherry Mary is babysit-
they were in complete agreement. Both the Beats ting. Nude in the bathroom and engaged in sexual
and Christian Anarchists believed in the principles preliminaries, Cassady is obliged to hide while
of freedom and liberty for all. Mary diverts the visitor and gathers Cassady’s
—M. L. Liebler clothes from another room. Cassady slips through a
tiny bathroom window and avoids discovery. Freez-
Bibliographical References ing outside, he eventually gets some of his clothes
Insider views of Christian Anarchy are found in back from Mary and is on his way. These descrip-
Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The tions of Cassady’s sexual episodes are interspersed
Autobiography of Dorothy Day, 1952, and
with his regrets, reflections, and memories. He re-
Ammon Hennacy, Autobiography of a Catholic
Anarchist, 1954. For a general view of Christian lates his pool hall background; he admits his alco-
Anarchy and its context, see Peter Maurin, holism and his sentence at hard labor in the New
Catholic Radicalism: Phrased Essays for a Green Mexico State Reformatory. He makes silly jokes
Revolution, 1949; Mel Piehl, Breaking Bread: The and recalls his confrontation with police, who try to
Catholic Worker and the Origin of Catholic charge him with statutory rape and burglary.
Radicalism in America, 1982; William D. Miller,
For Kerouac, the letter’s verve and frank treat-
Dorothy Day: A Biography, 1982; and William
Thorn, with Phillip Runkel and Susan Mountain, ment of personal moments were inspiring. Ker-
eds., Dorothy Day & the Catholic Worker ouac wrote to Cassady that that the letter was a
Movement: Centenary Essays, 2001. The edition brilliant piece combining the best of Dostoyevsky,
by Thorn, Runkel, and Mountain includes Fred Joyce, Celine, and Proust. Seeing Cassady’s letter
Boehrer’s essay, “Diversity, Plurality, and as the basis for a new American literature, Kerouac
Ambiguity: Anarchism and the Catholic Worker
began his legendary three-week composition of On
Movement.” On page 5 of Morris Dickstein,
Gates of Edne: American Culture in the Sixites, the Road in April 1951.
1978, one finds the description involving For Ginsberg, the letter was also inspiring, but
Ginsberg’s reading of “Kaddish” at the office of mindful of marketability, he was not able to accept
the Catholic Worker. the spontaneous composition as a finished work
See also Religion, The Beats and ready for publication. Ginsberg urged Cassady to
revise, improve structure, and design an appropri-
ate ending.
Anderson, Joan, Letter about For Cassady, the responses of Kerouac and
Written by Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac and re- Ginsberg were encouraging, but Cassady soon
portedly dated December 17, 1950, the Joan An- found himself stalled as a writer. He fell into self-
derson letter is a long, uninhibited, effusive, and doubt and all but abandoned writing endeavors.
digressive description of personal feelings and sex- —William Lawlor
ual adventures. Originally much longer than the
surviving fragment, the letter inspired spontaneity Bibliographical References
The remaining fragment of the original letter is in
in the writings of Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
Neal Cassady, The First Third, 1981. Brief
Cassady describes his meetings with Joan Ander- commentaries on the letter appear in Ann
son shortly after her suicide attempt and relates the Charters, The Portable Beat Reader, 1992, and
conflict between their feelings of sexual excitement Michael Schumacher, Dharma Lion, 1992; see

Apollinaire, Guillaume (born Guillelmus Apollinaris de Kostrowitsky, 1880–1918)

Dave Moore, ed. Neal Cassady: Collected Letters, counteracts the optimism of these Zen expressions,
1944–1967, 2004. says, “It all ends in tears anyway” (216).
See also Cassady, Neal; Kerouac, Jack; Ginsberg, Allen; Lawrence Ferlinghetti offers variations on famil-
Spontaneity, The Beat Generation and the Culture of iar or memorable phrases. A news reporter may
speak of the Freedom of Information Act, but Fer-
linghetti wants to have a Freedom of the Imagina-
tion Act. In Minor Characters, Joyce Johnson re-
Aphorisms and Slogans calls that at the time of her split with Kerouac, Jack
Pithy, meaningful expressions characteristic of the remarked, “Unrequited love’s a bore.” In all, the
Beat Generation. In part, these phrases reflect the Beats are always ready to make pithy language into
Buddhist outlook—a confidence in succinct truth, memorable expressions of life’s most complicated
especially as expressed in koans. In addition, the ideas.
aphorisms and slogans have a hip attraction and —William Lawlor
serve as markers of the cool.
Jack Kerouac’s “Belief & Technique for Modern
Bibliographical References
Prose” is a “List of Essentials” that economically See Jack Kerouac, “Essentials of Spontaneous
expresses key ideas and makes them memorable. Prose,” in Ann Charters, ed., The Portable Beat
For example, Kerouac writes, “Be in love with yr Reader, 1992. Compare Allen Ginsberg,
life,” “Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind,” “You’re a Cosmopolitan Greetings, 1994, and Jack Kerouac,
Genius all the time,” and “Believe in the holy con- The Dharma Bums, 1958.
tour of life.” Such phrases buoy the spirit and set
the imagination to work. To establish a writing
method, Kerouac writes, “Remove literary, gram- Apollinaire, Guillaume (born
matical, and syntactical inhibition,” “Don’t think of Guillelmus Apollinaris de
words when you stop but to see picture better,” and Kostrowitsky, 1880–1918)
“Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists in- Like many of the artists of his generation, Guillaume
tact in mind.” Apollinaire fought in the First World War; he died in
Allen Ginsberg’s Mindwriting Slogans have a sim- France in the great influenza epidemic that followed
ilar effect. He takes heart from phrases such as, the war. An influential poet and critic, he was known
“Candor ends paranoia” and “First thought, best for his experimentation with modernist poetic forms
thought.” To establish a frame of mind for thinking, and his psychological analyses of modern painting.
he tells himself, “Notice what you notice,” and Perhaps his best-known works today are Meditations
“Catch yourself thinking.” In selecting slogans, esthetiques: les peintres cubists (1913), which
Ginsberg borrows from others, crediting Ezra brought attention to the Cubist movement, and Al-
Pound for the slogan “Only emotion endures,” citing cools (1913), his first widely recognized book of po-
Percy Bysshe Shelley for “Poets are the unacknowl- etry. A precursor of the Surrealist school of poetry,
edged legislators of the world,” and acknowledging Apollinaire was influential among Beat poets such as
Chögyam Trunpa for “First thought, best thought.” Allen Ginsberg, who found that the concept of reg-
In The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, Japhy ulating the line according to the breath was a con-
Ryder shares many aphoristic expressions with Ray cept “implicit in Apollinaire” (Spontaneous Mind,
Smith. While mountain climbing, Ray remembers 146).
the famous Zen expression, “When you get to the —David Arnold
top of a mountain, keep climbing” (83–84). Watch-
ing Japhy descend the mountain in twenty-foot Bibliographical References
strides, Ray realizes that “it’s impossible to fall off For a general impression of Apollinaire, see LeRoy
mountains” (85). Alvah Goldbook, in a saying that C. Breunig, Guillaume Apollinaire, 1969. The

Apomorphine Treatment

Beat connection to Apollinaire is expressed in

Allen Ginsberg, Spontaneous Mind: Selected
Interviews 1958–1996, ed. David Carter, 2001.

Apomorphine Treatment
In “Deposition: Testimony Concerning a Sickness,”
an essay appended to Naked Lunch, William Bur-
roughs praises the apomorphine treatment, which
he maintains is a cure for addiction to drugs. Hav-
ing developed a costly and dangerous habit, Bur-
roughs traveled to England, where he underwent
the apomorphine treatment. According to Bur-
roughs in “Deposition,” apomorphine, a compound
created by boiling morphine with hydrochloric
acid, “acts on the back brain to regulate the metab-
olism and normalize the blood stream in such a way
that the enzyme system of addiction is destroyed
over a period of four or five days” (203). Burroughs
notes that he had tried many other methods of
ending addiction without much success, but the
apomorphine treatment, and treatments that may
be developed through future refinements, offer the
best solution to the problem of drug addiction. A mushroom cloud towers 20,000 feet above Nagasaki,
Japan, following a second nuclear attack by the United
—William Lawlor
States on August 9, 1945. The bombing—which took place
three days after the first nuclear attack on Hiroshima—was
Bibliographical Reference followed by Japan’s surrender on August 14, bringing an
Burroughs’s respect for the apomorphine treatment end to World War II. (Bettmann/Corbis)
is in “Deposition: Testimony Concerning a
Sickness,” in Naked Lunch: The Restored Text, ed.
James Grauerholz and Barry Miles, 2001.
sought surrender from the Japanese, but the Japa-
See also Burroughs, William Seward nese emperor refused. On August 6, 1945, a U.S.
B-29 bomber dropped the Little Boy bomb on Hi-
roshima, Japan, unleashing the devastating force of
Atomic Era fifteen kilotons of explosives. Three days later, an-
An era of developing, testing, and deploying of nu- other U.S. B-29 bomber dropped the 22-kiloton
clear weapons that led to an international arms Fat Man bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. The two atomic
race and a society that lived in fear of devastation bombings led to the surrender of Japan and the
on one hand and in denial of the nuclear threat on end of World War II.
the other. The ensuing Cold War led to an arms race be-
On July 13, 1942, with World War II in progress, tween the United States and the Soviet Union. The
the United States undertook the Manhattan Pro- Soviets tested their own atomic bomb in 1949; the
ject for the development of a nuclear weapon. On United States then entered the age of thermonu-
July 16, 1945, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, it suc- clear weapons on November 1, 1952, with the det-
cessfully detonated an atomic bomb. With a tangi- onation of a bomb named “Mike.” Exploded at
ble nuclear threat at its disposal, the United States Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, this bomb was

Atomic Era

five hundred times more powerful than the bomb tion about the possibility of sudden nuclear de-
tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The Soviet struction when he refers to those who are “listen-
Union soon tested its own thermonuclear weapon, ing to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox”
and soon England, France, and other nations de- (11). In “Bomb,” Gregory Corso playfully personi-
veloped nuclear arsenals as well. fies the bomb itself, treating it as a potential lover,
With nuclear attack from a foreign nation a pos- but bemoaning humankind’s love affair with
sibility, U.S. strategists spoke of a “missile gap” and weapons of all kinds. The poem itself is shaped like
the need to develop missiles in silos, missiles in a mushroom cloud.
roving submarines, and a large squadron of B-52 The Beat lifestyle, which is dedicated to experi-
bombers with nuclear arms. ence and pleasure in life, is largely a response to
Nuclear war could be avoided, some strategists the nuclear threat. If the world can end at any mo-
suggested, if a “nuclear deterrent” could be estab- ment, then the person who dedicates himself or
lished so that no nation would attack the United herself to unsatisfying work for mere material re-
States or its allies because U.S. response would be wards is grossly misguided. Instead, one should do
catastrophic. Furthermore, the supremacy of the things before the chance to do them is lost. One
United States in nuclear weaponry would solidify should travel, hear music, see nature’s wonders, ap-
the connections of western European nations to preciate resourceful and inventive people, and take
the United States rather than to the Soviet Union. pleasure in intimacy. One should strive to find “It”
Ironically, the possibility of nuclear catastrophe before all striving becomes impossible.
was so frightening that the United States came to In particular, the nuclear age shaped the outlook
view the nuclear alternative as an undesirable last of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose role in the U.S.
resort; thus, the massive development of weapons Navy during World War II afforded him the op-
was based on the idea that such weapons should portunity to visit Japan after the devastation of the
never be used. nuclear bombs. Having seen the effects of atomic
The psychological effects of the nuclear era were weapons only weeks after the bombings, Fer-
powerful. Citizens went on with their normal work- linghetti dedicated himself to peace.
ing lives, but within themselves they feared that all —William Lawlor
could be lost in a sudden flash of light and heat. Al-
though citizens feared the nuclear holocaust, they Bibliographic References
reconciled themselves to the fact that the nation’s The Nuclear Age: Power, Proliferation, and the Arms
resources were substantially dedicated toward Race, 1984, is a government document on nuclear
making nuclear devastation a reality. Citizens imag- weapons and energy and discusses the arms race,
ined that normal life could go on after a nuclear at- the antinuclear movement, and nuclear
disarmament. In The Future of Immortality and
tack and built bomb shelters and rehearsed “duck
Other Essays for the Nuclear Age, 1987, Robert J.
and cover” drills in schools. Lifton explores the psychological and sociological
Among the Beats, the nuclear era provoked var- aspects of the nuclear age. Ira Chermus, Nuclear
ious responses. Near the end of On the Road, when Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the
Sal and Dean visit Mexico, Sal notices the inno- Nuclear Age, 1991, further explores the effects of
cence of the Native Americans, who reach out to the nuclear age on the human outlook. Gregory
Corso’s “Bomb” is available as a broadside from
Sal and Dean for some sample of civilization. Sal
City Lights, but one also finds it in The Happy
sees that the natives do not realize that civilization Birthday of Death, 1960. See also Jack Kerouac,
now offers a bomb that can leave all in ruin. In On the Road, 1957, and Allen Ginsberg, Howl
“Howl,” Allen Ginsberg recreates society’s trepida- and Other Poems, 1956.
Baraka, Amiri age sixteen from Barringer High School in Newark,
(LeRoi Jones) (1934–) New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University in
Formerly known as LeRoi Jones; a poet, editor, Newark on a scholarship but later transferred to
playwright, musical critic, and social activist. In the Howard University, where he did not complete a
late 1950s, Jones had bohemian beginnings in New degree. Jones was a sergeant in the air force; in
York City, associating with writers often connected 1957, he was discharged from military service and
to the Beat literary movement. With Hettie Jones, began an artistic life in Greenwich Village.
LeRoi Jones was the editor of Yugen, a little maga- In 1958, Jones and Hettie Cohen wed. As coed-
zine that featured many writers of the Beat Gener- itors of Yugen, an avant-garde literary magazine,
ation. With Diane di Prima, Jones edited Floating Jones and his wife published Beat writers, includ-
Bear, a mimeographed poetry newsletter that flour- ing Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. With Diane
ished because of its spontaneity and immediacy. di Prima, Jones coedited Floating Bear, a mimeo
With the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, magazine delivered by mail. By quickly editing and
Jones underwent changes that led to a separation printing issues of the magazine, Jones and di Prima
from the Beats. In the mid-1960s, Jones became a capitalized on the currency of material.
prominent voice in the Black Arts movement, In 1965, Jones left Hettie and the Beat milieu,
founded the Black Arts Repertory Theater-School, and a year later he married Sylvia Robinson (now
and participated in the rise of Black Cultural Na- known as Amina Baraka). During the marriage with
tionalism, taking the name Imamu (spiritual leader) Hettie, two children were born: Kellie and Lisa. The
Ameer (prince) Baraka (blessed) in 1967; he subse- marriage with Amina has led to five children: Obal-
quently dropped the spiritual title and revised the aji, Ras, Shani, Amiri Jr., and Ahi.
spelling, making himself Amiri Baraka. In 1974, Gifted with a flair for drama, Amiri Baraka can
Baraka renounced Black Nationalism and declared convert a meeting in an auditorium into a theatri-
himself a Marxist-Leninist. Although this activist cal event. In an antagonistic style, Baraka con-
prefers the name Amiri Baraka, a slash is often pre- demns academics, established authorities, Jews,
sented as part of his name, making him LeRoi gays, whites, and middle-class blacks. He ridicules
Jones/Amiri Baraka. hypocrisy, ignorance, or oppressive conduct. If the
Jones’s parents were Coyette LeRoy Jones, a object of ridicule reacts, then his or her guilt is ev-
postal worker, and Anna Lois Jones, a social ident; if the object of ridicule remains calm, then
worker. After being raised in an integrated neigh- the person’s implacability suggests that the charges
borhood, Jones graduated with honors in 1951 at are unfounded. Even as Baraka stings his target,

Beat and Beatnik

which is often part of his own audience, he does so Lawrence Ferlinghetti, he appeared for a radio in-
with wit, often winning the enthusiasm of an audi- terview in Denver.
ence that, in large measure, is also the object of his In the 1970s, Baraka dedicated himself to politi-
derision. cal activities, especially the campaign of Kenneth
Jones’s first collection of poems, Preface to a Gibson for mayor of Newark, New Jersey; in 1984
Twenty Volume Suicide Note (1961), reveals the au- Baraka published his autobiography. He became
thor’s early connection to the Beats. John Wieners, the Poet Laureate of New Jersey in 2001, yet
Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, and Allen Ginsberg “Somebody Blew Up America,” his poem written
are all referred to in dedications. The Projectivist in the aftermath of the events of September 11,
approach of Charles Olson is an influence on Jones, 2001, embroiled him in controversy, which led to
but he keeps his poems lively with references to calls for his dismissal. Today Baraka maintains his
comic-book heroes and pop-culture figures and sur- diverse work as a lecturer, teacher, and activist.
realistic imagery. The title suggests the suddenness —William Lawlor
of suicide, but the suicide is absurdly deferred be-
cause the business at hand is a preface, and twenty
Principal Works
volumes of work remain to be done before the sui- Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, 1961, and
cide can occur. Stanzas and patterns of rhyme are The Dead Lecturer, 1964, are collections of
absent, but at work are word play; inventive spelling, poems; Dutchman, 1964, won an Obie Award; an
capitalization, and punctuation; and imaginative im- experimental novel is The System of Dante’s Hell,
ages. Jones’s wife and daughter are the topic of some 1965; his collection of essays is Home: Social
Essays (1966); his collection of short stories is
poems, but he often turns to literary, social, and po-
Tales, 1967; to carry forward the work of Blues
litical subjects. People, a historical and cultural interpretation of
Dutchman (1964) is perhaps Jones’s most well- black music, Baraka offers Black Music, 1968;
known work, and Clay, a main character in the play, with Lary Neal, Baraka is the editor of an
may be Jones’s look back at himself as a youthful anthology of black writers titled Black Fire, 1968;
Beat poet. In Dutchman, which opened at the the collection of poetry reflecting his participation
in Black Cultural Nationalism is Black Magic,
Cherry Lane Theater in New York City on March
1969. For convenience, one might consult The
24, 1964, Lula, “a thirty-year-old white woman,” an- LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader, ed. William
tagonizes Clay, a “twenty-year-old Negro.” On a hot Harris, 1991, which includes most of the material
summer night in the subway, Lula taunts Clay, who mentioned here; Transbluency, ed. Paul
responds with sexual interest but is maneuvered into Vangelisti, 1995, offers selections from ten
clumsiness. With racial insults, Lula provokes Clay, previous volumes of poetry.
who finally explodes in anger. Angrily insisting that
black musicians have always mocked whites by ex- Bibliographical References
Studies of Baraka include Jerry Gafio Watts, Amiri
ploiting a secret musical code in their music, Clay
Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black
enjoys a momentary triumph; however, Lula sud- Intellectual, 2001; Kimberly Benston, Baraka:
denly stabs Clay and commands the others on the The Renegade and the Mask, 1976, and Werner
train to dispose of his body. Lula records her victory, Sollors, Amiri Baraka/ LeRoi Jones: The Quest for
and the cycle of torment and death begins anew a “Populist Modernism,” 1978.
when another young Negro appears—Lula’s next See also Censorship; Theater; Little Magazines; Jones,
victim. Hettie; Communism and the Workers’ Movement
Although Baraka’s career led him away from the
Beats, he has found his way into renewed contact
with them. He appeared with Allen Ginsberg at the Beat and Beatnik
92nd Street Y in New York City and spent time at If someone has to ask what “Beat” is, then he or she
the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. With is probably hopelessly conventional, but that con-

Beat and Beatnik

ventionality has not stopped an ongoing discussion

of the meaning of Beat, Beat Generation, and beat-
Jazz musicians in the 1940s used the term “Beat”
to express poverty and desperation. According to
Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, a Times Square
hustler who conversed with William Burroughs,
Jack Kerouac, and other young New York writers,
used the word to express “exhausted, at the bottom
of the world, looking up or out, sleepless, wide-
eyed, perceptive, rejected by society, on your own,
streetwise” (quoted in Charters, Portable Beat
Reader, xviii). Relentlessly asked about the mean-
ing of “Beat,” Kerouac became more resourceful,
telling Steve Allen that “sympathetic” is a synonym
for beat and even transforming the word with ref- San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen coined the
erences to beatitude and beatific. term “beatnik.” (AP Photo/HO, Columbia University)
According to John Clellon Holmes in “The
Name of the Game,” which appears in Passionate
Opinions (1988), in a Manhattan apartment in No- tures, passionate jazz, and unrestricted drugs and
vember 1948, Holmes and Jack Kerouac had a con- alcohol. Instead of asking Ginsberg about the tra-
versation during which they tried to characterize dition of Walt Whitman and the inventiveness of
their generation. According to Holmes, Kerouac William Carlos Williams, writers mocked the dress
perceived “a sort of furtiveness” in his contempo- and idiom of the Beats, reducing literary artistry to
raries, “a weariness with all the forms, all the con- berets, shades, and bongos, betraying literary lan-
ventions of the world” (54). Kerouac concluded, “I guage with “like,” “cool,” and “hip.”
guess you might say we’re a beat generation” (55). Herb Caen, a writer for the San Francisco
Holmes incorporated this characterization in his Chronicle, adapted the suffix from Sputnik, the
novel Go (1952), inspiring Gilbert Millstein, a newly launched Soviet satellite, and coined the
writer for the New York Times, to assign to Holmes word “beatnik” in his column dated 2 April 1958,
an article that ran in the New York Times Magazine half a year after the Russians launched Sputnik, es-
on Sunday, 16 November 1952. The article’s title, tablishing the caricature of the Beats as lazy, indul-
“This Is the Beat Generation,” brought Kerouac’s gent, and probably communist weirdos. “Beatnik”
idea to a broad audience and initiated the animated caught on, and the Beats themselves often used the
discussion of Beat, Beat Generation, and beatniks term, perpetuating the confusion between authen-
that continues to this day. tic artists and the derisive caricature established by
Considering the successes and notoriety of Gins- Caen. Maynard G. Krebs, a character on the tele-
berg and Kerouac, one might assume that their vision program The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, re-
works became the central focus of the attention inforced the caricature, but Bob Denver played the
paid to them. Unfortunately, journalists and re- role with such charm that thousands of viewers
viewers often chose to emphasize what it means to loved the beatniks.
be Beat and what the Beat Generation is all about. —William Lawlor
Instead of asking Kerouac about spontaneous
prose based on bop and jazz, journalists pursued Bibliographical References
the idea of frantic, angry delinquents relentlessly See Ann Charters’s Introduction to The Portable
seeking kicks through sex orgies, highway adven- Beat Reader, 1992, for Huncke’s role in the

Beat Conferences, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

development of “Beat.” John Clellon Holmes, ars from across the United States and beyond, au-
“The Name of the Game,” in Passionate dience members typically include University of
Opinions, 1988, discusses the origin of “Beat Massachusetts students and faculty, visitors in town
Generation.” Caen’s column, titled “Pocketful of
for LCK!, students and faculty from other colleges
Notes,” appears in the San Francisco Chronicle, 2
April 1958. Jesse Hamlin reviews Caen’s coining in the region, and area residents with an abiding in-
of “beatnik” in “How Herb Caen Named a terest in Kerouac and the Beats. The Kerouac Con-
Generation” in the San Francisco Chronicle, 26 ference is free and open to the public.
November 1995: 28. —William Lawlor
See also Krebs, Maynard G.
Bibliographical Reference
The website is http://www.uml.edu/
Beat Conferences, University
of Massachusetts, Lowell
The University of Massachusetts, Lowell’s Beat Beatitude
Literature Symposium was founded in 1995, with An aspect of the definition of “Beat” suggesting the
Ann Charters as the inaugural keynote speaker. religious devotion and blessed state of the “Beat
Subsequent keynote speakers for the annual sym- angels.” Jack Kerouac faced relentless questioning
posium have been Albert Gelpi, Ann Douglas, Jay from journalists about the meaning of “Beat,” and
Wright, Janine Pommy Vega, Robert Creeley, journalists were predisposed toward answers in-
Omar Swartz, and Regina Weinreich. Other speak- volving rebellion, anger, delinquency, promiscuity,
ers included David Amram, Ronna Johnson, Matt and wildness. Kerouac counteracted such ideas by
Theado, Douglas Brinkley, and Nancy Grace. turning to the Bible’s Sermon on the Mount, espe-
In 1999, the Beat Literature Symposium was re- cially the portion often referred to as the Beati-
named the Beat Attitudes Conference. That year, tudes (Matthew 5: 1–12). Jesus explains who is
John Sampas became a conference benefactor. Be- blessed and why. Kerouac argues that Beat involves
cause the growing conference required extensive the pursuit of beatitude—the state of being
advance planning, Professor Hilary Holladay, the blessed.
founding director of the conference, scheduled the —William Lawlor
meeting biennially rather than annually. The next
conference, therefore, was held in 2001. Bibliographical Reference
The 2003 conference was the Jack Kerouac Con- In “Beatific: The Origins of the Beat Generation,”
ference on Beat Literature and the meeting focused which originally appeared in Playboy (June 1959)
mostly on poetry of the Beat movement. In other and is reprinted in The Portable Jack Kerouac, ed.
years, panels have struck a balance between senior Ann Charters, 1995, Kerouac explains his
and junior scholars speaking on Kerouac, Ginsberg, connection between Beat and beatitude.
Burroughs, and the female Beats, among others.
Beat writers who typically receive less attention than
the three most famous Beats are highlighted; papers Be-In
on Herbert Huncke and Bob Kaufman, for instance, On 14 January 1967 on a mild and bright day in San
have been given their due attention. Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, approximately
The conference is held the same weekend (tra- 25,000 people formed “A Gathering of the Tribes
ditionally the first weekend in October) as Lowell for a Human Be-In,” a meeting intended to bring
Celebrates Kerouac! (LCK!; a community-based together activists and flower children for the start of
activity) so that out-of-town visitors can participate a new age of joy and enlightenment. Timothy Leary,
in both events. In addition to Beat literature schol- Michael McClure, Jerry Rubin, Lenore Kandel,

Big Sur

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Dick Gregory, presented material in envelopes of different sizes
and Allen Ginsberg read poetry or gave speeches, and included experimental writers such as Michael
and the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and McClure, Philip Lamantia, and David Meltzer.
Quicksilver Messenger Service played music. The Berman himself adopted the pen name Pantale
Diggers distributed free food (including sand- Xantos when he wrote poetry for Semina.
wiches laced with LSD), and bikers from the Hell’s In Los Angeles in 1957, Berman installed an ex-
Angels helped rejoin parents and small children hibit of art at Ferus, a gallery established by Walter
who became separated. The spirit that arose from Hopps and Edward Kienholz. Because a drawing
the Be-In was infectious, and the event became a or sculpture in the show represented copulation,
touchstone for many similar gatherings during the Berman faced charges of obscenity. He was con-
“summer of love” and afterwards. victed and fined, and this confrontation with the
During the Be-In itself, all parties were peace- authorities led Berman to leave Los Angeles for
ful, and there were no arrests; however, as the day San Francisco. So troublesome was this experience
turned to night and some congregants refused to with censorship that Berman thereafter strove to
disperse, police took action to break up the crowd. maintain a low profile.
This police action solidified the adversarial rela- —William Lawlor
tionship between young people in the street and
the police.
Bibliographic References
—William Lawlor Rebecca Solnit, “Historical Constellations: Notes on
California, 1946–1961,” in Beat Culture and the
New America 1950–1965, ed. Lisa Phillips, 1995,
Bibliographical References
comments on Berman’s role in the Assemblage
See Michael Schumacher, Dharma Lion, 1992, and
movement; see also Richard Candida Smith,
Jane Kramer, Allen Ginsberg in America, 1969;
Utopia and Dissent: Art, Poetry, and Politics in
compare Derek Taylor, It Was Twenty Years Ago
California, 1995, and John Maynard, Venice West,
Today, 1987, and Helen Perry, The Human Be-In,
See also Painting
See also Ginsberg, Allen

Berman, Wallace (1926–1976) Big Sur

Central figure in California Assemblage move- Between San Francisco and Los Angeles along
ment, a group of artists dedicated to gathering California’s coastal Highway 1, a ninety-mile scenic
abandoned materials or scrap and sculpting with and rocky region whose name is derived from the
such material. Berman is also known for artwork Spanish “El Sur Grande,” which means “The Big
for books and literary magazines, especially Sem- South.”
ina, which included various Beat writers. For the Beats, Big Sur was especially connected
Born in New York City in 1926, Berman moved with Bixby Canyon, where Lawrence Ferlinghetti
with his family to Los Angeles. As a teen he in- owns a small and rustic cabin. In 1960, Ferlinghetti
volved himself with jazz performances on the West and Jack Kerouac planned a retreat for Kerouac,
Coast, and he briefly attended the Jepson Art who was to stay at Ferlinghetti’s cabin to enjoy sce-
School and Chouinard Art School. nic splendor and private study. Unfortunately, Ker-
Berman persistently displayed interdisciplinary ouac did not follow the plans for a secret retreat;
interests. Produced on an early version of the copy instead, he arrived in San Francisco and began an
machine, Berman’s “verifax collages” displayed alcoholic binge. When Kerouac finally got to Bixby
subtle brown tones. Semina was a literary magazine Canyon, he tried to settle into a routine of writing,
without conventional design or contents: Berman but the foggy and ominous environment proved

Black Mountain, North Carolina, and Black Mountain College

Ferlinghetti attempted to arrange a meeting of

Kerouac and Miller, but Kerouac got drunk and
failed to attend. Miller was the author of an intro-
duction for Kerouac’s The Subterraneans and
agreed to meet with Kerouac in Carmel, Califor-
nia. However, when Kerouac went out with Neal
Cassady and other friends, he got drunk and
missed the meeting.
—Valentina Peguero

Bibliographic References
Warren French, Jack Kerouac, 1986, offers a concise
explanation of Kerouac’s experience in Big Sur
and his development of the experience in Big Sur,
1962; although fiction, Big Sur is often seen as
the work that shows his most faithful
reproduction of the events of his own life; Barry
Silesky’s Ferlinghetti: The Artist in His Time,
The Bixby Bridge crosses a canyon along the coast of Big 1990, reveals Ferlinghetti’s unsuccessful efforts to
Sur, California. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in the make Kerouac’s experience in Bixby Canyon
canyon is the setting for Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur. (Craig worthwhile and to arrange a meeting with Henry
Lovell/Corbis) Miller. In Chris Felver’s video The Coney Island
of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one can see Ferlinghetti
at his cabin in Bixby Canyon.

more maddening than soothing. Instead of estab-

lishing productive privacy, Kerouac brought
friends and acquaintances to the remote cabin. Af- Black Mountain, North Carolina,
fected by excessive drinking, Kerouac suffered a and Black Mountain College
nervous breakdown. Established in 1933 in the mountains near
Kerouac’s experience in Bixby Canyon is Asheville, North Carolina, Black Mountain College
recorded in his novel Big Sur (1962). The novel es- operated until 1957. The college featured a pro-
tablishes an extraordinary narrator who looks back gressive educational philosophy designed to be en-
on his mental deterioration and chronicles it with acted both inside and outside the classroom. The
clarity, frankness, and specificity. This insightful school’s founders envisioned an experimental pro-
and disturbing prose is accompanied by a conclud- gram that encompassed academics as well as the
ing sound poem, “Sea,” the subtitle of which is practical knowledge needed for a holistic life. The
“Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur.” While school attracted distinctive teachers and students,
some readers find this poem to be nothing more including some associated with the Beat movement:
than senseless raving, other readers recognize Ker- Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, and Robert Dun-
ouac’s peculiar innovation. can. From 1954 until 1957, Olson and Creeley pub-
Other literary figures connected to Big Sur in- lished an important literary journal, Black Moun-
clude Henry Miller (1891–1980), an author whose tain Review. Contributors to the Black Mountain
influence on the Beats is immeasurable. Miller vis- Review included Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac,
ited Big Sur in 1944 and fell in love with the peace- William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Michael Mc-
ful and inspiring environment. He bought a home Clure, Philip Whalen, and Jonathan Williams.
on Partington Ridge and lived in the Big Sur region John Andrew Rice, a classics teacher, founded
until 1962, writing productively. Black Mountain College after he left Rollins College

Black Mountain, North Carolina, and Black Mountain College

in Florida following a dispute over educational The beautiful mountain setting combined with
philosophies. Influenced by John Dewey’s progres- the progressive educational atmosphere lured
sive principles of education, Rice sought to create a strong faculty members who were willing to forego
cohesive union of liberal arts and fine arts that more lucrative positions elsewhere. While faculty
would teach the whole student on a campus where salaries at the school were never high, lodging and
students and faculty alike would engage in physical food, much of which was grown on the school’s farm,
work, typically by farming or maintaining the were provided. Charles Olson first taught poetry at
school’s infrastructure. With several former mem- Black Mountain College in 1948; in 1951, he be-
bers of the Rollins College faculty, he moved to the came the final rector of the college. During his
Blue Ridge Mountains to carry out his ideas. Rice tenure, the college completed its transition from
soon attracted a distinguished faculty, including being known primarily for art to being best known
Josef Albers, a German artist and designer, and his for literature. Indeed, one of the groundbreaking
wife, Anni, a textile designer, both significant figures poetry movements in the middle 1950s came to be
from the Bauhaus school who arrived in 1933. Al- known as the Black Mountain Poets. This group in-
though many Black Mountain College faculty mem- cluded Robert Creeley (a graduate of Black Moun-
bers taught sporadically or only for short periods, tain College) and Robert Duncan, who taught at the
Josef and Anni Albers were fixtures at the school college, as well as unaffiliated poets Denise Lever-
until 1949. Other significant teachers over the years tov, Paul Blackburn, Larry Eigner, and Paul Carroll.
included Walter Gropius, Willem de Kooning, Young poets were attracted to the college as stu-
Robert Motherwell, John Cage, Merce Cunning- dents; Ed Dorn, Joel Oppenheimer, Jonathan
ham, and R. Buckminster Fuller. Albert Einstein Williams, and John Wieners were students of Olson
and William Carlos Williams served for a time on at the college and went on to notable literary ca-
the board of directors. reers. Dorn, who attended Black Mountain College
For its first eight years, the college leased build- when he was in his twenties, later recalled that the
ings from the Blue Ridge Assembly, but in 1941 the school featured famous artists and painters during
college established its own campus at nearby Lake the summers, but the winters could be hard and op-
Eden, where its main classroom building and most pressing. Dorn notes that during his time, the school
of its lodges and cabins still stand. Due in large part offered an eclectic although not a thorough educa-
to Josef and Anni Albers’s presence on the faculty, tion. Dorn was strongly influenced by other faculty
the college earned early renown in the fields of art members, but Olson had the most lasting impact,
and design. Through the ensuing three decades of and Dorn decided to dedicate his life to poetry.
its existence, the school also developed strong rep- Charles Olson was an imposing figure. He was a
utations for its study and production of music and big man, physically, and a robust presence in liter-
literature. ature who is best known for his three-volume Max-
Black Mountain College students were not di- imus Poems that employs his conjectures on poetic
vided into the typical four-year classifications and forms. His theories of “projective” verse chal-
were not graduated based solely on the number of lenged the conventional structures of poetry in the
courses completed. Instead of required courses, 1950s, and many poets reacted to the publication
students set up plans with their advisors that satis- of his essay “Projective Verse” in 1950. He urged
fied the university’s goal of providing a comprehen- poets to pay less attention to received forms for po-
sive education. Teachers did not give grades; stu- etry and more attention to their own natural voices.
dents were graduated only after undergoing Olson encouraged his students to avoid distractions
comprehensive written and oral exams rendered by over subject matter and meaning and instead to
outside professors. Despite the unconventional na- center their attention on the use and dynamics of
ture of the curriculum, students typically matricu- language. The meaning of poetry, for Olson, rises
lated easily into graduate programs at other schools. in emotion and imagination, while adherence to

Blackburn, Paul (1926–1971)

“closed” or fixed forms limits the poet’s range of ex- recollections are gathered in Mervin Lane, Black
pression. Olson drew on ideas of earlier poets, in- Mountain College: Sprouted Seeds: An Anthology
cluding Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, of Personal Accounts, 1990. See also Katherine C.
Reynolds, Visions and Vanities: John Andrew Rice
and e. e. cummings, to determine a rationale for
of Black Mountain College, 1998.
“open” verse forms. Robert Creeley was particu-
larly receptive to Olson’s ideas, and in 1954, Olson See also Little Magazines; De Kooning, Willem;
Motherwell, Robert; Cage, John; Cunningham,
invited Creeley to teach at Black Mountain College
Merce; Williams, William Carlos; Olson, Charles;
and edit the Black Mountain Review. Creeley had Blackburn, Paul; Creeley, Robert; Duncan, Robert;
experience as a literary editor from his work on Carroll, Paul; Dorn, Ed; Wieners, John; Influences
Origin with Cid Corman. Although only seven is-
sues were published between 1954 and 1957, the
Black Mountain Review became one of the most
important little magazines of the 1950s. Four re- Blackburn, Paul (1926–1971)
bellious literary movements came to the fore in the Paul Blackburn is noted not just as a poet, but also
1950s: the Beat Generation, the San Francisco as a translator. His involvement with the Beats was
Poets, the New York School, and the Black Moun- primarily through his role as editor and his enor-
tain Poets. The various groups overlapped; the mous networking abilities. He was responsible for
Black Mountain Review and Yugen, LeRoi organizing many of the readings in which Beat
Jones/Amiri Baraka’s New York School magazine, writers participated during the 50s and 60s in New
are examples of little magazines that published York City.
poets from the different groups. Blackburn was born November 24, 1926, in Ver-
The experimental college had run its course by mont. When he was three, his parents separated.
the middle 1950s. Many of the faculty and students He was primarily raised by his maternal grandpar-
had departed for San Francisco and New York, and ents until the age of fourteen when he and his
few of the remaining participants showed strong mother moved to Greenwich Village. From his
interest in the original impulses of the program, mother’s encouragement, he began to explore him-
particularly the farming and maintenance. In re- self through poetry and discovered not only an ap-
sponse to the financial difficulties that developed titude for writing it, but a deep love of the form.
for the school, some members were willing to allow Blackburn enrolled in New York University
the school to adopt a more conventional structure. (NYU) in 1945, only to enter the service shortly
Even though Olson continued to suggest new thereafter. Upon discharge in 1947, he returned to
ideas, the school finally closed in the spring of NYU, but transferred to the University of Wiscon-
1957. The final issue of the Black Mountain Review sin, Madison, in 1949. At Madison he began writ-
appeared that fall, and Black Mountain College be- ing to Ezra Pound and soon began visiting him at
came history, a significant and influential develop- the hospital in Washington, D.C. Pound served as
ment in American experimental education. an early mentor to Blackburn and helped guide
—Matt Theado and encourage his development as a poet. Beyond
that, it was through his association with Pound that
Bibliographical References Blackburn met many other influential poets, in-
A thorough treatment of the Black Mountain cluding Charles Olson.
experience is Martin Duberman, Black Mountain: Olson and Blackburn found a shared vision of po-
An Exploration in Community, 1972; Duberman’s etry that led to Blackburn’s participation in Olson’s
work is brought up to date by Mary Emma
literary endeavors. However, although he was in-
Harris, The Arts at Black Mountain College, 1987
(reprinted 2002), and Martin Brody, Robert volved in the first two issues of Olson’s Black Moun-
Creeley, and Kevin Power, Black Mountain tain Review, Blackburn is not properly categorized
College: Experiment in Art, 2003. Individual as a Black Mountain poet, having never taught or

Bohemian Movements: Predecessors of the Beats

studied at the college. Blackburn stressed repeat- Blakey, Art (1919–1990;

edly that he was generally opposed to casting poets aka Abdullah Ibn Buhaina)
into “schools” of thought and actively resisted any Originally a pianist, Art Blakey reputedly switched
such categorization for himself. Blackburn came to drums when the drummer for the band in which
into the popular consciousness as a poet through his he was playing called in sick. He became widely
inclusion in Donald Allen’s influential anthology The known during the forties as the drummer behind
New American Poetry: 1945–1960 (1960), a position such acts as the Fletcher Henderson orchestra and
that has often caused him to be cast in with any Billy Eckstein’s ensemble (which featured talents
number of avant-garde or bohemian categorizations. such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Charlie
Blackburn’s poetry is often inspired by his early Parker, whom Allen Ginsberg dubbed the “Secret
apprenticeship with Pound. Blackburn was also Heroes” of the Beat poets). In 1955, Blakey formed
deeply moved by Provençal poetry (a body of liter- the Jazz Messengers and helped develop the style
ary work), which he read in response to Pound’s ad- known as hard bop, a derivation of bebop that con-
vice. He began exploring it early in his career, and trasted with the mellow West Coast “cool jazz”
sustained this interest throughout his life. He pub- sound. In his own groups and as a popular sideman,
lished thirteen books while alive, and another nine he was a regular fixture at the Birdland Monday ses-
were issued posthumously. Although no single vol- sions throughout 1954.
ume can be said to have captured the popular —David Arnold
imagination, Blackburn was always a well-re-
spected poet. Blackburn was also a well-recognized
Bibliographical References
translator, working often from Spanish to English. For a general view of Blakey’s life and career, see
Two of his most notable translations are his version Leslie Gourse, Art Blakey: Jazz Messenger, 2002.
of the Spanish epic El Cid and his work on a col- In Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews
lection of Picasso’s poetry. Blackburn also trans- 1958–1996, ed. Allen Ginsberg and David Carter,
lated works from French, including Provençal po- 2001, one can catch connections between Blakey
and the Beats.
etry and French troubadour poets.
Furthermore, Blackburn helped build alliances See also Music
and networks between poets. He helped to organ-
ize a number of readings and events that brought
together Beats, Black Mountain poets, Deep Imag- Bohemian Movements:
ists, and many others. He continued to produce po- Predecessors of the Beats
etry, teach, and work with other writers until his Although the Beat movement has had a singular
death in 1971. and continuing effect on American culture and lit-
—John M. Carey erature, the Beats’ attitudes toward the political
and economic forces shaping mainstream Ameri-
Principal Works can society and toward the role of the radical artist
The Dissolving Fabric, 1955; Poem of The Cid within that society has some precedents among
(translation), 1966; Picasso’s Hunk of Skin earlier groups of writers and artists—in particular,
(translation), and The Reardon Poems, 1967. The
among the radical naturalists who were prominent
Collected Poems of Paul Blackburn was issued in
1985. Selected Poems of Paul Blackburn followed at the turn of the century, among the Jazz Age writ-
in 1989. Transcripts and tapes of many of the ers and the postwar expatriates, among the “prole-
readings Blackburn organized are available in the tarian” writers of the Depression era, and among
Special Collections Archive of University of the African American poets of the Harlem Renais-
California, San Diego. sance and beyond.
See also Little Magazines; Black Mountain, North It has often been noted that the works of
Carolina, and Black Mountain College Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Jack London, and

Bowles, Jane (1917–1973)

the other American naturalists include romantic el- tempted to express what had been repressed
ements that distinguish them from their models in within the mainstream.
the works of Émile Zola and the European natu- Contemporaries of the proletarians, Robinson
ralists. Certainly the Americans’ acceptance of de- Jeffers and Henry Miller were so idiosyncratic in
terminism and social Darwinism was tempered by their rejection of conventional American attitudes
their belief in the social efficacy of radical, pro- and behavioral norms that they inevitably attracted
gressive politics and by their conception of the devotees and imitators. As a result, their uncon-
writer as something more than just a vivid docu- ventional attitudes became, paradoxically, more
menter of social realities—the writer was a herald commonplace, and ultimately they became some-
and even an agent of social progress. In these atti- thing akin to “patron saints” among the Beats and
tudes and in their roving adventurousness, the rad- counterculturalists of the 1960s and 1970s. Like-
ical naturalists were clearly as influenced by the wise, in the work of Langston Hughes and associ-
French bohemians as by the naturalists. ated African American writers, there was a deliber-
After the First World War shattered faith in ate fusion of music and poetry, of popular and high
Western institutions, American writers who had culture, that established a basis for the main-
survived the war expressed their rejection of seem- streaming of African American culture that oc-
ingly bankrupt social norms by embracing the vi- curred during the Beat era and beyond.
brant subversiveness of the Jazz Age and becoming —Martin Kich
expatriates in Europe. The “Lost Generation”
found its voice in the rhythms of African American
Bibliographical References
music and in the fractured forms created by the See Maxwell Geismar, Rebels and Ancestors: The
most radically experimental writers and artists of American Novel, 1890–1915: Frank Norris,
Europe. After the war, bootleg booze became a Stephen Crane, Jack London, Ellen Glasgow, and
metaphor for an exhausted culture bracing itself Theodore Dreiser, 1953. Later influences on the
for the collapse of a false prosperity that repre- Beats can be seen in Noel Riley Fitch, Sylvia
Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of
sented a squandering of the last of its illusions. In-
Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties, 1983,
terestingly, following what James Jones, in World and Gerald J. Kennedy, Imagining Paris: Exiles,
War II: A Chronicle of Soldiering (1975), describes Writing, and American Identity, 1993. The
as the corporatization of conflict in the Second special influence of jazz is elucidated in Art
World War (222), he and other American writers of Lange and Nathaniel Mackey, eds., Moment’s
his generation were drawn to Paris much as Hem- Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose, 1993.
ingway’s generation and, earlier, as European bo- See also Influences
hemians had been drawn to the city, seeing it as a
haven for subversive thought or, at least, as a re-
prieve from conformity. Bowles, Jane (1917–1973)
In the 1930s, radical politics became somewhat Experimental writer, novelist, and playwright,
normalized in the face of an economic catastrophe Bowles was well known and respected in avant-
that was almost impossible to explain as anything garde artistic groups in New York, Mexico, and
other than an unprecedented failure of American Paris. She is the author of the novel Two Serious
democracy and speculative capitalism. A whole Ladies (1943) and the play In the Summer House
generation grew into maturity with a visceral sym- (1947). Although not connected directly to the
pathy for, if not a deep belief in, leftist political Beat milieu, her approach to art and life, which in-
ideals. When these leanings were declared “un- cludes a focus on alienation, guilt, isolation, and ab-
American” in the early years of the Cold War, it was surdity, connects her with them.
predictable that they would become a fixed feature Born Jane Auer, she married composer and au-
of the political and cultural “underground” that at- thor Paul Bowles in 1938. She had difficulties with

Bowles, Paul (1910–1999)

alcoholism and suffered a stroke in 1957. Despite a

limited public response to her work during her life-
time, Jane Bowles’s work has endured and drawn
scholarly interest.
—William Lawlor

Bibliographical References
Millicent Dillon, ed., The Portable Paul and Jane
Bowles, 1994, offers a broad selection of work by
Jane Bowles. In Jennie Skerl, ed., A Tawdry Place
of Salvation: The Art of Jane Bowles, 1997, one
finds a collection of diverse essays on Jane
See also Bowles, Paul

Bowles, Paul (1910–1999)

Paul Bowles, composer, musicologist, novelist,
short-story writer, travel writer, translator, poet,
Paul Bowles, seated with manuscript, ca. 1947. (Condé
painter, and memoirist, cannot technically be called
Nast Archive/Corbis)
a Beat, but his influence on and affinity with the
Beat Generation should not be underestimated. In-
spired by Bowles’s novels The Sheltering Sky and
Let It Come Down, William S. Burroughs decided teenager. Intrigued that Edgar Allan Poe had gone
to go to Tangier in 1954. Burroughs felt a great at- to the University of Virginia, Bowles studied there
traction to Bowles and introduced him to the Beats before going to Paris. Studying music composition
who visited Tangier. Allen Ginsberg found Bowles’s with Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson, Bowles
wife, Jane, to be very similar to Joan Vollmer, Bur- later wrote the scores for South Pacific (1943), The
roughs’s deceased wife, and suggested that Bowles Glass Menagerie (1945), and Sweet Bird of Youth
publish A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard, sto- (1956). He married Jane Auer on 21 February 1938
ries based around the use of the drug kif, with and was inspired by her to start writing short sto-
Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books. Bowles ries. Both Bowles and his wife were bisexual. His
encouraged Burroughs, Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, friends Gertrude Stein, who did not like Bowles’s
and Gregory Corso to experiment with the Moroc- surrealistic poetry, and Alice B. Toklas suggested
can drugs majoun and kif. Like many of the Beats, that Tangier was the place for his creative flowering;
and Jack Kerouac in particular, Bowles promoted they were right. He first went to Morocco with
the unleashing of conscious control when writing Aaron Copland in 1931, and this city later became
poetry (although Bowles preferred craftsmanship his greatest source of inspiration. His literary mas-
when it came to prose). He also experimented as terpiece, The Sheltering Sky (1948), depicts a god-
early as 1956 with tape recordings—something with less world where Westerners are ill equipped to
which Beats, especially Kerouac and Burroughs, master the indifferent and brutal African desert.
were fascinated. The film The Sheltering Sky (1990) includes narra-
Bowles, the only child of a dentist father and tion by Bowles and stars John Malkovich and Debra
schoolteacher mother, was born in New York City Winger.
on 30 December 1910. His first poems were pub- Bowles found it difficult to write after his wife
lished by Transition in France when he was only a suffered a stroke in 1957 and began to physically

Brautigan, Richard (1935–1984)

deteriorate. Jane Bowles died in a sanatorium in

Málaga, Spain, in 1973. Bowles successfully re-
turned to writing and received an American Book
Award nomination in 1980 for Collected Stories of
Paul Bowles, 1939–1976. Bowles died of a heart at-
tack in a Tangier hospital on 18 November 1999.
—Kurt Hemmer

Principal Works
Poetry: Two Poems, 1933; Scenes, 1968; The Thicket
of Spring: Poems 1926–1969, 1972; Next to
Nothing: Collected Poems, 1926–1977, 1981.
Prose: The Sheltering Sky, 1948; The Delicate Prey
and Other Stories, 1950; Let It Come Down,
1952; The Spider’s House, 1955; A Hundred
Camels in the Courtyard, 1962; Up above the
World: A Novel, 1966; Without Stopping: An
Autobiography, 1972; The Collected Stories, 1979;
Days: Tangier Journal, 1987–1989, 1991; Too Far
from Home: The Selected Writings of Paul
Bowles, 1993.

Bibliographical References
Queer theory is applied to both Bowles and
Burroughs in Greg Mullins, Colonial Affairs:
Bowles, Burroughs, and Chester Write Tangier, Richard Brautigan helped foster the Beat spirit in the hip-
2002; Millicent Dillon, You Are Not I: A Portrait pie movement. (Library of Congress)
of Paul Bowles, 1998, is an informative biography;
letters to Ginsberg, Orlovsky, Corso, Kerouac,
Burroughs, and Ferlinghetti can be found in In
Touch: The Letters of Paul Bowles, 1994; see also
Gena Dagel Caponi, Paul Bowles: Romantic Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington, on
Savage, 1994; Gena Dagel Caponi, ed., 30 January 1935, but little is known of his upbring-
Conversations with Paul Bowles, 1993; the ing outside of hints of impoverishment and familial
relationship between Bowles and the Beats is
chaos. He had limited contact with his biological
discussed in detail in Michelle Green, The Dream
at the End of the World: Paul Bowles and the father, and an uncle was killed early in World War
Literary Renegades of Tangier, 1991; Christopher II. He was already writing poems when he moved
Sawyer Laucanno, An Invisible Spectator: A to San Francisco in the mid-1950s and encoun-
Biography of Paul Bowles, 1990, offers another tered the brief confluence of Beat writers in that
view. city. His first significant publication was in a small
See also Tangier; Technology, Beats and; Bowles, Jane anthology of poets published by Inferno Press in
1957. Small editions of other poetry collections fol-
lowed, including one by White Rabbit Press, but
Brautigan, Richard (1935–1984) Brautigan was making little headway in terms of lit-
Richard Brautigan was a whimsical minimalist poet erary recognition. Between 1961 and 1964, he
and experimental novelist who served his literary wrote three novels, which eventually became his
apprenticeship as a young writer in San Francisco most famous and popular works: Trout Fishing in
in the aftermath of the Beat Generation’s initial America, A Confederate General in Big Sur, and In
rise to prominence. He became an almost iconic Watermelon Sugar. By his thirtieth birthday, how-
figure to the hippie generation and its followers. ever, only A Confederate General in Big Sur had

Bremser, Bonnie (Brenda Frazer) (1939–)

been published, and it sold so poorly that Grove Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork, 1975; June
Press remaindered it. 30th, June 30th, 1978.
In 1967, Don Allen’s Four Seasons Press pub- Prose: A Confederate General from Big Sur, 1964;
Trout Fishing in America, 1967; In Watermelon
lished Trout Fishing in America. Despite the fact
Sugar, 1968; The Abortion: An Historical
that the novel was rooted in the fifties, Brautigan’s Romance 1966, 1971; The Hawkline Monster,
book flourished within the influential hippie crowd 1974; Willard and His Bowling Trophies, 1975;
and became a literary password in the same man- Sombrero Fallout, 1976; Dreaming of Babylon,
ner that the previous generation had enunciated 1977; The Tokyo-Montana Express, 1980; So the
“Howl” and On the Road. Trout Fishing ran Wind Won’t Blow It All Away, 1982.
through four printings before Allen sold it to a New
York publishing house. In 1968, Brautigan got a Bibliographical References
John F. Barber’s Richard Brautigan: An Annotated
writing grant from the National Endowment for
Bibliography, 1990, provides a substantial review
the Arts, and Allen published both In Watermelon of his life and work along with a personal account
Sugar, the final novel from his most prolific period, of Brautigan. Another partial biography is Keith
and The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster. Abbott’s memoir of his friendship with Brautigan,
Only a small proportion of Brautigan’s poetry Downstream from “Trout Fishing in America,”
found its way into contemporary anthologies. 1989. Terence Malley, 1972, Edward Halsey
Foster, 1983, Marc Chenetier, 1983, and Jay
Brautigan moved to Montana in the early 1970s,
Boyer, 1987, have all published critical studies
but a collection of his short stories, Revenge of the titled Richard Brautigan. Claudia Grossman
Lawn, and all of his subsequent novels faltered in provides a German critique in Richard Brautigan:
terms of critical response, and interest never sur- Pounding at the Gates of American Literature,
passed the original burst of enthusiasm. Brauti- 1986.
gan’s reputation was largely built on word-of-
mouth among readers. In his later work, the tone
shifted from counterculture charm to grim parody Bremser, Bonnie
of a variety of genres, including the detective (Brenda Frazer) (1939–)
novel. Brautigan continued to write poetry, but lit- Bremser is the author of Troia: Mexican Memoirs.
tle of it appeared in the underground poetry mag- Bremser married Beat “jailhouse” poet Ray
azines favored by Beat writers and the rapidly ex- Bremser in 1959. Shortly after they married, Ray
panding small-press movement. In 1976, Simon was incarcerated on narcotics charges. The couple
and Schuster published Gathering Mercury with a had a child together, and after Ray’s release from
Pitchfork, a selection of his poems from the earlier, prison, the young family moved to Mexico. In Mex-
out-of-print book as well as new work. Brautigan ico, Bonnie Bremser worked as a prostitute and
visited Japan, but not to study Zen Buddhism as panhandled to support the family and their drug
other Beat writers did. His poetic model seemed habits. The couple eventually returned to New
to be Issa, to whom he dedicated a poem which he York, and their daughter, Rachel, was given up for
wrote in a bar. Brautigan eventually moved to Boli- adoption. Bremser later spent time at Allen Gins-
nas, California, a beach town favored by New York berg’s Cherry Valley farm in upstate New York.
expatriate poets, where he committed suicide in Bremser has reassumed her given name, Brenda
mid-October 1984. His body was discovered on 25 Frazer.
October. Bremser’s memoir, Troia: Mexican Memoirs, re-
—Bill Mohr counts her journey to Mexico and describes the en-
suing hardships she and her family faced. Troia cap-
Principal Works tures the gritty drug lifestyle of Mexico in a
Poetry: The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, spontaneous prose style inspired by Beat writer Jack
1968; Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt, 1970; Kerouac. Two selections of previously unpublished

Bremser, Ray (1934–1998)

memoirs, “Poets and Oddfellows” and “The Village ucation, read Shakespeare and Jean Genet, corre-
Scene,” are found in Beat Down to Your Soul, edited sponded with Ezra Pound, and sent poems to
by Ann Charters. Like Troia, these selections evoke Corso and Ginsberg in Paris. LeRoi Jones (Amiri
the Beat experience of constant mobility, poverty, Baraka) first published Bremser in the journal
and a life dedicated to art. Yugen. After his release, Bremser was introduced
—Jessica Lyn VanSlooten to the inner circle of the New York Beat commu-
nity, Jones became his guardian, and Kerouac was
one of his favorite drinking buddies. Three weeks
Bibliographical References
See Bonnie Bremser, Troia: Mexican Memoirs, 1969. after meeting Bonnie Frazer at a poetry reading in
In Ann Charters, ed., Beat Down to Your Soul: Washington, D.C., he married her on 21 March
What Was the Beat Generation?, 2001, see “Poets 1959.
and Oddfellows” and “The Village Scene.” For In November 1959, Bremser made the mistake
background on Bonnie Bremser, see Brenda of promoting the legalization of marijuana on
Knight, Women of the Beat Generation: The
Ralph Collier’s Philadelphia talk show. This behav-
Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a
Revolution, 1996. ior possibly prompted the New Jersey authorities
to book him for violating his parole by marrying
See also Cherry Valley, New York; Bremser, Ray
Bonnie without permission. A letter from William
Carlos Williams helped get Bremser released from
Trenton State after he had served six months. After
Bremser, Ray (1934–1998) being accused of a robbery he claimed not to have
Poet Charles Plymell claimed that Ray Bremser was committed, Bremser, his wife, and their child
more “Beat” than Allen Ginsberg. Although this hy- Rachel fled to Mexico in December 1960 with the
perbolism seems like it can easily be dismissed, help of money borrowed from Elaine de Kooning.
there is something astute about Plymell’s remark. In Mexico Bonnie became a prostitute to support
Unlike Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and more like her family. Her experiences were later published as
Gregory Corso, Bremser is a poet of jails and rough Troia: Mexican Memoirs (1969). Sent to Laredo
streets. He is more “Beat” in Herbert Huncke’s after being apprehended in Mexico, Bremser was
sense of “beaten down” than in Kerouac’s sense of bailed out with the help of Elaine de Kooning’s
“beatific,” although his poetry is also characterized friends in Texas. After giving their child up for
by whimsical humor. For a time, he was one of Bob adoption, the Bremsers returned to Mexico where
Dylan’s favorite poets, appearing in Dylan’s liner they lived briefly with Philip Lamantia. Mean-
notes to Highway 61 Revisited, and Dylan also pro- while, Bremser had been published in Donald
vided the often-indigent Bremser with some finan- Allen’s The New American Poetry.
cial support in the 70s. After a split with Bonnie, Bremser arrived in
Bremser was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, on New York in April 1961 and became acquainted
22 February 1934 to a mother who inspected con- with John Coltrane. Bonnie joined him in New
doms and a pianist father, who supposedly was part York in July, but Bremser was busted for marijuana
of the band on the ship Orizaba from which Hart possession shortly after. Corso bailed him out, but
Crane leaped to his death in April 1932. Joining the Bremser was considered a fugitive from justice. He
U.S. Air Force in 1951, Bremser went AWOL after gave himself up and eventually spent time in both
four days, yet eventually received an honorable dis- Trenton State and Rahway prisons from 1961 to
charge. While the Beat Generation was blossoming, late 1965. His first volume of poetry, Poems of
Bremser was in Bordentown Reformatory from Madness, was published with an introduction by
April 1952 to November 1958 for armed robbery. Ginsberg while Bremser was still in prison. His
Like Corso, Bremser became a self-taught poet second book, Angel (1967), had an introduction by
while incarcerated. He finished his high school ed- Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The Bremsers lived in

Brooks, Eugene (Eugene Brooks Ginsberg) (1921–)

Guatemala and had a second daughter, Georgia,

before splitting again. In the early 70s Bremser
lived at Ginsberg’s farm in Cherry Valley, New
York. He had a son, Jesse Dylan Bremser, with poet
Judy Johnson and eventually moved to Utica.
At the end of his life, Bremser appeared as a
mysterious, mythical, and revered outlaw figure of
the Beat past, reading at such events as The Writ-
ings of Jack Kerouac conference in 1995 at New
York University. He died in Utica, New York from
lung cancer on 3 November 1998.
—Kurt Hemmer

Principal Works
Poetry: Poems of Madness, 1965; Angel, 1967; Drive
Suite, 1968; Black Is Black Blues, 1971; Blowing
Mouth/The Jazz Poems, 1958–1970, 1978; Born
Again, 1985; The Conquerors, 1989; The Dying of
Children, 1999.

Bibliographical References
There is not much written about Ray Bremser. He
appears in anecdotes in some of the biographies André Breton’s dadaism and surrealism influenced the
of the more famous Beat writers. The essay by Beats. (Library of Congress)
Arnold Moodnik and Mikhail Horowitz in
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 16: The
Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America,
ed. Ann Charters, 1983, provides some basic endeavors with Surrealism influenced various Beat
information, but there is certainly a need for writers, especially Philip Lamantia.
more critical work to be done on Bremser. —William Lawlor
See also Bremser, Bonnie; Cherry Valley, New York

Bibliographical References
See Mary Ann Caws, André Breton, 1996, and Anna
Elizabeth Balakian and Rudolf E. Kuenzli, André
Breton, André (1896–1966) Breton Today, 1989.
A medical doctor by profession, André Breton was See also Influences; Lamantia, Philip; Joans, Ted.
an influential French writer and editor, who to-
gether with Louis Aragon and Philip Soupault
founded the French magazine Literature in 1919. Brooks, Eugene (Eugene
A Dadaist, Breton helped to establish Surrealism Brooks Ginsberg) (1921–)
through his Manifesto of Surrealism (1924) and Elder brother of Allen Ginsberg, Eugene Brooks,
subsequent versions of that manifesto. Breton fa- named for Eugene Debs, is a poet, but he is also a
vored the free flight of the imagination and longed successful attorney. Whereas Allen Ginsberg had
for artistic expression uninhibited by rational some of the physical characteristics of his mother,
frameworks. Breton, Aragon, and Eluard joined Eugene looked more like his father, especially be-
the Communist Party in 1927 and sought to make cause of Eugene’s thin build and medium height.
Surrealism contribute to world revolution. Breton’s Allen Ginsberg wrote “Kaddish” in memory of his

Brossard, Chandler (1922–1993)

mother; Eugene wrote “To My Mother,” a poem general may consult The Unknown Chandler
published in the New York Times. Brossard: Collected Works 1971–1991, 2002.
—William Lawlor See also New York City

Bibliographic References
See Michael Schumacher, Dharma Lion, 1992. The Bruce, Lenny (1926–1966)
Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg, 1993, a video Lenny Bruce (Leonard Alfred Schneider) was a
by Jerry Aronson, includes several segments that nightclub performer and comedian who tested the
feature Eugene Brooks. bounds of propriety in the early 1960s by challeng-
See also Ginsberg, Allen ing social values and norms and by making free use
of vulgarities. After a performance at Cafe au Go-
Go in Greenwich Village, police officers who se-
cretly attended the show charged Bruce with the
Brossard, Chandler (1922–1993) use of “obscene” language. In State Supreme
Chandler Brossard, also known as Daniel Harper Court in Manhattan, Bruce was convicted of giving
and Iris-Marie Brossard, was a novelist, playwright, an obscene performance and was sentenced to four
and journalist. Who Walk in Darkness (1952) is the months on Rikers Island. In the appeal process,
work that connects Brossard, perhaps mistakenly, Bruce attempted to defend himself without legal
to the Beats because the novel relates the experi- counsel and was never successful in overturning his
ences of Blake Williams in Greenwich Village in conviction. With his career destroyed by the con-
New York City during one month in the summer of
1948. Williams observes those who drink, indulge
in drugs, and pursue gratification as they ramble
about New York City, but Williams himself seeks a
cleaner life—a life free from lies. Henry Porter
serves as a foil to Blake Williams, as Porter fails to
establish any degree of authenticity. By meeting
Grace and falling in love, Blake Williams separates
himself from the misguided life that surrounds
him. The novel is narrated in matter-of-fact lan-
guage, with power generated from understatement
rather than sensationalism.
Born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and raised in Wash-
ington, D.C., Brossard pursued a career in journal-
ism, working for the Washington Post, Time, and
the New Yorker. Although Who Walk in Darkness
links Brossard to the Beats, he disavowed any par-
allels between his work and that of the Beats.
—William Lawlor

Bibliographical References
See Review of Contemporary Fiction 7.1 (Spring
1987). This issue is dedicated to Brossard and his
writing career. Who Walk in Darkness, 1952, rpt.
2000, is of special interest to those exploring the Lenny Bruce relentlessly challenged censorship of his
Beats, but those who want to know Brossard in comedy routines. (Library of Congress)

Bukowski, Charles (1920–1994)

viction, Bruce turned to drugs, and he died of an 1970; His Royal Hipness, Lord Buckley, 1992;
overdose in 1966. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley,
The play Lenny (1971) by Julian Bary was later 2002.
produced as a film Lenny (1974), in which Dustin
Hoffman played Bruce and earned an Academy Bibliographic References
Roy Carr, Brian Cox, and Fred Deller, The Hip:
Award nomination. On 23 December 2003, thirty-
Hipsters, Jazz and the Beat Generation, 1986,
seven years after Bruce’s death, New York Gover- offers a good treatment of Buckley in relation to
nor George A. Pataki pardoned Bruce in an effort the black hipsters. An insightful review of
to uphold First Amendment rights. Buckley and his art is Albert Goldman,
—William Lawlor Freakshow: The
Gig and Other Scenes from the Counter-Culture,
Bibliographical References 1971. Essentially an undigested collection of
Bruce’s autobiography is How to Talk Dirty and quotes and commentary, arranged chronologically
Influence People, 1965; see William Karl Thomas, without an index, Oliver Trager, Dig Infinity! The
Lenny Bruce: The Making of a Prophet, 1989, and Life and Art of Lord Buckley, 1971, is difficult to
Frank Kofsky, The Comedian as Social Critic and use but is the only book on Buckley. It does
Secular Moralist, 1974. include a CD that provides samples of Buckley’s
See also Performance Humor; Buckley, Lord best routines and an interview with Studs Terkel.
See also Performance Humor; Bruce, Lenny

Buckley, Lord (1906–1960)

Richard Buckley, “his Royal Hipness,” developed
the bebop slang of black jazzmen into a series of Bukowski, Charles (1920–1994)
standup routines that embodied the apotheosis of Charles Bukowski was a poet, fiction writer, screen-
hip coolness, influencing both Lenny Bruce and writer, editor, and voluble correspondent whose
Bob Dylan. He began in Chicago speakeasies, in work as a whole constitutes a crucial tangent to the
the 1920s and 1930s, developing a novelty act in Beat generation. Few direct links exist between
which he, a white man, performed jive versions of Bukowski and the best-known Beats: Bukowski’s en-
Shakespeare, “Willie the Shake,” the Bible, includ- counter with Neal Cassady shortly before Cassady
ing treatments of “the Naz” (Jesus of Nazareth), and collapsed and died in Mexico is a one-way street;
famous set speeches such as the Gettysburg Ad- none of the major Beats associated with the San
dress. He later appeared on the Ed Sullivan and Francisco Renaissance has written of any pas de
Red Skelton shows. Sporting white tie and tails with deux with their underground cousin to the south.
his signature waxed mustache, he combined the Furthermore, in contrast to the peripatetic Beats,
diction and rhythms of the hipster with the manner Bukowski lived almost all of his life as a writer in Los
of a ham Shakespearean actor. Angeles, a city for which he had an affection that be-
—Thomas L. Cooksey lied his cantankerous persona. This endearment
probably made him seem all the more unlikely to
Selected Discography Kerouac and company as a genuine member of any
Hipsters, Flipsters, and Finger-Poppin’ Daddies, literary avant-garde. Bukowski’s writing, however,
Knock Me Your Lobes, 1955; Way Out Humor, continues to tantalize young writers and students of
1959; The Best of Lord Buckley, 1963; The the Beat movement, and their reading of this period
Parabolic Revelations of the Late Lord Buckley: A
frequently juxtaposes the Beats and Bukowski as
Collection of Six Lessons by the “Hip Messiah,”
1963; Lord Buckley: Blowing His Mind (and brothers-in-arms reflecting each other’s defiance of
Yours Too), 1966; Bad-Rapping of the Marquis de easy respectability and conventional prosody.
Sade, 1969; A Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat, Bukowski’s free verse seems almost impertinent in

Bukowski, Charles (1920–1994)

its casual approach to line breaks, but the apparent City Lights also published Erections, Ejaculations,
ease with which it can be read masks the bittersweet and Other Tales of Ordinary Madness in 1972, mak-
layers of its ironic, profane sincerity. Through its ing Bukowski the only writer during his lifetime to
very divergence and contrast in poetics and subject gain that spectrum of West Coast imprints. Black
matter, Bukowski’s writing therefore demarcates Sparrow Press, however, continued to be his pri-
and reinforces the Beat critique. mary publisher, churning out almost a volume of his
Bukowski was born in Germany in 1920 and writing every year. By the late seventies, much of
brought to America at age two. He grew up in Los his work became overly self-conscious, with the au-
Angeles, attended City College, and began writing thor spending considerable time mulling over his
stories. He briefly published and then began wan- predicaments as a writer who was becoming in-
dering the United States, taking on a series of low- creasingly famous, especially in Europe.
paying jobs and living in boarding houses, not so Bukowski also worked as a little magazine editor,
much a poet maudit as a man who was both self-de- including one he founded in Los Angeles with Neeli
structive and a cunning survivor. In the mid-fifties, Cherri, Laugh Literary and Man the Humping
his long alcoholic spree concluded with him on the Guns in 1969. Perhaps Bukowski’s attenuated rela-
verge of death in a public hospital. When he finally tionship with the Beats is most visible in the poets
recovered, he started writing poetry and, unde- he chose for the three issues he published, Harold
terred by his close call, resumed drinking. The two Norse, Jack Micheline, and Doug Blazek, or his in-
activities kept him going for nearly another forty clusion of Stuart Perkoff and John Thomas in the
years. Bukowski’s emergence from the small-press Anthology of L.A. Poets, which Bukowski coedited.
publishing underground was a much slower process His preference for literary company leaned toward
for him than the younger set of poets of the Beat those who could not be easily assimilated into any
generation. Although by the early 1960s, Bukowski’s public group. In a similar manner, when Penguin
work appeared more than once alongside poets books issued a series of small volumes in the late
such as Ginsberg, Corso, and Ferlinghetti, his po- 1960s each containing a trio of poets, Bukowksi’s
etry seemed more doggedly existential in his alien- work was accompanied by Philip Lamantia and
ation than the writing of the Beats, who were noto- Norse.
rious for their scorn of work. Bukowski had a job; Bukowski was also a successful screenwriter. His
maybe he was surly about it, but he went to work. script for Barfly, an account of his youthful alco-
In the end, this employment proved to be the basis holic sojourn, was made into a successful film by
for his way out of drudgery. An aspiring small-press Barbet Schroeder in 1987. Bukowski found himself
publisher in Los Angeles, John Martin, gambled on acknowledged as a primary influence on the South-
Bukowski’s capacity for generating mounds of ern California school known as Stand Up poetry
poems in hopes that he could be equally prolific as and continued to pour out poems and short stories
a fiction writer and offered to subsidize him while until his death in Los Angeles in 1994.
he produced a novel. Post Office, a picaresque ac- —Bill Mohr
count of Bukowksi’s only sustained job, appeared in
1971, and in 1972 Bukowski won a creative writing Principal Works
grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Poetry: The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Poems
Martin went on to reprint his first two major collec- 1946–1966, 1988; Burning in Water, Drowning in
tions of poetry, It Catches My Heart in Its Hands Flame, Poems 1955–1973, 1973; War All the
and Crucifix in a Deathhand, in a combined collec- Time: Poems 1981–1984, 1984; The Last Night of
the Earth,1992; Bone Palace Ballet, 1997.
tion titled Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame.
Fiction and Prose: Notes of a Dirty Old Man, 1969;
Bukowski wrote a column for the Los Angeles Post Office, 1971; Factotum, 1975; Women, 1978;
Free Press, “Notes of a Dirty Old Man,” collected in Ham on Rye, 1982; Hot Water Music, 1983; and
1969 in a volume published by City Lights Books. two volumes of selected letters, Screams from the

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

Balcony, 1993, and Living on Luck, 1995, both he arranged an uncontested divorce from her. Bur-
edited by Seamus Cooney. roughs saw Herzfeld for the last time in New York
in 1965. At the time of her death in August 1982,
Bibliographical References she was living in Ascona, in southern Switzerland.
Three major biographies, Bukowski: A Life, by Neeli —James Grauerholz
Cherkovski, 1997; Charles Bukowski, by Gay
Brewer, 1997, and Charles Bukowski: Locked in
the Arms of a Crazy Life, by Howard Sounes are Bibliographical References
complemented by several shorter accounts by Basic background is offered in Ted Morgan,
poets who knew him, including Charles Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William
Bukowski: A Sure Bet, by Gerald Locklin, 1996; S. Burroughs, 1988. One can examine Ted
Spinning Off Bukowski, by Steve Richmond, Morgan’s papers at the Arizona State University
1992; Bathing with Bukowski, by John Thomas, Special Collections. See also Harold von Hofe,
1997; Drinking with Bukowski: Recollections of ed., Briefe von and an Ludwig Marcuse, 1975.
the Poet Laureate of Skid Row, edited by Daniel
Weizman, 2000. Analysis of his work includes See also Burroughs, William Seward
Miller, Bukowski and Their Enemies: Essays on
Contemporary Culture by William Joyce, 1996;
Against the American Dream: Essays on Charles Burroughs, William Seward
Bukowski, edited by Russell Harrison, 1994.
See also Norse, Harold; Micheline, Jack; Perkoff, William Seward Burroughs was, alongside Allen
Stuart Z. Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, one of the founders and
central figures of the Beat Generation. The three
writers emerged during the 1950s to form a troika of
Burroughs, Ilse distinctly individual identities but shared counter-
Herzfeld Klapper (1900–1982) cultural status and international fame. Burroughs’s
First wife of William S. Burroughs. Born 19 April relationship to the Beat movement was always
1900 in Hamburg, Germany, into a wealthy Jewish anomalous, however; if his image has remained es-
family who owned a department store. In 1920s sential to the popularity of the Beats—which it
Berlin, she associated with prominent Weimar-era has—it is for the paradoxical reason that he never
personalities such as Konrad Veidt, Marlene Die- was completely there and never quite belonged.
trich, Kurt Weill, Ludwig Marcuse, Hermann Even though Burroughs played a key role in the
Kesten, and members of the Thomas Mann family. early Beat scene of the 1940s, his life and work al-
She married a German physician named Klapper, ways placed him at one remove from the center of
but by 1933 she was separated from her husband Beat activity, and this separation was the case quite
and living in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where she met literally from 1950 onward. To escape his criminal-
the twenty-two-year-old Burroughs, in summer ization as a drug user and a homosexual, Burroughs
1936. He married her 2 August 1937 at the U.S. left Cold War America at that time, beginning
Consulate in Athens, Greece, so she could emi- twenty-five years as a writer-in-exile, first moving to
grate to the United States and avoid Nazi persecu- Mexico, then South America, North Africa, and fi-
tion; the marriage was never consummated. nally Europe. In his absence, Burroughs’s initial
Finally arriving in New York in 1938, Ilse was reputation in the United States was promoted by
secretary to the German Socialist playwright Ernst Ginsberg and Kerouac, who conjured him as a
Toller (1893–1939) until his suicide 22 May 1939 vividly ambiguous figure, their mysterious and
and then was secretary to Vienna-born actor Kurt vaguely sinister master. As he developed into one of
Kasznar (1913–1979) in the early 1940s. Burroughs the most innovative and influential cultural figures
continued to see Ilse socially in New York until she of the late twentieth century, however, Burroughs,
returned to Europe in 1945; in St. Louis in 1946, unlike Ginsberg and Kerouac, created a reputation

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

recent critical study of Burroughs has downplayed

his work’s relation to the Beats, even when dealing
with his novels of the 1950s, the period in which his
writing, like that of Ginsberg and Kerouac, was di-
rectly and visibly shaped by his autobiography.
Steering a path between these opposed ap-
proaches, one finds that it is more accurate to ac-
knowledge that the fifties were the one decade in
which Burroughs’s personal and creative relation-
ships with Ginsberg and Kerouac were of real ma-
terial importance, and to recognize that any biog-
raphical account of Burroughs in a Beat context
should properly focus in most detail on those years.
All biographical approaches to Burroughs must
contend with the special difficulties that he has
posed for the biographical enterprise itself. The
first of these difficulties is, in fact, central to Skerl’s
claim for Burroughs’s affinity to Ginsberg and Ker-
ouac: “All three,” she argued, “fictionalized their
lives in their art and thus created an autobiograph-
ical myth” (1983, 56). In the case of Burroughs, his
legendary status has made the life and work insep-
arable in the public imagination. However, the si-
multaneous importance and difficulty of biography
is further complicated by the particular part that
his fellow writers, especially Kerouac, played in
constructing that very legend. Before Burroughs
William S. Burroughs in New York City in 1953. (Allen
could fictionalize his life, beginning with Junky
(published as Junkie in 1953; the title was changed
for the reedited 1977 edition), Kerouac did it for
him in his own debut novel, The Town and the City
and a body of work that lost any meaningful relation (1950), and darkly enigmatic portraits in Kerouac’s
to the history and features of a Beat identity. Bur- following novels ensured that a mythic version of
roughs now exists through the circulation of a whole Burroughs achieved recognition ahead of his own
series of defining images and iconic cult figures, as work. In this way, the earliest representations of
the “Holy Monster” of the Beat Generation (Cook Burroughs not only tied him to a Beat context but
165) was succeeded by the eminence grise of 1960s invested his biography with the quality of fiction,
counterculture, the avant-garde mapmaker of inner one that the more sensational facts of Burroughs’s
space, the guerrilla leader of the electronic revolu- actual life, especially in the 1940s and 1950s, did
tion, the shaman of queer magic, and the godfather nothing to dispel. Fact and fiction have been a re-
of cyberpunk. volving door for Burroughs’s biographers.
It is no longer possible to claim, as Jennie Skerl The second major difficulty that biographers of
did in 1983 in one of the first detailed biographical Burroughs have faced derives from his own atti-
accounts, that “the significance of Burroughs’ work tude toward the basic premises and purposes of bi-
must also be judged according to the significance ography. The aims of traditional literary biography
of the Beat movement” (1983, 67). Indeed, more are essentially twofold: to gain insights into the

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

inner life from an evocation of external events and roughs not only contributed to such mystification
to explain the creative process by relating the artist but highlighted it repeatedly.
to his artifacts. Each aim assumes the possibility of Most pointedly, he drew attention to the staged
uncovering a coherent identity, one that emerges and therefore highly suspect quality of his literary
through a chronological and factual narrative of biography in his essay, “The Name Is Burroughs,”
causes and consequences. Long before postmod- which appears in The Adding Machine (1985): “I
ern critical theory threw such values into doubt, can divide my literary production into sets: where,
Burroughs actively subverted the possibility that when and under what circumstances produced.
biography could reveal the essential person and The first set is a street of red brick three-story
narrate his creative development over time. houses with slate roofs, lawns in front and large
Burroughs made this subversion an explicit proj- back yards” (1985b, 2). Turning the most objective
ect in late 1959, shortly after publication of his of facts into features on a “set,” Burroughs man-
most famous work, Naked Lunch. “I have no past ages to cast a shadow of doubt over the very time
life at all,” he announced in what he referred to as and place of his birth.
a “Biographical Note,” insisting to Ginsberg, “and William Seward Burroughs II was born on 5 Feb-
that is not a malapropism” (1993, 431). And so, al- ruary 1914 in the family house in the central West
though Naked Lunch, together with Ginsberg’s End of St. Louis. The younger of two sons, he was
poem “Howl” (1956) and Kerouac’s novel On the a child of privilege, modest wealth, and social sta-
Road (1957), was hailed as the third key text writ- tus. On both sides, he was heir to the traditions of
ten by the Holy Trinity of Beat writers, its publica- two very different upper-middle-class families that
tion marked a break in Burroughs’s close personal played significant parts in the modernization of cor-
and creative associations with the Beats. For Bur- porate America. His paternal grandfather and
roughs, 1959 was a watershed year, and his claim to namesake was a northern inventor who, in the late
deny history and identity launched the “cut-up” 1880s, perfected the modern adding machine. The
project, a range of experimental practices that de- international company that bore the Burroughs
veloped the radical antinarrative potentials of the name later became a key player in pioneering the
novel he had just published, as described by Greg computer age, although the last family connection
Mullins: “Naked Lunch exposes the fictitiousness to the firm was broken in 1929, when, just before
of all narratives, especially those narratives that the great crash, his son, Mortimer, sold the inher-
constitute what is thought of as reality. The novel ited stock and so ensured his own son’s financial se-
overflows with stories, but each story is a ‘cover curity. William Burroughs’s mother, Laura Lee, was
story’ ” (77). the daughter of a circuit-riding Southern Methodist
Biographies of Burroughs have therefore had to minister. Whereas Mortimer was a remote and dif-
contend not only with the mediation of his identity fident father, the young William’s mother doted on
through the fictional work of others and with his her youngest son. Laura Lee’s brother, Ivy, also
own fictional use of autobiography—versions of achieved national fame—or rather notoriety; as one
the truth that add up to a series of “cover stories”— of the pioneers of public relations, he earned the
but with his active hostility to the very possibility of nickname “Poison Ivy,” and counted John D. Rock-
reconstructing the facts and fixing a stable identity. efeller, his image bloodstained by the Ludlow Mas-
“The past only exists in some record of it,” he once sacre of 1914, among his dubious clients.
insisted to an interviewer; “There are no facts” Although William Burroughs did not fictionalize
(Malanga 302). Unsurprisingly, the received ver- the era of his youth until the late 1960s and 1970s,
sion of Burroughs’s life and creative history has had all his work later showed the influence of his fam-
to be revised over time, but false accounts remain ily inheritance. In fact, his oeuvre is legible as a
common because the mystifying force of legend sustained project to subvert the traditions of Amer-
still largely persists. The final paradox is that Bur- ican capitalism represented by the Burroughs-Lee

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

partnership. It is no coincidence that for his first summer of 1936, he joined what he called “the in-
two novels Burroughs adopted, and was initially ternational queer set” (2003, xxxvii) on a European
published under, the name William Lee; this move tour that took him through Germany and Austria.
simultaneously acknowledged his family origins He stayed on in Vienna for six months to study med-
and, given the subject matter of Junky and Queer icine, and, in his boldest break from the family that
(1985; written 1952), opened them to devastating still supported him financially through a monthly
critique. This filial revolt remained implicit in his stipend, married Ilse Klapper, a German Jew, to
first autobiographical account, published as the help her escape the Nazi occupation. (They sepa-
prologue to Junky, in which Burroughs presented rated on arrival in New York.)
his life as a heroin addict and petty criminal as the From the mid-1930s, Burroughs effectively
career path taken by a terminally “disaffected in- drifted for a decade without clear direction—the
sider” (Skerl 1983, 47). term “drift” appears repeatedly in the account given
In a highly selective account of Burroughs’s early in his prologue to Junky—and during this time he
years, the prologue to Junky invites readers to con- took psychology classes at Columbia University, re-
nect the youth, alienated from his haute bourgeois turned to study anthropology at Harvard, and made
environment and repressed by its values, with the there his first mature effort at writing. This was
adult addict, and to conclude that, far from repre- “Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” a comic sketch based on
senting a fall from grace, the loss of a Midwestern the sinkings of the Morro Castle and Titanic, featur-
idyll, his life of addiction and crime offered a more ing the debut of Dr. Benway, one of Burroughs’s
interesting alternative world. The key to this other most potent characters. Years later, Ginsberg identi-
world is given, far from coincidentally, as another fied this passage as “the whole key to all his work,
memoir read by the disenchanted adolescent: “At like the sinking of America” (285), but Burroughs
this time I was greatly impressed by an autobiogra- recognized its significance in terms of the creative
phy of a burglar, called You Can’t Win” (2003, xxxvi). process itself. For “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” came
This memoir, which has become a cult classic about as a dramatic collaboration acted out with one
through its association with Burroughs, vividly doc- of the key figures in his early life, Kells Elvins, so set-
umented another, more alluring lost world: not the ting a pattern of collaborative creativity that re-
fading, country-club suburban society set of the curred throughout Burroughs’s career. In fact, the
1920s, but, from a generation earlier and several so- scene of collaboration with Elvins in 1938 was effec-
cial classes lower, what Burroughs later called the tively duplicated with Kerouac seven years later,
“underworld of seedy rooming-houses, pool parlors, when they cowrote a novella that also involved the
cat houses and opium dens, of bull pens and cat- acting out of fictional scenes. Neither effort suc-
burglars and hobo jungles” (1988, v). In retrospect, ceeded, however, and Burroughs—unlike Kerouac
it is clear that the criminal milieu of Junky, based or Ginsberg—had no sense of vocation, of his des-
closely on Burroughs’s experiences during the tiny as a writer.
1940s, allowed him to explore and dramatize an In late summer 1939, Burroughs moved to
equivalent world of colorful social outcasts uncon- Chicago to attend lectures given by Alfred Korzyb-
strained by the empty promises and ethics of official ski, one of the (now largely neglected) founders of
culture. language theory. Then, in the fall, having moved
Burroughs, however, appeared to follow the route back to New York to take anthropology classes at
expected of him when, after attending Los Alamos Columbia, he began an obsessive relationship that
Ranch School for Boys in New Mexico, he entered made visible the extreme pathological factors that
Harvard University in 1932, the proper training drove his personal—and to some degree his cre-
ground for a man of his class. But Burroughs knew ative—life. The details of Burroughs’s infatuation
he did not belong, and he cultivated the eccentrici- with the young man, Jack Anderson, have become
ties of a loner and a dandy. On graduation in the familiar because he used their relationship as the

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

basis for two of his earliest short stories: “Driving A dozen years older than Ginsberg and eight
Lesson” and, most significantly, “The Finger” (both older than Kerouac, Burroughs immediately as-
published in Interzone). A macabre tale of sumed the role of a mentor, while offering a true
masochistic desire, “The Finger” narrates the trau- alternative to the instruction either had at Colum-
matic episode when Burroughs severed a finger bia. Burroughs not only possessed the classical ed-
joint to offer as a token to Anderson, and then his ucation of a man of his generation and social status
subsequent commitment to Bellevue, that took with the unorthodox interests of an intellectual ad-
place in April 1940. Burroughs’s psychoanalytic venturer, he also combined literary taste and philo-
treatment, which continued for the next twenty sophical rigor with a cool, sardonic disregard for
years, began as a condition imposed by his anxious human pieties. Kerouac and Ginsberg were fasci-
parents, who continued to financially support their nated. Significantly, Kerouac constantly fictional-
increasingly wayward youngest son. ized Burroughs’s tutoring role in his novels, but al-
Moving back and forth between Chicago and New ways ambivalently, with a hint of menace or snake
York during the early 1940s, Burroughs failed to en- oil, as though both attracted and repelled by his
list in officer training programs, while avoiding being power. Burroughs himself only came close to par-
drafted into the regular army on the basis of his psy- ticipating in the autobiographical group mythmak-
chiatric record. Instead, he took on odd jobs—pri- ing that typified Beat writing once, in the summer
vate detective, bug exterminator, bartender—seem- of 1945, when he and Kerouac cowrote “And the
ingly to live out roles that suited his anthropological Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks” (part of which
interest, and increasing involvement, in a world of is published in Word Virus), based on the most
criminal characters and escapades. dramatic event of the early Beat scene, Lucien
In spring 1943, Burroughs returned to New York Carr’s killing of Dave Kammerer, which took place
and joined a Greenwich Village circle based around in August 1944.
the relationship between Lucien Carr and David In April 1946, Burroughs was arrested for forg-
Kammerer, two old friends from St. Louis. Through ing a narcotics prescription and, to meet the terms
Carr he soon met first Allen Ginsberg and then Jack of a suspended sentence, had to return home.
Kerouac, one a current, the other a former student From St. Louis he moved to Texas, buying some
at Columbia, and together they began to form a still land near Pharr, to be with his old friend Kells
larger circle made up of students, street criminals, Elvins. It is by no means clear that Burroughs in-
and would-be artists. Over the next two years, the tended to return to New York and resume his rela-
center of gravity shifted between the Lower East tionship with Joan; but he did, rescuing her from
Side and Times Square before settling on the Upper Bellevue, after a breakdown that summer. He
West Side, where two Barnard students, Joan brought Joan (and Julie, her infant daughter by a
Vollmer Adams and Frankie Edie Parker, turned previous relationship) back to Texas, where they
their 115th Street apartment into a bohemian salon. settled in New Waverly, near Houston, and estab-
Burroughs found an immediate intellectual rapport lished a curious scene of rural domesticity on a
with Joan and, despite his homosexuality, they ninety-nine-acre farm. Burroughs began to raise
shared a common-law marriage. With constant rep- crops, to build an orgone accumulator (his charac-
etition over time, this formation of the original Beat teristically practical response to reading the theo-
Generation scene has become one of the most fa- ries of Wilhelm Reich), and supported an on-off
miliar episodes in American literary history and pop- heroin habit. Joan became addicted to Benzedrine,
ular culture. Its duration was actually quite brief— bore their son, Billy, born in July 1947, and started
Burroughs’s involvement lasted less than three to lose her health.
years—but it was packed with personal drama and In 1948, after a spell in the “narcotic farm” at
cultural significance and, in different ways, marked Lexington, Kentucky, which he described in partic-
a turning point in the lives of all those involved. ular detail in Junky, Burroughs relocated his family

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

to New Orleans, settling in a small house across the Junky has always had an anomalous status within
Mississippi in Algiers. There, in January 1949, they the Burroughs oeuvre. It is by a long way the most
received a visit from Kerouac and Neal Cassady autobiographical and most conventionally linear or
that later became a famous episode in the cross- realist narrative he would ever write. Its narrator’s
country travels narrated in On the Road. Burroughs voice is almost always coolly detached, apparently
was soon forced to move on again, this time after an objective: “Here are the facts” (2003, 15). Com-
arrest for possession of firearms and drugs, again pared with the uncompromisingly experimental fic-
described at length in Junky. That September, Bur- tion that would follow it, Junky places few demands
roughs visited Mexico City and began the process of on the reader. Yet although its apparently straight-
outrunning an inevitable prison sentence, returning forward, first-person, documentary style disarms
to Louisiana only to bring his family back with him. close analysis, critical approaches have found in the
At first, Mexico City appeared the promised land. novel both a trenchant political agenda and clear
Burroughs enrolled for courses at Mexico City Col- signs of Burroughs’s more characteristic literary
lege, explored the local drug and homosexual un- practices. It has been seen as both an exception to
derworlds, found himself at home in the expatriate the rule of the Burroughs oeuvre and as the “blue-
community, and tried to acquire Mexican citizen- print” for it, and there is a measure of truth in both
ship. In the first months of 1950, he also began verdicts.
work on a book he called “Junk,” his first sus- Junky has most often been read as one of the
tained—and eventually successful—literary effort. first works of Beat literature, and in this context it
It was certainly more than chance that Bur- has been taken as fictionalized autobiography: a
roughs’s writing career should have coincided with roman à clef. Because the novel is a highly selective
his expatriation, but his precise motivation was un- version of events and its narrating protagonist such
clear. According to one account, he was encour- a radically reduced version of its author, however,
aged to document his past experiences by Kells the biographical approach has relied very heavily
Elvins; according to Ginsberg, it emerged in the on reading the novel in terms of what is absent
course of their long-distance correspondence; the from it. Equally, Junky lacks all the hallmarks of
publication of Kerouac’s first novel, The Town and Beat writing, especially a communal utopian desire
the City, in March 1950, probably inspired him to and the value of expressive spontaneity: whereas
take his own writing more seriously. Burroughs de- Kerouac and Ginsberg so often idealized the bonds
nied there was any particular motivation, but by of intimate friendship, Junky has a hauntingly de-
the end of the year he had managed to complete a tached, solitary quality. Beat readings of the novel
150-page manuscript. It would take another eigh- have also had to ignore the conspicuous absences
teen months and the tireless promotional efforts of of Burroughs’s encounters in New York with Ker-
Ginsberg before the manuscript was accepted by ouac and Ginsberg from an account that begins in
Ace Books, one of the new paperback publishers, precisely that place and period. If biography has
and another year before a revised version finally been of dubious value to reading Junky, so, too, the
appeared. It did so under Burroughs’s pen name, value of Junky to biography.
William Lee, with numerous cuts and even a new The bulk of Junky narrates a series of episodes in
title chosen by his editors (Junkie: Confessions of the criminal subcultures and nighttime social under-
an Unredeemed Drug Addict), a sensationally lurid worlds of America during the late 1940s, ending
cover, and, as protection against controversy, with a shorter section set in Mexico. Its architecture
bound back-to-back with a reprint of the memoirs follows the plot of Burroughs’s own experience, and
of a federal narcotics agent. It took two further edi- many of the descriptions match actual events. In this
tions and fifty years to restore the text of Bur- sense, it functions as an authentic documentation
roughs’s original design, but the fact of publication and detailed critique of Cold War America, seen in
confirmed his identity as a writer. the dark mirror of its most demonized subgroups.

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

The final quarter of Junky, set in Mexico, was City, just a few days before the fateful shooting of
written during 1952, as Burroughs began work on his wife. The shooting appears to play a curiously
a sequel, Queer, and awaited news of publication circular role, then, in the history of Queer: Bur-
plans from Ginsberg, who now acted as his ama- roughs started writing the novel after the incident,
teur literary agent in New York. It was completed, while the events fictionalized in the novel led up
therefore, after the catastrophic evening of 6 Sep- toward the shooting. The emphatic focus of biogra-
tember 1951, when, in what has become the most phy on Joan’s death, however, has had the effect of
notorious episode in Burroughs’s biography, he displacing attention from Burroughs’s relationship
shot and killed his wife during a drunken game of with Marker, even though that story of impossible
William Tell. Until recently, the precise sequence desire is the substance of Queer.
of events, and how to interpret them, remained un- From one point of view, Queer is a natural pair
certain, mainly because of Burroughs’s reluctance to Junky. Taken together, these two novels can be
to give a clear or consistent account; since the pub- seen as consecutive chapters of Burroughs’s life,
lication in 1985 of his introduction to Queer, how- presented under the name William Lee and turned
ever, biographers and critics have been enabled— into blasts against the political and moral order of
even encouraged—to speculate. Cold War America. The obvious stylistic differ-
For here Burroughs set out in the most dramatic ences make them actually a very odd pair, however.
fashion his own “appalling conclusion”: that it was Whereas Junky is a sustained, first-person, realist
the shooting of his wife that “motivated and for- narrative, composed in a superficially neutral regis-
mulated” his writing by bringing him in contact ter, Queer is a fragmentary story told in the third
with an evil, possessing force he called Control or, person that, through Lee’s numerous monologues,
more vividly, “the Ugly Spirit” (1985, xxii). So trau- breaks into the hyperbolic fantasy mode that Bur-
matic an event can only be seen as a turning point roughs called “routines.” These virtuoso perform-
in Burroughs’s biography, but its role in his literary ances of Burroughs’s distinctively visceral black
history is much less obvious, and most commenta- humor are the crucial creative development that
tors have, rightly, suspected Burroughs’s own con- divides Junky from Queer, and they are also the key
clusion. On the other hand, the location and timing to the second novel’s equally distinctive political
of Burroughs’s account—in the introduction to force. The importance of Queer in the Burroughs
Queer on its long-delayed publication—has made oeuvre is that, unlike Junky, it already modeled the
the shooting appear the key factor that accounts for creativity and politics that would culminate in Bur-
the sudden and startling transformation in Bur- roughs’s seminal work, Naked Lunch.
roughs’s writing from his first novel to his second. Although a slighter work than Junky, Queer
Queer was begun in March 1952, but its genesis achieved a dramatic politicization of Burroughs’s
goes back to the previous year when all the events writing by investing his own persona with a disturb-
it fictionalizes took place. During the spring of ing new identity. The cool neutrality of Lee in Junky
1951, Burroughs had started to pursue a young is replaced by a desperate, hysterical persona, whose
American ex-serviceman, Lewis Marker, whom he verbal routines dramatize an ugly, compulsive drive
knew from the expatriate bar scene in Mexico City. to possess the reluctant object of his desire, Eugene
That summer, they traveled together through Cen- Allerton. At the same time, the sadistic and obscene
tral America, ostensibly in Burroughs’s quest to dis- humor of these routines is consistently tied to Lee’s
cover yagé, a drug used by native Indians for its national identity, so that, through constant allusions
hallucinatory and telepathic properties, but the re- to Cold War politics, his fantasies of control act out
lationship with Marker broke down badly. These a nightmare version of the Ugly American. It is as
events comprise the minimal plot of Queer, the though, rather than trying to resist or escape his own
main narrative of which ends just before the point class and culture, Burroughs sought to exorcise it by
at which Burroughs returned—alone—to Mexico exaggerating its worst features to a point of horrific

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

excess. Because, too, Lee’s imperial fantasies go to- of this material overlaps closely with the actual let-
gether with his identity as a queer, the result is a pro- ters that Burroughs wrote to Ginsberg during the
foundly ambiguous and disturbing politicization of first six months of 1953, most of it does not; con-
homosexuality. trary to appearances, “William” and “Allen” are fic-
The creativity and political force of Queer’s rou- tional correspondents, and the letters were largely
tines derive from Burroughs’s doomed pursuit of fabricated from journal notes that Burroughs kept
Lewis Marker. Significantly, Burroughs wrote this on his travels. “Yage” introduced to the West first-
material in spring 1952, sending it to Marker as a hand information about an important psychotropic
way to reestablish that relationship through corre- drug, but it has had only a marginal position within
spondence with his absent lover. Indeed, he ex- the Burroughs oeuvre.
plained to Ginsberg that he “wrote Queer for Burroughs traveled to escape from social op-
Marker” (1993, 138). It was also at this point, in pressions and he sought consciousness-changing
April 1952, that Burroughs wrote the first draft of drugs to escape from himself, but in fall 1953, he
“The Finger,” the story based on his earlier returned to New York with only the publication of
masochistic desire for Jack Anderson. Burroughs his first novel to offset a catalog of personal disas-
was forcing himself to confront the deepest patho- ters. He moved into Ginsberg’s Lower East Side
logical features of his own biography, and to use apartment and worked with him on the rough man-
them as the source of his writing. However trau- uscripts of Queer and “In Search of Yage.” Kerouac
matic, the shooting of his wife does not directly re- immediately fictionalized this three-month period
late to the striking discontinuity that separates of reunion in his novel The Subterraneans but did
Queer from Junky. not focus on the real drama. Burroughs and Gins-
With a smart lawyer and his family’s support, berg had not seen each other for over six years.
Burroughs had escaped a prison sentence for the Having maintained a regular long-distance corre-
manslaughter of his wife. Nevertheless, he was spondence, however, Burroughs was now drawn
classed as a “pernicious foreigner” (Letters 97), had toward Ginsberg and pressured him into an affair.
lost his own family (the children were taken back to The emotional strain on the former relationship of
the United States), and knew it was time to move mentor and student was too great for Ginsberg,
on yet again. Kerouac visited him in the summer, and, after a painful separation, in December 1953
writing Doctor Sax while Burroughs worked on Burroughs set out yet again on foreign travels, this
Queer, and then he left Mexico and set out, alone, time leaving for Europe.
on a second quest southward through the Americas After a short visit to Rome, in January 1954 Bur-
in search of yagé. From January to July 1953, he roughs reached Tangier, the North African port city
traveled from Panama to Peru on this quasi-anthro- that became his headquarters for the next four
pological mission, aided by an encounter with Dr. years. Tangier, then an International Zone adminis-
Richard Evans Schultes, the preeminent ethno- tered by colonial powers, drew Burroughs because
botanist and yagé expert. Burroughs’s experiences of its image as an exotic no man’s land and haven for
with the hallucinogen comprise a vivid but brief outcasts, a reputation he knew from the Moroccan-
field report in “In Search of Yage,” the section of set, existential thrillers of Paul Bowles, particularly
The Yage Letters (1963) written in 1953. The rest is, Let It Come Down (1952). Taking advantage of the
like Queer rather than Junky, another curious nar- legal protection granted American citizens, Bur-
rative fragment. roughs was able to live freely as a drug addict and
“Yage” is presented in the form of a series of homosexual, but the social license of Tangier did
epistolary bulletins sent out by William Lee, in not compensate for his new isolation or bouts of
which he largely reports on the political corruption drug-fueled paranoia and despair. Venturing out
and unrealized human potentials he witnesses in from his room in the old medina, he did meet
South American colonial societies. Although some Bowles, a permanent member of the expatriate

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

artistic community, and the painter Brion Gysin, trend: it fictionalized the creative process rather
but befriended neither at this time. As his heroin than Naked Lunch itself, turning Tangier into In-
addiction worsened, Burroughs turned again to terzone and the novel into a hallucinatory version
Ginsberg and came to depend increasingly on the of Burroughs’s biography.
relationship constructed by their correspondence. Naked Lunch does invite autobiographical read-
During 1954, Burroughs worked on fragmentary ings, principally through the introduction that Bur-
writing projects—short stories, routines, journal roughs added after the first edition, which ex-
notes, magazine articles, episodes of a novel—in a plained the novel in terms of his experience of
make-or-break attempt to establish a literary ca- addiction. Yet even when it accepts the truth of
reer. Much of his creativity was structured by the Burroughs’s own account, criticism has nevertheless
long and regular letters he wrote to Ginsberg, an shown how reductive this approach is to the text as
investment of energy that developed still further a whole. It requires taking the intermittent pres-
the process that had resulted in the routines of ence of William Lee, and the general scenario of
Queer. As Burroughs realized, however, these drug addiction and withdrawal, as the basis in real-
pieces did not add up to the sustained writing of a ity to a world of dreams and fantasies. At first sight,
novel, and their chief effect was to lure Burroughs this approach seems to confirm Burroughs’s own
back to the United States in fall 1954 in another at- conception of the novel in late 1955: based on Tang-
tempt to fulfill his desire for Ginsberg. After re- ier, interzone is “the prognostic pulse of the world,
ceiving a blunt rebuff by letter, and knowing he like a dream extending from past into the future, a
could not live in the United States, Burroughs re- frontier between dream and reality—the reality of
turned to Tangier in December. both called into question” (1993, 302). However,
Throughout 1955, Burroughs worked on the the deconstructive logic of the final phrasing warns
novel he now called “Interzone.” He tried vainly to against reading Naked Lunch through Burroughs’s
reconcile the spontaneous, fragmentary, typically biography, because it is not only William Lee’s “re-
obscene fantasies of his routines, such as “The Talk- ality” that is called into question but his own. This
ing Asshole,” written that February, with plans for a questioning of reality is one reason Burroughs
coherent and structured narrative. Meanwhile, his flaunted the idiom and persona of the conman, the
addiction reached a critical point, and in spring huckster, the charlatan, even in his supposedly fac-
1956, he left for London to take the apomorphine tual introduction. In Naked Lunch, telling is
cure, a treatment he would often champion. When equated with selling, appearance with deception,
he returned to Tangier, after a trip through Scandi- authority with power.
navia, Burroughs no longer oriented himself via Although Naked Lunch can be contextualized
Ginsberg and entered a new phase of writing. generally by reference to past literary traditions,
In early 1957, Kerouac, Ginsberg, his new lover, contemporary experimental art forms, and indeed
Peter Orlovsky, and Alan Ansen all visited Tangier Burroughs’s own previous novels—it recycles parts
to help Burroughs type up and organize the chaotic of all three—it retains the stunning force of a re-
manuscripts that now went under the name Naked markably singular reading experience. Despite a
Lunch, a title that Kerouac had given him several mass of interpretations, the novel as a whole seems
years earlier. Although Burroughs continued to destined, if not actually designed, to elude the crit-
work on the manuscript for two more years, right ical grasp. Individual parts, however, are much
up until the point of publication in Paris, the repu- more readily understood as potent satirical assaults
tation and reception of Naked Lunch was always on the economic, moral, and political order of
closely associated, in both the popular imagination America and, by extension, of Western capitalism
and in critical accounts, with the story of its cre- and modernity. Both shockingly funny and ob-
ation in Tangier. David Cronenberg’s film version scene, it works through a range of fictional forms,
(1991) is only an extreme example of the general cultural narratives, and generic voices to make a

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

thoroughgoing attack on the “reality” of both the Surrealist movements, of aesthetic and magical
world and the individual subject, a reality that is practices based on chance operations and collage
seen to structure and perpetuate exploitative and practices. The methods were, as he often insisted,
repressive relations of power. Predictably, the ad- “experimental in the sense of being something to
dict and the homosexual are identified as exem- do” (1978, 31), and he would spend the whole
plary subjects caught up in the manipulation of decade doing a great range of activities based on
need and desire. Whereas Junky and Queer docu- that principle: three novel-length works, hundreds
ment more or less contemporary worlds, however, of short texts, dozens of scrapbook collages, pho-
Naked Lunch visibly exceeds its own historical tomontages, tape-recorder experiments, and, with
points of reference and, through the modes of fan- Anthony Balch, several cut-up films. Nevertheless,
tasy and science fiction, does indeed aim to take Burroughs’s immediate enthusiasm was a remark-
the “prognostic pulse of the world.” able act of brinkmanship that risked his future ca-
Inevitably, publication was not straightforward. reer and alienated former supporters: Gregory
First Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press in Paris Corso even inserted a retraction in Minutes to Go
and then Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the newly es- (1960), the collaborative launching manual and
tablished City Lights in San Francisco turned the manifesto of the first cut-up methods, objecting to
manuscript down. Only a censorship controversy, “uninspired machine-poetry” (63).
caused by the appearance of selected episodes in In keeping with the logic of a true experiment,
U.S. magazines, persuaded an opportunistic, if also Burroughs revised his cut-up methods over time
adventurous Girodias to change his mind. The based on results, not only expanding their applica-
Naked Lunch duly appeared in July 1959 (the arti- tion from one medium to another but also reedit-
cle was cut from the title for U.S. editions), but an- ing his trilogy of novels: The Soft Machine was pub-
other six years passed before a decision in the lished in three distinct editions (1961, 1966, 1968),
Massachusetts Supreme Court, reversing an earlier and The Ticket That Exploded in two (1962, 1967);
verdict, allowed it to go on sale in the United only Nova Express (1964) remained unrevised. The
States. As usual, the effect of being banned in narrative of this trilogy is minimally structured by
Boston was to fuel public interest, and Burroughs’s the Nova conspiracy, a science fiction mythology
own absence overseas helped generate the myste- based on a war between alien powers of control
rious aura of underground notoriety. and guerilla forces of human resistance. Formally,
Eighteen months before publication, Burroughs they are highly complex, unique adventures in ex-
had left Tangier and moved to Paris. Here he re- perimental prose that produce an extraordinary
sumed psychoanalysis and met up again with Gins- and paradoxical reading experience: shocking, bor-
berg, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso. They ing, lyrical, disturbing, uncanny. Although Bur-
stayed at the so-called Beat Hotel, a Left Bank in- roughs had high expectations, they never won a
ternational rendezvous for artists and hipsters. But wide readership, and he turned increasingly to the
it was here that the axis of Burroughs’s world began dissemination of shorter pieces in avant-garde jour-
to shift, as his longstanding relationship with Gins- nals, little magazines, and underground presses.
berg yielded to the influence of another hotel resi- During the 1960s, Burroughs made London his
dent, Brion Gysin. Burroughs settled in Europe headquarters, taking brief trips back to New York
and, together with Gysin, embarked on a collective and Tangier. While his public profile was boosted
experimental venture that was of an entirely differ- by his appearance at the Edinburgh Writers confer-
ent order to the loose creative affiliations of the ence in 1962 and, the following year, a controversy
Beat movement in the United States: the cut-up in the Times Literary Supplement, Burroughs was
project. steadily acquiring an international underground
Burroughs’s new methods of textual production reputation. In London, however, he actually lived in
belonged to a tradition, pioneered by the Dada and a very small circle, featuring Gysin and other close

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

collaborators Ian Sommerville and Anthony Balch. audiences through reading tours. Coinciding with
Burroughs didn’t publish another novel-length the belated publication of The Third Mind (a major
book until The Wild Boys in 1971, an anarchic, volume of cut-up collage and theory, originally put
utopian queer fantasy that marked the beginning of together with Brion Gysin in the mid-1960s), in
a return to narrative form and that featured, for the December 1978 the Nova Convention was held in
first time, a boyish hero based on his own child- Burroughs’s honor, and he was feted by a wide
hood. As Leon Lewis observes in American Novel- range of luminaries, from Laurie Anderson and
ists Since World War II (1995), this novel was “the Frank Zappa to John Cage and Timothy Leary.
first unit in what might be seen as the second half With close editorial and practical support from his
of his oeuvre” (26). That this was a period of transi- new aide, James Grauerholz, Burroughs saw his
tion is in fact clear from The Job (1970), a book first full-length novel for a decade, Cities of the
begun as a series of interviews and then expanded Red Night, published in early 1981; its significant
by Burroughs with articles, polemics, and short fic- success was overshadowed, however, by the death
tional texts. Giving explicit form to artistic and po- that March of his son, Billy, after chronic alcohol
litical views developed over the previous decade, problems led to liver failure.
the book proved one of the most valuable resources In the winter, to escape the New York social scene
until the essays collected in The Adding Machine and a heroin habit, Burroughs moved with Grauer-
appeared in 1985. On the other hand, although holz to Lawrence, Kansas, and the Midwest town
Burroughs’s attitude is typically revisionist—rewrit- became his permanent home. There, Grauerholz es-
ing his understanding of a decade devoted to cut-up tablished William Burroughs Communications to
experiments—little in The Job indicates the kind of manage more professionally Burroughs’s increas-
creative directions he would next take. Critics and ingly varied creative projects. He even launched a
readers have mined the book for Burroughs’s clear- new career as a visual artist, starting with his “shot-
est statements on a wide range of subjects, but in gun paintings,” although Burroughs did not exhibit
many ways it reflects his position at a specific and publicly until after the death of his longtime collab-
limited point in time. orator Brion Gysin in July 1986. In 1984, he pub-
While Burroughs also produced several very in- lished the second novel of a final trilogy, The Place of
teresting shorter experimental and polemical works Dead Roads, an experimental Western narrative that
in the early 1970s, it was clear that London no featured, as Grauerholz pointed out, “the first el-
longer nourished him personally or creatively. Hav- derly, self-referential protagonist in all Burroughs’
ing advanced on many fronts, the cut-up project work” (409).
had finally run into a dead end, and Burroughs him- Burroughs’s critical profile had long been higher
self was drinking heavily, increasingly isolated, and in Europe than America (the first full-length stud-
beset by acute financial problems. After raising ies were published during the mid-1970s in En-
money by selling a huge archive of manuscript ma- gland and France), but in 1983, he was made a
terials in 1973, Burroughs took up an invitation member of the Academy and Institute of Arts and
from Ginsberg to return to New York in spring 1974 Letters, and he now enjoyed both popular and crit-
for a semester’s teaching in the English Depart- ical recognition, as well as, for the first time in his
ment of City College. Whether or not he realized it, life, financial security. The first full-scale biogra-
on the eve of his sixtieth birthday, Burroughs had phies, dozens of interviews and articles, several
come to the end of his quarter-of-a-century as an dedicated academic works, and a collection of his
expatriate artist. critical reception appeared. On the other hand,
Based in New York, Burroughs spent the rest of Burroughs’s place in the larger canon of American
the 1970s reinventing his cult reputation for a new literature still remained deeply contentious, and
generation. He began to move in celebrity avant- this failure to fit in unequivocally suited Bur-
garde and rock music circles while acquiring new roughs’s sense of his own singularity. “Twenty years

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

ago, they were saying I belonged in jail,” he said with the likes of Kurt Cobain, Keith Haring, and
after his induction into the Academy; “Now they’re Tom Waits, while one musical or artistic counter-
saying I belong in their club. I didn’t listen to them culture group after another anointed him their pa-
then, and I don’t listen to them now” (quoted in tron saint. Burroughs’s final novel, The Western
Morgan, 13). Lands, a literary meditation on immortality named
In his last decade, Burroughs continued to ex- after the Egyptian land of the dead, was published
pand his range of creative collaborations, working in 1987. The novel’s preoccupation with death

William S. Burroughs in 1990. (William Coupon/Corbis)

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

would feature in Burroughs’s final two books, My 1939 In Chicago attends lectures by Kor-
Education: A Book of Dreams (1995) and Last zybski; cuts off a finger joint to impress
Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs a lover
(2000). Although these edited collections of mate- 1940–43 Odd jobs in Chicago and New
rial from dream diaries and journal notes possess York
an undiminished vitriol, directed at Burroughs’s 1943 Moves to New York, where he meets
longstanding targets, they also suggest a fading and Ginsberg and Kerouac
rather narrowed imaginative power. This impres- 1944–45 Carr–Kammerer murder; Burroughs
sion is only emphasized by the appearance shortly and Kerouac cowrite “And the Hippos
before this period of important, previously unpub- Were Boiled in Their Tanks” based on
lished work from the 1950s, his first decade as a the case
writer: Queer in 1985, the Interzone collection in 1945–46 Moves in with Joan Vollmer; meets
1987, his Letters, 1945–1959 in 1993. That much of Herbert Huncke and enters the drug
this early material had also been written in the underground scene
form of dream diaries and journal notes only un- 1946–47 Relocates to Texas with Joan and her
derscored the sense that Burroughs’s career as a daughter; their son, William Jr., born
writer was coming to an end. The death in April on 21 July 1947
1997 of his old Beat comrade and lifelong friend 1948–49 Settles in New Orleans
Allen Ginsberg, a full dozen years his junior, fore- 1950 Moves with family to Mexico City; be-
shadowed Burroughs’s own, just three months gins work on “Junk”
later, in the Lawrence Memorial Hospital on 2 Au- 1951 Travels through Central America with
gust 1997. As Grauerholz observed, he had already Lewis Marker; 6 September, kills wife
lived “far longer than anyone might have expected, in William Tell shooting accident
in view of the dangers he courted throughout his 1952 Writes Queer manuscript
life” (in Burroughs 1998, 528). Those “dangers,” as 1953 January to July, travels through
much a part of Burroughs’s creative life as his per- Central and South America looking for
sonal one, would invite his obituaries to headline yagé; April, Junkie published by Ace
all the clichéd epithets: Beat Generation Guru, Books; Burroughs returns to New
Wife Killer, Master Addict, Queer Avant-Gardist, York in the fall; affair with Ginsberg
Postmodern Icon. While Burroughs remains the ends with Burroughs’s departure for
face that does not fit, those dangers have ensured Europe
the enduring fascination of his image, and maybe 1954–57 In Tangier, addiction worsens; Bur-
his immortality as a writer. roughs writes fragmentary materials,
mainly via his correspondence with
A Chronology of the Life and Ginsberg; in spring 1956, takes the apo-
Career of William S. Burroughs morphine cure in London
1914 Born 5 February in St. Louis, Missouri 1957 Visit to Tangier by Ginsberg and Ker-
1929 Attends Los Alamos Ranch School, ouac to work on Naked Lunch manu-
New Mexico scripts
1932–36 Majors in English at Harvard University 1958 Moves to Paris, staying at so-called
1936–37 Tour of Europe; attends medical school Beat Hotel
in Vienna; marries Ilse Klapper 1959 In July, The Naked Lunch published by
1938 Studies anthropology at Harvard; with Olympia Press; begins collaborations
Kells Elvins writes “Twilight’s Last with Brion Gysin, developing the first
Gleaming” “cut-up” methods

Burroughs, William Seward (1914–1997)

1960 Minutes to Go and The Exterminator 1993 The Letters of William S. Burroughs,
include first cut-up texts; moves to 1945–59 published
London 1995 Ghost of Chance and My Education
1961 The Soft Machine (1st edition) published published
1962 Edinburgh Writer’s Conference; The 1996 Ports of Entry art exhibition and cata-
Ticket That Exploded (1st edition) pub- log publication
lished 1997 Dies 2 August
1963 The Yage Letters published 2000 Last Words journal entries published
1964 Nova Express published; stays in New 2003 New editions of Junky and Naked
York Lunch published on fiftieth anniversary
1965 Father dies; Boston trial of Naked of his literary career
Lunch —Oliver Harris
1966 Naked Lunch declared not obscene;
The Soft Machine (2nd edition) pub- Principal Works
lished Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict,
1953; republished as Junky, 1977; republished as
1967 The Ticket That Exploded (2nd edition)
Junky: The Definitive Text of “Junk,” 2003; The
published Naked Lunch, 1959; republished as Naked Lunch,
1968 Covers Chicago Democratic Conven- 1962; republished as Naked Lunch: The Restored
tion for Esquire Text, eds. James Grauerholz and Barry Miles,
1970 Mother dies; The Job expanded inter- 2001; with Brion Gysin, Sinclair Beiles, and
views published Gregory Corso, Burroughs is the author of
Minutes to Go, 1960; The Soft Machine, 1961,
1971 The Wild Boys published
2nd ed.,1966, 3rd ed.,1968; The Ticket That
1974 Moves from London to New York; Exploded, 1962, 2nd ed., 1967; The Yage Letters,
meets James Grauerholz 1963, Nova Express, 1964; The Wild Boys, 1971;
1977 Junky (reedited edition of Junkie) pub- with Brion Gysin, The Third Mind, 1978; Cities of
lished the Red Night, 1981; The Place of Dead Roads,
1978 The Third Mind published; Nova Con- 1983; Queer, 1985; The Adding Machine, 1985;
The Western Lands, 1987; Foreword in You Can’t
vention in New York
Win by Jack Black,1988; Interzone, ed. James
1979 Moves to Lawrence, Kansas Grauerholz, 1989; The Letters of William S.
1981 Son dies; Cities of the Red Night pub- Burroughs 1945–1959, ed. Oliver Harris, 1993;
lished Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader,
1983 Inducted into American Academy of ed. James Grauerholz and Ira Silverberg, 1998.
Arts and Letters
1984 The Place of Dead Roads and The Bur- Bibliographical References
roughs File collection of short texts Bruce Cook includes commentary on Burroughs in
The Beat Generation, 1971, which was
republished in 1994. Allen Ginsberg refers to
1985 Queer and The Adding Machine essays Burroughs in an interview with Thomas Clark in
published Paris Review Interviews, 3rd series, ed. George
1986 Brion Gysin dies Plimpton, 1967. In Word Virus, James Grauerholz
1987 The Western Lands published; first is the author of “The Red Night Trilogy” and
painting exhibition in New York “Epilogue,” 1998. Leon Lewis contributes
“William S. Burroughs” to American Novelists
1989 Interzone collection of early material
Since World War II, 4th series, The Dictionary of
published Literary Biography, eds. Wanda H. Giles and
1992 David Cronenberg’s film of Naked James R. Giles, 1995. Gerald Malanga’s “An
Lunch released Interview with William Burroughs” in Burroughs

Burroughs, William Seward, Jr. (III) (1947–1981)

Live: The Collected Interviews of William S. roughs fatally shot Joan Vollmer while drunk, after
Burroughs 1960–1997, ed. Sylvère Lotringer, they had dared each other to a “William Tell act.”
2001, offers Burroughs’s own perspective on his Julie’s grandparents took her home to New York
work. A quick review of Burroughs is available in
State, and Burroughs’s aged parents took Billy
Jennie Skerl, “William S. Burroughs,” in The
Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, home to St. Louis, Missouri, then moved with him
16, The Dictionary of Literary Biography, ed. Ann to Palm Beach, Florida, in spring 1952.
Charters, 1983; a comprehensive critical After an unsuccessful six months with his father
biography is Ted Morgan, Literary Outlaw: The in Tangier, Morocco, Billy returned to Florida in
Life and Times of William S. Burroughs, 1988. late 1963. His grandfather died in January 1965;
Perhaps the most current critical interpretation is
Billy, then seventeen, ran away to New York and
Oliver Harris, William Burroughs and the Secret
of Fascination, 2003. One should also consult was involved in the Lower East Side Methedrine
Robin Lydenberg, Word Cultures: Radical Theory scene before being arrested and brought home. He
and Practice in William S. Burroughs’ Fiction, was treated at the federal Lexington Narcotics Hos-
1987; Barry Miles, William Burroughs: El pital in Kentucky, and then his father sent him to
Hombre Invisible, 1992; Timothy Murphy, Wising the Green Valley School near Orange, Florida, in
Up the Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs,
hopes of taming him. In 1968, he married a class-
1997; Jamie Russell, Queer Burroughs, 2001;
Jennie Skerl, William S. Burroughs, 1985; Jennie mate, Karen Beth Perry, and they lived in her
Skerl and Robin Lydenberg, eds. William S. hometown of Savannah, Georgia, while he wrote
Burroughs at the Front: Critical Reception, Speed, about his New York escapade. Restlessly
1959–1989, 1991; and Robert Sobieszek, Ports of traveling through Georgia, Florida, Colorado, and
Entry: William S. Burroughs and the Arts, 1996. the Yucatán while Billy’s drinking escalated, the
See also Burroughs, Ilse Herzfeld Klapper; Vollmer couple separated by 1974. Nevertheless, Billy had
Adams Burroughs, Joan; Burroughs, William completed Kentucky Ham, dealing with his child-
Seward, Jr.; Apomorphine Treatment; Algiers, hood and his time at Green Valley.
Louisiana; Kerouac, Jack; Ginsberg, Allen; Drugs;
While visiting the Naropa Institute in Boulder,
Kammerer, David Eames; New York City; Reich,
Wilhelm; Lexington, Kentucky; Mexico City; Colorado, with his loyal girlfriend, Georgette Lar-
Painting; Elvins, Kells rouy, in August 1976 for a reading, Billy suddenly
suffered a complete liver failure, and received one
of the first two hundred transplanted livers in the
Burroughs, William United States. He spent many months at Denver
Seward, Jr. (III) (1947–1981) General Hospital and for four years thereafter
Only son of William S. Burroughs II (1914–1997) lived despairingly in Denver or Boulder, where
and author of two autobiographical books, Speed Allen Ginsberg and the Naropa group offered him
(1970) and Kentucky Ham (1973). Born 25 July support, even though he resumed drinking and
1947 in Conroe, Texas, to Burroughs and his com- taking drugs. His father resided mostly in Boulder
mon-law second wife, Joan Vollmer (1924–1951). during 1976–1978 to be near him.
The family included Julie, born August 1944, In January 1981, in dire physical straits, Billy
Vollmer’s daughter from her previous marriage to went back to Palm Beach on the invitation of an-
Paul Adams. During 1947–1951, they lived in rural other Green Valley classmate, Teina DeBakey, who
east Texas (while also operating a cotton farm with had long carried a torch for him. Shocked at his
Kells Elvins in south Texas), and then from June condition, she set him up in an apartment, but the
1948 to May 1949 in New Orleans, where Bur- next month he went to DeLand, Florida, for a re-
roughs was arrested for drugs, causing him to move union with his Green Valley headmaster, George
with his wife and children to Mexico City in Sep- von Hilsheimer, whose reception was ambivalent.
tember 1949. On 6 September 1951, William Bur- His anti-rejection drugs abandoned, his new liver

Burroughs, William Seward, Jr. (III) (1947–1981)

collapsing, and almost all his friends expended, Bibliographical Sources

Billy was found in a ditch and taken to West Volu- William S. Burroughs, Jr., wrote Speed, 1970, and
sia Hospital, where he died on 3 March 1981. Kentucky Ham, 1973. Details of Burroughs’s life
are included in Ted Morgan’s thorough study of
Billy had called his last book project (written
Burroughs’s father: Literary Outlaw: The Life and
1975–1980) “Prakriti Junction”; it was unfinished Times of William S. Burroughs, 1988. Jennie
when he died, but from his unpublished writings Skerl is the author of an entry on William S.
and interviews with friends and family, a posthu- Burroughs, Jr., in Ann Charters, ed., The Beats:
mous volume, Cursed from Birth: The Short, Un- Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, Part 1,
happy Life of William S. Burroughs, Jr., was edited 1983.
by David Ohle and set for publication in 2001. See also Burroughs, William Seward; Vollmer Adams
—James Grauerholz Burroughs, Joan

Caen, Herb (1916–1997) Beat artist, Cage was appreciated by the Beats be-
Columnist for San Francisco Chronicle who coined cause of his experimental and collaborative ap-
the term “beatnik.” The term found instant accep- proach to art. Like the Beats, Cage found that the
tance in the media and has been confused with artistic milieu at Black Mountain College was a
“Beat” ever since. According to Jesse Hamlin, the touchstone to subsequent creativity.
Beats responded humorously to Caen, posting a sign For Cage, communication is not the reason for
at the Co-Existence Bagel Shop in San Francisco: composition. Too often, the intended message is re-
“We feature separate toilet facilities for HERB ceived with an unintended understanding. Music,
CAEN.” In Norman Mailer’s Advertisements for for Cage, can be indeterminate and does not have
Myself, a footnote indicates that “beatnik” is a “word to be recorded on scores.
coined by an idiot columnist in San Francisco.” Cage was a lifetime collaborator with Merce Cun-
—William Lawlor ningham. At Black Mountain College, with Charles
Olson, Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham,
and David Tudor, Cage prompted the first “happen-
Bibliographical References
See Herb Caen and Barnaby Conrad, The World of ing,” an experimental presentation of simultaneous
Herb Caen: San Francisco 1938–1997, 1999; Jesse dance, poetry, visual art, piano, and victrola playing.
Hamlin sums up the coining of “beatnik” in “How At Town Hall in New York City in 1958, Émile
Herb Caen Named a Generation” in the San de Antonio, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschen-
Francisco Chronicle 26 November 1995, p. 28. berg honored Cage, celebrating a quarter century
See also Beat and Beatnik; News Media and Publicity, of creativity.
The Beats and —William Lawlor
Bibliographical References
See David Nicholls, ed., The Cambridge Companion
Cage, John (1912–1992) to John Cage, 2002; a biographical study is David
Revill, The Roaring Silence: John Cage: A Life,
Composer, writer, poet, and visual artist, most fa-
1993. Cage’s own “Autobiographical Statement,”
mous for his experimental approach to musical originally published in Southwest Review, 1991, is
composition and performance. Cage believed that a compact and lively review of Cage’s life and
music can be expressed through means other than productivity.
musical instruments—music may incorporate See also Music; Cunningham, Merce; Rauschenberg,
sounds, noises, or silence and may even involve the Robert; Black Mountain, North Carolina; and Black
stillness and movement of dance. Although not a Mountain College

Cannastra, Bill (1921–1950)

Cannastra, Bill (1921–1950) York City, Carr was raised in St. Louis, Missouri,
Outrageous, daring, no-fear friend of Kerouac and after his hard-drinking father, Russell Carr, de-
other Beats in Manhattan. Friend of Joan Haverty, serted his mother, Marian Gratz, around 1930. The
who married Kerouac on November 17, 1950, only Carrs were a founding family of St. Louis, and the
weeks after Cannastra’s shocking death on October Gratzes of New York were wealthy in business. In
12, 1950, when he tried to leave a subway car his early teens in St. Louis, Carr met David Kam-
through a window as the train left the Bleecker merer (1911–1944), a youth-group leader who be-
Street station. He could not complete his exit or re- came a father figure and literary icon for him.
turn to the car before the impact with the subway Kammerer, who was homosexual, was progressively
tunnel killed him. more obsessed with Carr and visited him at his pri-
Cannastra is a recurrent figure in Beat literature. vate schools in Massachusetts and Maine, eventu-
In “Howl,” Allen Ginsberg recalls Cannastra’s ally following him to the University of Chicago in
death in the subway window and his outrageous an- 1942. A personal crisis at finals time resulted in
tics, including a jump into the polluted Passaic Carr transferring to Columbia University in fall
River (17). In Visions of Cody, Kerouac incorpo- 1943, and at the same time Kammerer and his
rates Cannastra in the Legend of Duluoz as Finis- close friend William Burroughs also moved to New
tra. In Go, John Clellon Holmes fits Cannastra into York.
his roman à clef as Agatson. The Kammerer-Carr affair continued, intensify-
Although Cannastra was a graduate of Harvard ing but never consummated, to such a point that on
Law School and brilliant in many ways, he also had 13 August 1944, during a struggle with Kammerer
a problem with alcohol and was apparently affected on the banks of the Hudson River on the Upper
by a death wish. Stories about him include his tee- West Side, Carr fatally stabbed his older friend. A
tering at the edge of a building seventy feet above day later, after involving Jack Kerouac and William
the pavement, his wet kissing of unknown and burly Burroughs as accessories after the fact, Carr turned
men in taverns, and his lying down in streets with himself in and eventually served two years at
heavy traffic. Cannastra’s death is variously referred Elmira Reformatory in New York State for
to as a prank gone sour, an accident, or a suicide. manslaughter. The case gained such notoriety that
—William Lawlor fictionalized versions of it can be recognized in
published writings by Jack Kerouac, Chandler
Bibliographical References Brossard, Alan Harrington, and James Baldwin;
The basic details of Cannastra’s connection to the Kerouac, Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg also
Beats and the circumstances of his death are in wrote still-unpublished versions.
Dennis McNally, Desolate Angel, 1978, and Carr remained in touch with his New York
Michael Schumacher, Dharma Lion, 1992. An friends and after his release found work at United
obituary in the New York Times 13 October 1950,
Press International. With Ginsberg he visited Joan
p. 19, misspells Cannastra’s name and apparently
misstates his age, but supplies the details of his Vollmer Burroughs in Mexico City just two weeks
death. See Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody, 1972; before her accidental death at Burroughs’s hand.
John Clellon Holmes, Go, 1952; and Allen His “Beat” friends eventually became famous writ-
Ginsberg, “Howl,” in Howl and Other Poems, 1956. ers, and Kerouac based characters on him in sev-
See also Ginsberg, Allen; Kerouac, Jack; Kerouac, eral works: “Kenneth Wood” in The Town and the
Joan Haverty City, “Damion” in On the Road, “Sam Vedder” in
The Subterraneans, “Julian” in Big Sur, and
“Claude de Maubris” in Vanity of Duluoz. Carr
Carr, Lucien (1925–2005) shied away from the publicity attracted by the
Youthful catalyst of the formative Beat Generation, Beats, however, and although flattered by Gins-
during 1943–1946. Born 1 March 1925 in New berg’s 1956 dedication of “Howl” to him, he asked

Cassady, Carolyn (1923–)

that his name be removed from later editions. Lewis Hyde, ed., On the Poetry of Allen
When Carr retired from UPI in the 1980s, he had Ginsberg, 1984.
been married twice and fathered three sons: See also Censorship; Little Magazines
Simon, Caleb, and Ethan. Caleb became a cele-
brated author in the 1990s. Lucien Carr lived in
quiet seclusion in the District of Columbia until his Cassady, Carolyn (1923–)
death in 2005. Memoirist and homemaker, Carolyn Cassady en-
—James Grauerholz tered the Beat Generation through her relation-
ships with pivotal Beat figures Neal Cassady, Jack
Bibliographical References Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. Perhaps the most
One can find background on Lucien Carr in Ted enduring of the women married into the Beat Gen-
Morgan, Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of eration, Cassady remains important for the stability
William S. Burroughs, 1988; Barry Gifford and she maintained as wife, mother, and muse as well
Lawrence Lee, Jack’s Book: An Oral Biography of as for the insight her memoir provides into the lives
Jack Kerouac, 1978; and Barry Miles, Ginsberg: A of such major figures as Neal Cassady and Jack
Biography, 1989. James Grauerholz conducted an
interview with Lucien Carr on 11 October 1999,
Kerouac. Her position places her as a unique hy-
but that interview remains unpublished. brid figure between the 1950s ideal housewife role
and the countercultural Beat chick.
See also Kerouac, Jack; Burroughs, William Seward;
Ginsberg, Allen; Kammerer, David; Vollmer Adams
Carolyn Cassady was born Carolyn Robinson on
Burroughs, Joan April 28, 1923, in East Lansing, Michigan. The
daughter of two educators, she was reared in an in-
tellectual atmosphere that encouraged curiosity and
Carroll, Paul (1927–1996) creativity. She attended Bennington College on a
Critic, editor, poet, and teacher, born in Chicago, scholarship and earned a bachelor’s degree in drama
1927, died 1996. Carroll’s poetry combines icono- while also studying painting, drawing, and sculpture.
clastic, unconventional irregularity with lyrical pas- In 1947, she moved to Denver, Colorado, to pursue
sion. Supportive of new Beat prose and verse writ- her master of fine arts degree at the University of
ers, he edited The Chicago Review, cofounded Big Denver. It was there during March 1947 that she
Table when censorship of Beat writers in Chicago was introduced to Neal Cassady.
Review became a problem, and compiled influen- In her initial meeting with Neal, Carolyn was
tial anthologies, The Young American Poets (1968), charmed by his good looks and engaging manner,
and Earthquake on Ada Street (1979). A popular but stopped short of pursuing her interest upon
pedagogue, who insisted on contemporary poetry’s learning he was already married. She consented to
expressive capacities, Carroll reached full profes- have dinner with his friends, however, whom Neal
sorship at the University of Illinois, Chicago, be- invited back to her apartment to celebrate his return
fore a midlife decline. His poetry volumes include to Denver. Neal showed up with his wife clinging to
Odes (1969), The Luke Poems (1971), and Poems his arm, then left with her only to return to Carolyn’s
(1988); his major critical work is The Poem in Its apartment in the middle of the night, seeking a place
Skin (1968). to stay, telling her he had left his wife. The uncon-
—Kevin De Ornellas ventional interactions of that first evening became a
precursor to their relationship. In this night, Cas-
sady unwittingly took her place as the provider of a
Bibliographical References
stable home for Neal, just as Gabrielle Kerouac did
A tribute to Carroll is Paul Hoover, “The Poet in His
Skin: Remembering Paul Carroll,” The Chicago for her son Jack.
Review, 44 (1), 1998; Carroll’s discussion of Cassady believed Neal’s assurances that his mar-
Ginsberg’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra” appears in riage to LuAnne Henderson would be annulled,

Cassady, Carolyn (1923–)

and she consented, against her upbringing, to live The Cassady family grew by a son in 1951 and
with Neal until they could be married. She was then incorporated Jack Kerouac in 1952 when he
convinced that they were destined to be together. came to live in their attic to finish On the Road. The
Neal soon introduced Cassady to his writer friends sexual tension returned to the household, and this
from New York, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. time Carolyn Cassady succumbed. She consum-
Sexual tension tied the Cassadys together for the mated an affair with Kerouac with Neal’s knowl-
rest of their lives. edge. For a few months, she adopted Neal’s former
Although three years older than Neal, Cassady role as the partner with two devoted lovers, but the
remained innocent of the countercultural Beat strain between Neal and Kerouac became too great,
lifestyle, and she was ignorant not only of Neal’s and Cassady eventually chose to remain with Neal.
continued sexual relationship with LuAnne, but Cassady did not remain immune to the spiritual
also his sexual relationship with Ginsberg. When seeking being done by Beat writers, and in 1954,
introduced to Ginsberg, she assumed friendship she and Neal became engrossed by the work of
accounted for his closeness to her husband, but her Edgar Cayce when they moved from San Francisco
assumptions were shattered when, on the morning to Los Gatos. That same year, Cassady threw Gins-
she planned to leave Denver for Hollywood, she berg out of her house after walking in on him and
found Neal in bed between Allen and LuAnne, all Neal sexually engaged.
naked. Cassady continued to provide a stable home for
Cassady fled Neal and the Beat scene by moving Neal, choosing not to move abroad while he was in
to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco, but she prison in 1958 because he could not be released
could not resist Neal when he wrote with apologies without a home to go to. She supported her family,
and explanations, begging her to reunite with him. accepting Neal’s wanderlust and inconstancy, and
He arrived in San Francisco in October 1947. Cas- as the 1950s ended, she returned to her painting
sady soon became pregnant with their first child and writing. When Neal died in Mexico in 1968,
and the couple was married 1 April 1948, an event Cassady began her memoir Off the Road, a version
that failed to provide the stable family life that Cas- of which became the screenplay for the movie
sady sought. Heart Beat. In 1984, Cassady moved to London
To meet the family’s financial needs, and know- where she continues to write and paint portraits.
ing Neal’s wanderlust prevented his remaining in —Jennifer Love
one place long, Cassady took a job as a receptionist
for a doctor’s office to support herself and her Principal Works
Prose: Heart Beat: My Life with Jack and Neal,
daughter. Without the steady presence or income
1976; Off the Road: My Years with Cassady,
from her husband, Cassady gained an indepen- Kerouac, and Ginsberg, 1990.
dence and resourcefulness that sustained her
through Neal’s absences and gave her the safety net Bibliographical References
of self-reliance that allowed her to take Neal back Her memoir Off the Road,1990, provides the most
after each absence. intimate biographical material on Carolyn
Cassady remained faithful to Neal, despite his Cassady; Brenda Knight also provides biographical
bigamous marriage to model Diana Hansen in material in Women of the Beat Generation, 1996;
in The Birth of the Beat Generation, 1995, Steven
1950, the same year of her second daughter’s birth.
Watson includes Cassady in his study of Neal
Cassady granted Neal a divorce; however, he was Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg; in her anthology
back on her doorstep begging for forgiveness the Beat Down to Your Soul, 2001, Ann Charters
day after he married the already-pregnant Hansen. includes Carolyn Cassady’s comments during the
For the next few months, Cassady provided a Panel Discussion with Women Writers of the Beat
sometime home for Neal as he drifted between his Generation, held at NYU in 1994.
two families. See also Cassady, Neal; Film; Denver, Colorado

Cassady, Neal (1926–1968)

Cassady, Neal (1926–1968) New York, where he met Kerouac, Ginsberg, and
After enduring a difficult childhood, Neal Cassady many others. Kerouac recognized Cassady as a
hoped to become a writer by learning from the writ- conman and tried to stay at a distance, but Gins-
ers who eventually formed the Beat Generation, but berg was less cautious, commencing an intense sex-
inspiration actually flowed in the opposite direction. ual relationship.
Recognizing the intensity, frankness, and free ex- In 1947, having received encouragement to be a
pression of Cassady, Jack Kerouac and Allen Gins- writer from Kerouac and Ginsberg, Cassady em-
berg strove to make their writing as uninhibited as barked for Denver. On 7 March 1947, he wrote to
Cassady’s letters. Cassady attempted to write his au- Kerouac from Kansas City the “Great Sex Letter,”
tobiography, and The First Third (1971; revised edi- which was the first of two letters that profoundly
tion 1981) is the fragment he produced; neverthe- influenced Kerouac. Cassady’s writing was unin-
less, Cassady is immortal as a member of the Beat hibited, free flowing, and explicit, and Kerouac dis-
Generation because he is the real-life model for the covered in the letter the spirit of the spontaneous
mythic figure developed in Go by John Clellon prose he wanted to write.
Holmes; On the Road, Visions of Cody, Big Sur, and In Denver, Cassady’s romantic life took on new
other works by Jack Kerouac; “The Green Automo- heights of extravagance. He met Carolyn Robin-
bile,” “Howl,” and “Elegy for Neal Cassady” by son, and after annulling the marriage to LuAnne
Allen Ginsberg; The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Henderson, he married Carolyn, who was preg-
Tom Wolfe; and Over the Border and “The Day nant, in 1948. To support his family, Neal worked
after Superman Died” by Ken Kesey. on the Southern Pacific Railroad but was later laid
Neal Cassady was born in Salt Lake City on Feb- off. He went back and forth between Carolyn and
ruary 8, 1926. Because his parents were traveling LuAnne and journeyed to and from New York,
to Hollywood, where Neal’s father planned to open Denver, and San Francisco. In New York, he met
a barber shop, Neal was, as the story goes, “born on Diana Hansen, bigamously married her, and then
the road.” Any romance connected with Neal’s went back to Carolyn and his job on the railroad.
birth lasted a very short time, and his parents di- In December 1950, when Kerouac was strug-
vorced when Neal was six years old. Neal remained gling to write a road book, Cassady sent the “Joan
in the care of his alcoholic father, who initiated Anderson Letter,” a 23,000-word account of girl-
Neal to a life among conmen, hustlers, and alco- friends and madcap sexual adventures. Inspired
holics on Larimer Street in Denver, Colorado. Neal again, Kerouac strove to write with full frankness
involved himself in a life of stealing cars and chas- and bright intensity his road book about his own
ing women. When law enforcement intervened, experiences with Neal, as if Kerouac were address-
Neal spent time in reform schools. ing his wife.
Despite this troubled start in life, Neal Cassady In 1958, Cassady was arrested for possession of
developed an interest in literature and philosophy. marijuana and served two years in San Quentin.
High school counselor Justin Brierly encouraged Troubled by this setback, Cassady wrote frequently
Neal to pursue his reading, and when Hal Chase, a to Carolyn to express his sorrow, and these letters
student from Columbia University, returned to his were eventually collected as Grace Beats Karma:
home in Denver, Cassady befriended him. After Letters from Prison, 1958–1960.
Chase returned to New York City, Cassady estab- In 1960, Cassady attempted to put his family life
lished a correspondence with him. Chase showed on firm footing, but the attempt was not successful,
Cassady’s lively letters to others in a group of young and the marriage of Carolyn and Neal ended in di-
writers near Columbia University, including Jack vorce in 1963. Neal Cassady spent the next five
Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. years with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.
In 1946, now married to LuAnne Henderson, Although Cassady became known as “Speed Limit”
who was only fifteen years old, Cassady traveled to and although the travels on the bus, made famous

Cassady, Neal (1926–1968)

spontaneous and sensual, he is also tricky and dis-

loyal. Dean is Sal’s lost brother and is the “Holy
Goof”; Dean has the sensitivity to recognize intu-
itively the inner lives of others, yet he draws criti-
cism from women around him, who charge that he
is selfish and irresponsible. Perhaps the strongest
association made with Dean is his connection to
the spirit of the American West; he is a cowboy
born after the time of the cowboys; he is a trail-
blazer born in a time when all the trails have al-
ready been blazed. He expresses the openness and
energy that all Americans have within them but
few can bring to the surface in their lives.
Kerouac draws from Cassady in various other
works, including Visions of Cody, Book of Dreams,
Pull My Daisy, The Dharma Bums, Desolation An-
gels, and Big Sur. In Visions of Cody, the psycho-
logical background of Cody Pomeray is rendered
through scenes from his life, especially in the
novel’s treatment of Cody’s childhood and adoles-
cence. In Pull My Daisy, Milo is the working rail-
road man with wife and child; yet he is also part of
an artistic community. In Big Sur, Cody is still the
friend of Jack Duluoz, but Cody has been released
from jail and needs to show order and responsibil-
ity, especially with his wife and child.
Ginsberg’s connection to Cassady is evident be-
In San Francisco in 1955, Neal Cassady studies a selection
cause Ginsberg makes Cassady one of the persons
of used cars. (Allen Ginsberg/Corbis)
mentioned on the dedication page of “Howl.” In
the poem itself, Cassady is referred to as “cocks-
man and Adonis of Denver” (14). In “The Green
by Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), Automobile,” which is included in Reality Sand-
involved abundant drugs and craziness, Cassady wiches: 1953–1960, Ginsberg fulfills his need for a
drove the bus from coast to coast without a traffic loving connection with Neal Cassady through a
accident. flight of the imagination: Ginsberg and Neal are
In 1968, while walking the railroad tracks on the freed from their commitments and responsibilities
way to Mexico, a heavily intoxicated Neal Cassady to enjoy the spirit of an earlier and more pleasant
collapsed and died of exposure, but his death cannot time in their lives. In “Elegy for Neal Cassady,”
diminish his importance in the literature of the Beat which is included in The Fall of America, Ginsberg
Generation. In Go (1952) by John Clellon Holmes, recalls the same tender connection to Cassady on
Neal Cassady is rendered as Hart Kennedy, a char- the occasion of Cassady’s death.
acter who combines the characteristics of a conman, In Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,
hustler, hedonist, and liar with the traits of exuber- the myth of Neal Cassady is carried to special
ance, energy, and pleasant wildness. heights. Because Cassady connects Kesey’s revolu-
In On the Road, Jack Kerouac uses Neal Cassady tionary antics with the Beats who preceded Kesey,
as the model for Dean Moriarty. While Dean is Wolfe assigns mythic qualities to Cassady in a work


that is supposed to be nonfiction. Cassady is the ex- Economy of Beat Letters,” in Twentieth-Century
traordinary driver who is beyond the ordinary Literature 46.2 (summer 2000): 171–192.
process of thinking. All human beings function See also Chase, Haldon “Hal”; Kerouac, Jack; Ginsberg,
with a delay—perhaps a thirtieth of a second—be- Allen; Anderson, Joan, Letter about; Cassady,
tween a sensory impression and the reception of Carolyn; Kesey, Ken Elton; Merry Pranksters;
the impression in the mind, but Cassady minimizes Furthur/Further; Denver, Colorado; Drugs
the lag and naturally is especially in contact with
the moment at hand.
Kesey’s short story “The Day after Superman Censorship
Died” pays special tribute to “Sir Speed” Houlihan, An obstacle for the publication and distribution of
who mystifies Devlin Deboree because Houlihan’s Beat books, magazines, and performances, but ul-
last words are “Sixty-four thousand nine hundred timately a favorable force, as controversy and pub-
and twenty eight.” Deboree is disappointed to licity brought Beat works to public attention. The
think that Houlihan’s life ended in senselessness Beats’ frank and frequent references to sex led to
and fears that Houlihan’s whole life was similarly efforts to censor Beat poems, plays, and readings,
devoid of meaning. However, Deboree learns that but political statements were also problematic. Al-
Houlihan, intoxicated beyond measure, set off though the Beats often prevailed in legal battles
walking down a railroad track, determined to count and thereby strengthened freedom of expression,
the ties. The act of counting is fully rational, and the fight against censorship remained a priority for
Deboree’s confidence in Houlihan is restored. Beats.
—Kit Knight The Comstock Law, also known as the Federal
Anti-Obscenity Act (1873), was the basis for many
efforts to ban the written word because the law
Principal Works
Cassady’s autobiography is The First Third, eds. made illegal the mailing of obscene materials. Al-
Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Nancy J. Peters, 1981; though not regularly enforced now, the Comstock
Cassady’s correspondence is in As Ever: The Law remains in effect.
Collected Correspondence of Allen Ginsberg and A key breakthrough in struggles against modern
Neal Cassady, 1977, and Grace Beats Karma: censorship was the decision by Justice John M.
Letters from Prison, 1958–1960. These collections
Woolsey on 6 December 1933 to lift the ban on
are surpassed by Dave Moore, ed., Neal Cassady:
Collected Letters, 1944–1967, which features Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce. In his decision,
highly informative notes and an introduction by Woolsey found that the book “did not tend to incite
Carolyn Cassady. The “Great Sex Letter” and the sexual impulses or lustful thoughts” but instead
remaining fragment of the “Joan Anderson noted that Joyce’s book was “a powerful commen-
Letter” are reprinted in Ann Charters, ed., The tary on the inner lives of men and women” (in
Portable Beat Reader, 1992.
James Joyce, Ulysses, xi).
In 1956, when Lawrence Ferlinghetti published
Bibliographical References
Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg, the Beats
The only biography of Neal Cassady is William
Plummer, The Holy Goof, 1981; however, Carolyn dramatically entered the national controversy over
Cassady’s memoir Off the Road offers censorship. Printed in England, the second ship-
biographical information, too. In Steven Watson, ment of Howl and Other Poems was not allowed to
The Birth of the Beat Generation, 1995, one finds pass U.S. Customs on 25 March 1957, when Collec-
a short biography; in Gregory Stephenson, The tor of Customs Chester MacPhee declared that the
Daybreak Boys, one finds a chapter on
book was obscene. However, when the U.S. attorney
treatments of Neal Cassady in numerous
examples of Beat literature. Oliver Harris reviews in San Francisco declined to proceed against Gins-
the correspondence in “Old War Correspondents: berg’s collection of poems, customs released the 520
Ginsberg, Kerouac, Cassady, and the Political seized copies on 29 May 1957.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Shig Murao at the censorship trial for Howl and Other Poems. (Time Life Pictures/Getty

Nevertheless, the city of San Francisco decided Other Poems, which might have languished in ob-
to press charges. Captain William Hanrahan of the scurity, sold widely and became an enduring work
San Francisco Police found that Howl and Other of literature.
Poems and another book sold at City Lights Book- Despite the success of the defendants in the cen-
store were inappropriate for juveniles and arrested sorship trial for Howl and Other Poems, problems
Ferlinghetti and Shig Murao, for whom the Amer- with censorship persisted for the Beats and other
ican Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) provided bail artists. In Los Angeles in 1957, Wallace Berman, an
and legal counsel. Deputy District Attorney Ralph Assemblage artist, was convicted of obscenity and
McIntosh was the prosecutor, but defense attor- fined when a show he installed at Ferus, an art
neys invoked the precedent of Roth vs. U.S. (1957), gallery, included artwork that revealed copulation.
which established that a work that has “redeeming At the University of Chicago, Irving Rosenthal
social value” cannot be found obscene. After nu- became the editor of Chicago Review in 1958, and
merous literary experts testified about the worth of in three consecutive issues, Rosenthal provided a
“Howl,” Judge Clayton Horn determined on Octo- forum for the Beats. In the issue for spring 1958,
ber 3, 1957, that despite objections from witnesses Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Lamantia, McClure, Ker-
for the prosecution, “Howl” had social value and ouac, Burroughs, and others were included. The
therefore was not obscene. summer 1958 issue took on a Zen theme, including
The trial received national attention, including contributions from Alan Watts and Gary Snyder. In
a feature article in Life. Ginsberg’s Howl and the autumn 1958 issue, Rosenthal featured selec-


tions from Naked Lunch by Burroughs. Chicago William Burroughs was a key figure in the cen-
Daily News writer Jack Mabley wrote a column to sorship controversy, and in 1959 The Naked Lunch
object to the writing in Chicago Review, prompting was published in Paris, France. Publishing and sell-
university authorities to prevent the publication of ing Burroughs’s novel in the United States, how-
another Beat issue, which was already scheduled to ever, involved numerous obstacles.
include Kerouac’s “Old Angel Midnight” and more The first was that Barney Rosset, who planned to
of Naked Lunch. Rather than comply with the cen- make Naked Lunch available in the United States,
sorship that the university intended to impose, Irv- was embroiled in censorship problems involving
ing Rosenthal and Paul Carroll decided to create a Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Published in
new, independent magazine: Big Table. A benefit France in 1934, Tropic of Cancer was not published
reading for Big Table held in Chicago drew a large in the United States until April 1961, and promptly
and enthusiastic audience, but press coverage in numerous booksellers around the nation faced
Chicago newspapers and Time ignored the turnout charges of selling obscene material. Rosset had
and responded negatively to the performers. When pledged to defend these booksellers, and legal costs
Big Table was ready to be mailed to ten thousand soon were a challenge. Not wanting to overextend
subscribers in April, the Post Office denied the ed- himself, Rosset delayed the release of Naked Lunch
itors a mailing permit. Within a month, Judge even though he had 10,000 copies ready for sale. Fi-
Julius Hoffman ordered that the mailing be exe- nally, Rosset was victorious in the Tropic of Cancer
cuted. Big Table ran for five issues and established case in Chicago, and when a case in Florida in June
the openness necessary for Beat writings, but even- 1964 went to the Supreme Court, the outcome was
tually a lack of financial support made the continu- favorable.
ation of publication impossible. With Tropic of Cancer in the clear, Rosset
In New York City, LeRoi Jones and Diane di shipped Naked Lunch to bookstores. By November
Prima published Floating Bear, a mimeo magazine 1962, sales were good, but censorship became an
that was distributed through the mail to sub- issue in Boston, where Theodore Mavrikos, a book-
scribers. When one subscriber was sent his copy of seller with various previous arrests on obscenity
issue nine of Floating Bear while he was in jail, the charges, was arrested for selling Naked Lunch.
publication was intercepted by a prison censor, Boston was a challenging location for a trial, but
who objected, di Prima supposes, to The System of Rosset hired Edward De Grazia, a First Amend-
Dante’s Hell by Jones and “Roosevelt after Inaugu- ment specialist, who managed to establish the trial
ration” by William Burroughs. On 18 October as an examination of the book, not the bookseller.
1961, Jones was arrested at his apartment for mail- De Grazia considered bringing Burroughs himself
ing obscene material. Later that day, di Prima and as a witness, but decided to drop that idea when De
Stanley Faulkner, who was Jones’s attorney, ap- Grazia recalled the fact that Burroughs had shot and
peared at the courthouse. Before the day was done, killed his wife in Mexico.
the editors were released with no requirement for The trial began in Boston Superior Court on Jan-
bail. uary 12, 1965. Despite the testimony of various lit-
On the advice of Faulkner, Jones demanded that erary experts on the literary merits of Naked Lunch,
a grand jury be convened, and, testifying with elo- on 23 March 1965, Judge Eugene A. Hudson ac-
quence, he cited many examples of well-estab- cepted the prosecutor’s arguments that Naked
lished works of literature and demonstrated how Lunch lacked redeeming social value, appealed to
inclusions in Floating Bear were consistent in qual- prurient interests, and was patently offensive. The
ity with time-proven literature. In addition, letters judge ruled that Naked Lunch was obscene.
from literary experts attested to the literary merit On appeal, the case went to the Massachusetts
of material in Floating Bear. The grand jury re- Supreme Court on 8 October 1965. The decision in
fused to refer the case for prosecution. the appeal hinged on deliberations of the U.S.


Supreme Court, which on 21 March 1966 ruled ferred to his Catholic boyhood and the responsibil-
that to be obscene, a work had to meet three re- ity of the person who goes to confession to be com-
quirements: pletely honest. Kerouac asked the Italian court to
allow such completeness, yet conceded that for
1. The central purpose and theme of the work some readers the publication of uninhibited con-
must be to appeal to the prurient interests of fession might not be appropriate. The influence of
the reader. Kerouac’s letter cannot be ascertained, but in a let-
2. Judging by contemporary community stan- ter dated 18 November 1963, Kerouac wrote to
dards, one must find that the work in ques- Philip Whalen that censorship problems in Italy re-
tion is patently offensive. garding the translation of The Subterraneans were
3. The work must have no redeeming social solved.
value. In 1966 in San Francisco, Jay Thelin and Allen
Cohen at the Psychedelic Shop and Robert
Using these standards, Justice William J. Brennan Muszalski at City Lights Bookshop were arrested
wrote the opinion that reflected the Supreme on obscenity charges for selling The Love Book
Court’s decision that The Memoirs of a Woman of (1966) by Lenore Kandel. A five-week trial ended
Pleasure, or Fanny Hill (1749) was not obscene. In in a guilty verdict, but on appeal, the guilty verdict
Massachusetts, knowing the view of the High Court, did not stand.
the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled on 7 July The Beard (1967), a play by Michael McClure,
1966, that Naked Lunch was not obscene. was staged at the Actor’s Workshop in San Fran-
In 1962 in New York City, Ed Sanders published cisco in 1965 and also in Berkeley, but objecting to
a mimeo magazine titled Fuck You: A Magazine of sexual references, police harassed and arrested
the Arts. The first issue was produced at the office performers. Although the ACLU defended the
of the Catholic Worker, but Dorothy Day, the right to produce The Beard, problems persisted.
founder of the newspaper, disapproved of Fuck Efforts to stage the play at the University of Cali-
You and insisted that Sanders and his collaborators fornia, Fullerton, spurred objections in newspa-
leave. pers, and a committee from the state senate
In late 1964, Sanders opened the Peace Eye opened an investigation. Unable to work normally,
Bookstore in what was once a kosher butcher shop actors eventually chose not to go on with the play.
on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. This location In 1990, an amended version of The National
immediately became the secret production site for Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act re-
Fuck You and other literary works, including Bug- quired the Chairperson of the National Endow-
ger: An Anthology of Buttockry, Despair, Poems for ment for the Arts (NEA) to provide for review of
Marilyn, and Marijuana Newsletter. New York City applications for “general standards of decency.”
police raided the Peace Eye Bookstore in 1966, Four artists sued, and initially a trial judge ruled in
charging Sanders with purveying obscene materials, favor of the artists because the decency clause was
but the ACLU successfully defended Sanders. both unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. This
When the publisher of the Italian translation of decision was affirmed in the U.S. Court of Appeals
Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans faced legal for the 9th Circuit, which found that the decency
problems in 1963, Kerouac enlisted the help of clause was vague and a violation of the First
Grove Press and Barney Rosset, who had pub- Amendment. Nevertheless, on 25 June 1998, the
lished the book in English in 1960. Kerouac, with Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice
advice from legal representatives at Grove Press, Sandra Day O’Connor, determined that the law re-
wrote an open letter to the Italian judge in the quiring the NEA to consider “general standards of
case, and Rosset published the letter in the fall decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and val-
1963 edition of Evergreen Review. Kerouac re- ues of the American public” does not violate the


First Amendment and thereby overturned previ- poem, which poses a question about foreknowl-
ous decisions. Because the issue of “decency” has a edge by Israelis of the terrorist attacks on the
bearing on Beat writing and art, this decision was a World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, is
setback for grant support for Beat artists. anti-Semitic. Baraka denied charges of anti-Semi-
In 1988, in Federal Court the ACLU brought tism and in response insisted that if Israel has faults
suit on behalf of Allen Ginsberg and Pen Club to one should not shield Israel from examination by
challenge the Federal Communications Commis- raising the issue of anti-Semitism.
sion (FCC) regulation prohibiting the broadcast of As poet laureate of New Jersey, Baraka faced a
“indecent” language from 6:00 A.M. to midnight. particular controversy after reading his poem. New
The court ruled in favor of Ginsberg, declaring that Jersey governor James McGreevey called for
programming for the general public could not be Baraka’s resignation, but Baraka refused. New Jer-
reduced to the level of children’s programming un- sey law did not provide for the removal of a poet
less proof could be adduced to show that particular laureate, but McGreevey froze funding for Baraka’s
hours of programming affected children. Despite $10,000 stipend, and in cooperation with the state
the court’s ruling, Senator Jesse Helms introduced legislature eliminated the position of poet laureate.
a bill that made indecency unacceptable twenty- A debate followed on the issue of censorship,
four hours a day. The bill passed, and President with some insisting that Baraka had been denied
Ronald Reagan signed it into law. Pacifica Radio, free speech. Others replied that Baraka had full
which previously broadcast readings of Ginsberg’s freedom to speak but because of his poem could
“Howl” and other literary works, desisted in such not be the representative of New Jersey.
broadcasts. Helms’s law had a chilling effect not In January 2003, First Lady Laura Bush can-
because Pacifica felt it could not win a legal fight, celled a poetry forum at the White House when
but because a successful legal fight would be pro- poets revealed intentions to speak against the U.S.
hibitively expensive. government’s intentions to invade Iraq. A White
Helms’s law did not survive the test of its consti- House spokeswoman said Mrs. Bush respected the
tutionality, and in 1992, Congress gave instructions free speech of poets, but viewed the forum, which
to the FCC to provide hours for programming that was scheduled for 12 February 2003, as an occa-
might be deemed indecent. Before the rules for sion for poetry, not political protest. Poet Sam
hours could be put in effect, the rules were called Hamill chose not to accept his invitation and called
up for judicial review, but finally on 28 August on poets to send him antiwar poems and asked
1995, regulation of broadcast indecency between poets in attendance at the forum to protest war.
6:00 A.M. and 10:00 P.M. went into effect with the Among the contributors to Hamill’s collection was
intent to protect children. Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
The problem that arises in this control of inde- Ferlinghetti finds that the most insidious form of
cency is that no clear distinction is made between censorship is self-censorship. According to Fer-
literature that includes potentially offensive lan- linghetti, an alarming preoccupation with political
guage and “shock-jock routines” that have no liter- correctness stifles expression, and mocking the oft-
ary significance. With substantial fines looming for cited Freedom of Information Act, Ferlinghetti
violators of the indecency rules, broadcasters who suggests that the nation needs a Freedom of Imag-
might want to offer literary programming feel the ination Act.
chilling effect of the law. Some scholars charge that the estate of Jack Ker-
On 19 September 2002, at the Geraldine R. ouac has imposed a voluntary censorship over the
Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo Village in Stan- writings of Kerouac, permitting the publication of
hope, New Jersey, Amiri Baraka, formerly known only selections from his letters and journals.
as LeRoi Jones, read his poem “Somebody Blew Whereas Kerouac may have insisted on complete
Up America.” Jewish groups charged that the honesty, the managers of his unpublished works

Charters, Ann (1936–)

prefer to use their judgment in timing the release

of the full collection of Kerouac’s writings
—William Lawlor
Diane De Rooy

Bibliographic References
See Judge Woolsey’s statement in James Joyce,
Ulysses, 1961; the language in Allen Ginsberg,
Howl and Other Poems, 1956, made the poem
controversial; Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Horn on
Howl,” in The Portable Beat Reader, ed. Ann
Charters, 1992, explains the history of the trial;
compare “Big Day for Bards at Bay: Trial over
Howl and Other Poems,” Life 9 September 1957:
105–108; Rebecca Solnit, “Heretical
Constellations: Notes on California, 1946–1961,”
in Beat Culture and the New America 1950–1965,
ed. Lisa Phillips, 1995, refers to Wallace Berman’s
problem with censorship in Los Angeles; Dennis
McNally, Desolate Angel, 1979, reviews the
details of the case of The Chicago Review and Big
Table; Ted Morgan, Literary Outlaw, 1988,
reviews the details of the censorship trial of
Naked Lunch; The Floating Bear, ed. Diane di
Prima and LeRoi Jones, 1973, is a bound
collection of all the issues of The Floating Bear,
and di Prima’s introduction reviews this
censorship incident; Jack Kerouac, Selected
Letters 1957–1969, ed. Ann Charters, 1999,
includes Kerouac’s reference to the end of
censorship problems for the Italian version of The Sam and Ann Charters have written extensively about Beat
Subterraneans. literature and music. (Christopher Felver/Corbis)

See also Ginsberg, Allen; Burroughs, William Seward;

Berman, Wallace; Ferlinghetti, Lawrence; Kerouac,
Kerouac, 1995; and two volumes of Jack Kerouac:
Jack; Little Magazines; Anarchy, Christian
Selected Letters, 1995 and 1999.
See also Scholarship and Critical Appreciation, A
Survey of

Charters, Ann (1936–)

Prolific biographer, bibliographer, editor, photog-
rapher, and scholar, especially on Jack Kerouac, but
Charters, Sam (1929–)
Ethnomusicologist, novelist, blues and jazz histo-
also on the Beats in general, modern and contem-
rian, poet and translator. Charters’s Some Poems,
porary literature, and literature in general.
Poets: Studies in Underground Poetry Since 1945,
1971, is a groundbreaking work in the study of the
Bibliographic References
Kerouac, 1973, was reprinted in 1987; The Beats: Beats.
Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, 1983, is
a two-volume study of major figures in the Beat Bibliographic References
Generation. Her many other works include The In addition to a dozen books of poetry and various
Portable Beat Reader, 1992; The Portable Jack novels, Samuel Charters has written The Roots of

Chase, Haldon “Hal” (1923–)

the Blues, 1980; Jazz: New Orleans, 1885–1963, York of their Denver friend Neal Cassady
1963; and The Bluesmen, 1967. (1926–1968), who became Kerouac’s primary muse
and went on to join Ken Kesey’s psychedelic ad-
ventures in California in the mid-1960s. (Kerouac
Chase, Haldon “Hal” (1923–) fictionalized Chase in On the Road as “Chad
Anthropologist who was part of the first Beat circle King.”) Chase later drifted apart from the Beats, of
in New York City, 1944–1945. Born around 1923 in whose hard-partying lifestyle he did not approve.
Colorado, Chase was a graduate student in anthro- He conducted important archaeological research at
pology at Columbia University when he met Joan Trinidad, Colorado, in 1949, and in 1951, when
Vollmer and shared her apartments (with, at vari- Burroughs and Vollmer were living in Mexico City,
ous times, Edie Parker, Jack Kerouac, John Kings- Chase was studying the Zapotecan language at
land, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg) at Mexico City College. He appears in fictional form
421 W. 118th St. (1943–1944) and at 419 W. 115th as “Winston Moor” in Burroughs’s Queer. Chase
St. (1945–1946) in New York. was distinctly unimpressed with Burroughs’s “cow-
Chase’s friendship with fellow Coloradoan Frank boy act,” and after Vollmer’s death in 1951, he dis-
Jeffries played a key role in the 1947 arrival in New tanced himself from Burroughs. He returned to

Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs (left to right) walk together near Columbia University in
Manhattan in 1944. (Allen Ginsberg/Corbis)

Cherry Valley, New York

the United States in 1956 and eventually retired to ography of Ginsberg, and Ball shot his movie Farm
a hermit’s existence in rural California. Diary on East Hill. Reminiscences of Cherry Valley
—James Grauerholz are found in Plymell’s Hand on the Doorknob: A
Charles Plymell Reader and Miles’s In the Sixties.
Frazer is writing a memoir of her Cherry Valley
Bibliographical Sources
For background information, see Ted Morgan, years, and Ball has recently completed his East Hill
Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg.
S. Burroughs, 1988, and Bill Morgan, The Beat Ultimately the farm’s remoteness (no electricity)
Generation in New York: A Walking Tour of Jack and typically harsh winters proved too much for
Kerouac’s City, 1997. Howard Campbell, “Beat continuous residence. The site (today referred to as
Mexico: Bohemia, Anthropology, and ‘the Other’”
“The Committee”) is now used for occasional mild
in Critique of Anthropology, 23. 2 (June 2003)
offers additional detail. weather retreats by C.O.P. Ginsberg’s presence
brought a number of visitors to the area, some of
See also Mexico City; Kerouac, Jack
whom took up residence in Cherry Valley: poet
Charles Plymell and writer Carl Waldman, among
others, live there today. Latter-day arts events have
Cherry Valley, New York included an East Hill memorial service for Bremser
Cherry Valley is a small town near the center of in 1998, and two festivals, in 1998 and 2002, cen-
New York state, at the edge of the Mohawk Valley, tering on Ginsberg and the Beats. Plymell’s Cherry
on the original road to the West; it was first settled Valley Editions (started in 1974) has featured
in 1740. Sixteen miles from the larger Coopers- Huncke, Janine Pommy Vega, Burroughs, Gins-
town, Cherry Valley is surrounded mainly by dairy berg, and others, and continues publishing today.
farms and hills rising some two thousand feet. —Gordon Ball
In 1968, Allen Ginsberg (through his nonprofit
foundation Committee on Poetry [C.O.P.], Inc.)
Bibliographical References
purchased an old farm house and seventy acres Michael Schumacher on page 522 of Dharma Lion,
(“East Hill Farm”) five miles from town. He in- 1992, describes the farm in Cherry Valley; Ann
tended the farm to serve as a retreat from urban Charters includes several large color photographs
woes for fellow poets and friends. For several of the farm in Cherry Valley on pages 113–115 in
years, Ginsberg (when not on reading tours to sup- Beats and Company, 1986.
port the farm) and others (including Peter and See also Ginsberg, Allen; Bremser, Bonnie; Bremser,
Julius Orlovsky and Gordon Ball) lived and farmed Ray
there; numerous guests (including Corso, Creeley,
Huncke, Ferlinghetti, Bremser, Brenda Frazer,
Gary Snyder, Charles Plymell, Andy Clausen, John China, Beats in
Giorno, and Barry Miles) came for varying spells. Acceptance of the Beat Generation in mainland
While at the farm, Ginsberg composed much of China has developed slowly since the 1950s.
his music for William Blake’s Songs of Innocence In the early 1950s, the Reference News (an offi-
and of Experience, as well as numerous poems, in- cial daily newspaper published by Xinhua News
cluding “In a Moonlit Hermit’s Cabin,” “Death on Agency, which was affiliated with the government’s
All Fronts,” “Ecologue,” and “Returning to the propaganda department) used the Chinese phrase
Country for a Brief Visit.” Orlovsky wrote “Don’t “kua diao yi dai” to describe the Beats. However,
Bite Please” and such songs as “Skip to My Farm “kua diao” is a derogatory term suggesting “good
Sweet Worm Manure,” “All around the Garden,” for nothing, decadent, rotten, degenerate, de-
and “Feeding Them Rassberries to Grow.” Bremser praved, corrupted”; if personalized, the term is as-
completed several poems there; Miles began his bi- sociated with English words such as “gangster,

China, Beats in

swindler, hustler, criminal.” The Beat Generation zest.” Several Chinese versions of “Howl” by Allen
did not conform to communist values, in particular Ginsberg came out around 1984; excerpts of the
in the Cold War period, when China and the Chinese version On The Road were included in a
United States were hostile to each other, and then widely read volume An Anthology of Western
therefore the Beats were demonized in China. Re- Modernism; another shortened Chinese version of
grettably this language is still applied to the Beats On the Road was published in 1990. Despite mis-
today in China. In the 1950s, several articles in of- translation, average readers for the first time had
ficially controlled mass media rejected and de- access to Beat writings.
nounced the Beats. Allen Ginsberg’s trip to China in 1984 as a mem-
The translation of Beat writings did not appear ber of a delegation of American writers, which in-
until 1962 when the first Chinese abridged version cluded Gary Snyder and others, further aroused the
of On the Road was published as part of the Grey enthusiasm for the Beats in China. During a
Cover Series together with J. D. Salinger’s The month-long stay, Ginsberg gave lectures and read-
Catcher in the Rye. These works were seen as ex- ings in Beijing and Shanghai; in Baoding Ginsberg
amples of the vicious nature of Western capitalism composed poems that were published in White
and were not for sale. Such works could only be Shroud (1986), including “I Love Old Whitman
read by selected communist officials. However, So,” “Written in My Dream by W. C. Williams,”
later in the cultural revolution of the early 1960s to “One Morning I Took a Walk in China,” and “Read-
middle 1970s, the books were smuggled, read, and ing Bai Juiyi.”
secretly distributed among some of the Red Chinese scholars such as Zao Yifan of the Chi-
Guards and young intellectuals who were sent to nese Academy of Social Sciences and Wen Chu-an
the countryside by Mao to be re-educated by peas- of Sichuan University began to examine the Beats
ants. These young readers saw in On the Road and their writings with objective and reasonable
something thrilling, entirely new, and encouraging. academic arguments that contrasted with official
The readers identified with the American Beats, criticism, exploring the social and literary value of
who felt the pressure of McCarthyism in the dull the Beats, foreseeing the upcoming Chinese aca-
years of Eisenhower. The readers savored individ- demic re-evaluation of the Beats in following years.
uality, daring spiritual adventure, and bohemian Influences upon Chinese literature in this period
freedom because these pleasures were absent in can be seen in Pizi Literature as represented by
the era of Mao. On the Road, together with other Wang Shuo, who is seen by Western critics as
Grey Cover Series Western literary books, inspired “China’s Kerouac,” and a host of young writers,
Chinese young people to seek a new life. The new poets, artists, and musicians known as the Chinese
spirit was revealed in the first generation of the Vanguard School. In the late 1980s, one could see
Chinese New Poetry Wave or Underground Poetry the rise of a Chinese subculture with nonofficial
during the Cultural Revolution; subsequently, the writing, jazz, and rock-and-roll music that dis-
spirit showed in the School of Obscurity repre- played the affinities and differences between the
sented by Baidao, a renowned poet who now re- American Beats and their Chinese followers.
sides in the United States. In later years, the Beat China’s steady economic progress, its participa-
spirit was revealed in poetry publications such as tion in the international community, and its loos-
Manghan and Feifei. ened political control led to a free climate for the
Thanks to Deng Xiaoping’s reforms and his introduction and translation of Beat literature.
openness to the world outside China, especially the Translations of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Allen
normalization of Sino-America relations, the study Ginsberg’s Kaddish and Other Poems, and John
and translation of Western literature and art began Tytell’s Naked Angels appeared in the 1990s. Ou
to boom, resulting in what was known as an “eman- Hong wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled Gary
cipation of ideology” that stimulated “cultural Snyder and Chinese Culture in English.

Clausen, Andy (1943–)

In the twenty-first century in China, one sees the connection to Beat authors. Clausen has taught cre-
spirit of the Beats in “linglei,” a term connected to ative writing at Naropa Institute and in the New
young female writers born in the 1970s such as Wei York City public schools.
Hui, the author of the novel Shanghai Baby, and —William Lawlor
Mianmian, who wrote the novel Sugar. These writ-
ers declared that they were indebted to the Beats for Principal Works
characteristics of their writing: first-person narration Clausen’s poetry includes Extreme Unction, 1974;
and love stories involving urban, marginalized indi- Austin, Texas, Austin, Texas, 1981; Without
Doubt, 1991; Trek to the Top of the World, 1996;
viduals or free professionals. The characters were
Fortieth Century Man: Selected Verse,
sensitive, lonely, and desperately burning with emo- 1966–1996, 1997. Clausen is editor, with Allen
tion. The most striking feature was the combination Ginsberg and Eliot Katz, of Poems for the Nation:
of sex with psychological description and the A Collection of Contemporary Political Poems,
lifestyle the authors associated with the early Beats 1999. He and Jack Micheline perform on a video
of the 1950s, including drug use. Positively, such entitled Recent Readings/NY, Volume 14:
Micheline-Clausen, 1996.
writing broke through the literary norm; perhaps the
authors failed to get into the core of the Beat vi-
Bibliographic Reference
sion—the spiritual quest rather than materialistic
An entry on Clausen appears in Ann Charters, ed.,
comfort and sensual indulgence. The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar
In general, interest in Beat writings in China is America, 1983.
growing among scholars and students, whose articles
and dissertations about the Beats are more numer-
ous than before. Scholars analyze not only Kerouac Cold War
and Ginsberg but also Burroughs, Corso, and even An international struggle following World War II
later Beats. The influence of the Beats now affects between the United States and its allies and the So-
social life. For instance, “bohemian life” or the viet Union and allied communist nations. The term
“rucksack revolution” are now in China very current “Cold War,” coined in a speech delivered on 16
terms among youngsters. The striking feature now is April 1947 by financier Bernard Baruch at the
the open re-evaluation of the Beats in China, over- South Carolina state legislature and repeated by
throwing to some extent the bad name “kua diao.” Baruch in his address to the Senate’s Special Com-
—Wen Chu-an mittee Investigating the National Defense Program
on 24 October 1947, suggests strategic moves and
Bibliographical References
One can review Allen Ginsberg’s trip to China in political tensions that fall short of the heat of actual
Michael Schumacher, Dharma Lion, 1992: battle; however, such a suggestion is inaccurate be-
681–684; see also Harrison E. Salisbury, “On the cause the Cold War became hot in various loca-
Literary Road: American Writers in China,” New tions, including Asia, Africa, Southeast Asia, and
York Times Book Review 20 Jan 1985: 3–4. Central America, as struggling nations became sur-
See also Snyder, Gary; Ginsberg, Allen; Travel: The rogates for world powers in international conflicts.
Beats as Globetrotters Beat writers, who were disturbed by irrational fears
of communism, an ominous arms race, a misguided
use of resources, and waves of propaganda, be-
Clausen, Andy (1943–) moaned the leaders and the policies that made the
Poet, teacher, and editor. Clausen was born in Bel- Cold War the chief factor in world history in the
gium during World War II and came as a child to second half of the twentieth century.
the United States, where he grew up in Oakland, When World War II ended, the Soviet Union,
California. Influenced by Jack Kerouac, Allen Gins- conscious of the grievous losses it had suffered be-
berg, and Gregory Corso, he often writes about his cause of Nazi attacks, sought to strengthen defenses

Cold War

against any future attack from the West by domi- communists were already in power, the Soviets ex-
nating Eastern Europe. The United States favored tended friendship and economic support. In Ger-
self-determination for Eastern European nations many, the Soviets renewed efforts to drive Western
and feared the expansion of communism into West- influence from Berlin. These Cold War tensions
ern Europe, charging that the Soviets had erected culminated in the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the
an “Iron Curtain”—a phrase coined by Winston Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Churchill in a speech delivered at Westminster Col- With the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the
lege in Fulton, Missouri, on 5 March 1946. conversion of the Cold War into a nuclear disaster
Tensions developed over the political alignment seemed less likely. Despite this progress, conflicts
of Greece, Turkey, and Germany. In 1947, the between communist and Western spheres contin-
Marshall Plan assisted economic recovery in West- ued many years, as shown in Vietnam, Afghanistan,
ern Europe, including West Germany, but commu- and Nicaragua. Negotiations between East and
nist forces took power in Czechoslovakia, and So- West improved through détente, and the Strategic
viet authorities closed off Western access to Berlin. Arms Limitation Talks led to positive agreements
In response, the West supplied West Berlin via air in 1972 and 1974. Under Ronald Reagan, however,
freight. In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organi- the United States announced intentions to develop
zation (NATO) was formed in opposition to a the Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as Star
mounting Soviet threat in Eastern Europe. Wars, whereby the United States would be imper-
With the establishment of communist authority vious to nuclear attack.
in China under Mao Tse-Tung in 1949, Asia be- In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev assumed leadership
came another theater for the Cold War, with the in the USSR and pursued improved relations with
Korean War (1950–1953) a key boiling point. With the West. In 1989, the Cold War apparently ended
Chinese troops bolstering the North Koreans, the with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the dis-
United States could not achieve a clear victory, and solution of the Soviet Union in 1990.
Americans as a whole developed a dim view of all The Beats felt disconnected and disgruntled
communist governments. about mainstream political views. These writers
The United States pursued a policy of contain- had inherited a modernist sensibility that denied
ment, whereby Soviet efforts to expand commu- them the comfort of empire, religion, or a sense of
nism would meet resistance. George Kennan, a socially valuable progress. They seemed to strike
United States diplomat, coined the term “contain- an immediate chord in this generation, leading
ment” in his “Long Telegram” sent from Moscow Paul Goodman in Growing Up Absurd to describe
on 22 February 1946; Dean Acheson, secretary of them as a small group with large influence made
state (1949–1953), advocated the policy, insisting possible in the years following World War II and
on enhancement of NATO’s strength. John Foster the Korean War; to Goodman, the Beats were on
Dulles, who succeeded Acheson as secretary of the margins of society and did not have enthusi-
state (1953–1960), carried the policy forward with asm for society’s factories, markets, and social fab-
a determination to provide economic and military ric (170). Most of the writers who came to be as-
support to any nation facing a communist threat. sociated with this phenomenon were engaged with
To organize the opposition to communism, Dulles political issues, but indirectly, and often in a con-
cultivated new alliances such as the Southeast fusing and contradictory fashion; one could more
Asian Treaty Organization and the Central Treaty easily describe what the Beats were against than
Organization. what they were for. Old Bull Lee in Jack Kerouac’s
Under Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviets expanded On the Road, for example, detests the political sys-
aid to nations such as Ghana, Egypt, India, and In- tem in Washington and recalls a bygone age when
donesia and encouraged communist uprisings one could get morphine in a local drugstore with-
wherever possible. In Guatemala and Cuba, where out a doctor’s written consent (144). In “America,”

Cold War

which appears in Howl and Other Poems, Gins- thinking took a range of forms, including, most no-
berg, too, is sentimental about what America has toriously, Gregory Corso’s suggestion that we em-
lost, including Wobblies, communists, and Trot- brace the bomb, an idea recorded in his 1958 poem
skyites (39–43). This antiauthoritarianism, indeed “Bomb,” a poem included in The Happy Birthday
this antipolitics, was appropriated and assimilated of Death (1960) in which Corso speaks of courting
into struggles in the late ’60s against the increas- and seducing the bomb as if it were a woman (fold-
ingly nefarious effects of Cold War policies and a out without pagination).
growing sense that America had lost its way. Most of the overtly political statements in Beat
Denise Levertov writes in Part I of “To Stay Alive” writing tend to verge on the Dadaist, the surrealist,
that she is in favor of revolution, even an un- the clowning of the disenfranchised. In 1957, before
planned revolution, because the alternative is the the publication of either “Howl” or On the Road,
ending of life (137). In “April Fool Birthday Poem Kenneth Rexroth in New World Writing (included
for Grandpa,” which is included in Pieces of a Song in Protest: The Beat Generation and the Angry
(1990), Diane di Prima also perceives a rising tide Young Men) wrote about Beat Generation discon-
of social change (69). Despite these references to nection from society and the joy of hearing audi-
revolution, there is no blueprint, and certainly no ences applaud and approve of Allen Ginsberg (337),
single “Beat” politic; in fact, many of those most who in Journals Early Fifties Early Sixties showed
frequently associated with the Beat Generation himself to be a revolutionary poet (153–154) by
were neither comfortable with the Beat label, nor mocking the Republican Convention, Postmaster
in agreement about prevailing literary or social is- General Summerfield, President Eisenhower, and
sues. In 1958, Robert Brustein published “The Newsweek.
Cult of Unthink” (now reprinted in Ann Charters, This Beat Generation’s corpus of work and per-
Beat Down to Your Soul) in which he accused formances, which eventually gave impetus to stu-
William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Michael Mc- dent revolt, the New Left, and a libertarian coun-
Clure, Michael Rumaker, and other Beats of cre- terculture, was at the outset a mostly literary
ating a hero who is disconnected from culture, so- phenomenon, with precursors among the British,
ciety, and even himself (50). Irish, French, or Americans who were raucous, re-
Nevertheless, against a backdrop of mainstream bellious and liberated on their own terms. Auden,
politics and government policies aimed at promot- Artaud, Blake, Baudelaire, Byron, Céline, Cum-
ing Cold War conformity, the Beat Generation’s re- mings, Dostoyevsky, Eliot, Genet, Lawrence, Mal-
bellious figures proposed an array of spontaneous larmé, Pound, Rimbaud, Rexroth, Sade, Verlaine,
carnivalesque performances of topsy-turvydom, in- Whitman, Williams, and Wolfe were important in-
spiring road trips of the mind and the body, word spirations and fellow travelers to the Beat writers,
viruses, howls of self-expression, Buddhist and Zen who had far-ranging literary interests and remark-
reflection, to resist what Diane di Prima in “Rant,” able literary knowledge. The Beats also had a range
which is included in Pieces of a Song (1990), saw as of artistic friends and fellow travelers in their re-
a war against the creative mind (159–160). sistance to the Cold War sterile thinking, including
There is also a resistance in the Beat corpus to Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mitchell Goodman, Denise
harnessing the power of science or mathematics to Levertov, Federico García Lorca, Norman Mailer,
inhuman ends such as destruction and firepower. and Henry Miller, who in their own ways cele-
References to the space race, to Einstein’s theories, brated the sexuality, deviance, rebellion, and open-
and to the bomb, which are scattered throughout endedness that are evident in the Beat corpus. The
the Beat writing, relate to issues of progress, ulti- Beats in turn inspired and were inspired by a host
mate annihilation, the uses of technology, and the of social thinkers who joined them in various forms
the buildup of weapons, which are all by-words of of rebellion against the Cold War ethos, which at
the Cold War mentality. Resistance to this kind of times brought them into contact with such icons as

Coleman, Ornette (1930–)

Noam Chomsky, Abbie Hoffman, Herbert Mar- Bibliographical References

cuse, Wilhelm Reich, Jerry Rubin, and Howard See James Campbell, This Is the Beat Generation,
Zinn. 1999; Ann Charters, ed., Beat Down to Your Soul,
2001; Gregory Corso, The Happy Birthday of
The transition toward more political engagement
Death, 1960; Gene Feldman and Max
among Beat writers and those associated with them Gartenberg, eds., Protest: The Beat Generation
took hold with the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and the Angry Young Men, 1959; Diane di Prima,
which began when the communist leader of the Pieces of a Song, 1990; Denise Levertov, Poems
Viet Minh, Ho Chi Minh, proclaimed Vietnam in- 1968–1972, 1987; Allen Ginsberg, Journals Early
dependent of France in 1945 and proceeded in Fifties Early Sixties, ed. Gordon Ball, 1977; Paul
Goodman, Growing Up Absurd: Problems of
earnest when France was defeated by the Viet
Youth in the Organized System, 1960; Jack
Minh in 1954. President Eisenhower feared that Kerouac, On the Road, 2000; Brenda Knight, ed.,
free elections in Vietnam, scheduled to be held in Women of the Beat Generation, 1998; Lawrence
1956, would result in a landslide victory for Ho Chi Lipton, The Holy Barbarians, 1959; Dennis
Minh over Ngo Dinh Diem, in the newly estab- McNally, Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat
lished independent South Vietnam, and pledged his Generation and America, 1979; Michael
Schumacher, Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography
support for Diem in the Civil War that followed.
of Allen Ginsberg, 1992; Elias Wilentz, ed., The
Lawrence Ferlinghetti responded with a little book- Beat Scene,1960.
let published in 1958 called Tentative Description
See also Red Scare; Communism and the Workers
of a Dinner Given to Promote the Impeachment of
Movement; Atomic Era
President Eisenhower (included in The Beat Scene),
which ends with the president’s resignation after a
host of realizations, including the determination
that the Voice of America failed to listen to the rest Coleman, Ornette (1930–)
of the world and in particular that the president Beginning on alto saxophone and switching to
turned a deaf ear to Third World protests against tenor at age sixteen, Coleman spent several years
worldwide pollution (135). moving between New Orleans, Los Angeles, and
In a letter to Peter Orlovsky from Paris in 1958 his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, playing for
Allen Ginsberg declared the Cold War over, with a rhythm and blues bands. Settling in Los Angeles in
new “love generation” to take over in its place. In the late 50s, he worked as an elevator operator and
1963, at a conference at the University of British studied music theory, developing a revolutionary
Columbia, he reiterated the same idea, suggesting approach to harmonics that drew jazz beyond the
that all we have to do is “love one another.” And experimental chord patterns and improvisation of
Frank Barron watched Ginsberg try to call Russian bebop. In 1959, he attended the School of Jazz in
leader Nikita Khrushchev on the telephone from a Lennox, Massachusetts, and released his debut
Boston apartment in 1960 to “get the love flowing album, Something Else, which ushered in the era of
on the electric Bell-Telephone network.” Ginsberg free jazz, a challenging and, to many, an obscure
never reached Khrushchev that evening, but ac- take on composition that influenced later works of
cording to Michael Schumacher in Dharma Lion, Beat poets such as Ted Joans.
Ginsberg did end up having a lengthy conversation —David Arnold
with Jack Kerouac (345–346). In his travels, Gins-
berg managed to connect with, and generally raise Bibliographical References
the ire of, government leaders, and his work Peter Niklas Wilson, Ornette Coleman: His Life and
records encounters with officials in the Eastern Music, trans. Robert Dobbin, 1999; Allen
Bloc, Europe, Cuba, Latin America, and, of course, Ginsberg, Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews
the United States. 1958–1996, ed. David Carter, 2001.
—Robert F. Barsky See also Music

Coltrane, John (1926–1967)

Coltrane, John (1926–1967) revolution, the workers overcome the capitalistic

Born in Hamlet, North Carolina, Coltrane experi- employers and establish an egalitarian system.
mented with several instruments before settling on In the struggle to establish a new order following
tenor saxophone. After moving to Philadelphia he the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks contended
was inducted into the navy in 1945 and played alto with the Mensheviks. Mensheviks were willing to
saxophone with the navy band. Throughout the late accept transitional phases in a movement toward
40s he played with Dizzy Gillespie’s band and re- communism, but Bolsheviks, under Lenin and Trot-
turned to Philadelphia in 1950 to study music at sky, sought immediate rule by workers and peas-
Granoff Studios and the Ornstein School of Music. ants. The Bolsheviks prevailed and established a
He played regularly around New York City during strict system to guarantee that a world revolution
the 50s with musicians such as Miles Davis and would proceed. Under Lenin, Trotsky became com-
Thelonious Monk. Associated with bebop, the im- misar of war (1918–1925) and organized the Red
provisational jazz tradition that inspired Jack Ker- Army. The Bolsheviks collectivized agriculture and
ouac and Allen Ginsberg, Coltrane sought to extend industry, but human rights were not preserved.
the range of the saxophone, blowing at times almost With the death of Lenin in 1924, Stalin came to
savagely and reeling off strings of notes that some power, and Trotsky, Stalin’s opponent, lost sway and
critics found pointless and others mesmerizing. eventually went into exile. Stalin’s rule, marked by
—David Arnold brutal tactics against Bolsheviks, the Red Army, and
the general citizenry, endured until Stalin’s death in
Bibliographical References
Bill Cole, John Coltrane, 1976; Allen Ginsberg, In exile, Trotsky wrote many works, including
Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews The Revolution Betrayed (1937). Viewed as a
1958–1996, ed. David Carter, 2001. threat to Stalin’s rule, Trotsky was assassinated in
See also Music Mexico in 1940.
In 1923 in the United States, communism sur-
faced as the Workers (Communist) Party led by
Charles E. Ruthenberg. Communism in the United
Communism and the States was disunified, with socialists, unionists, and
Workers’ Movement Marxists struggling to establish direction. In 1929,
A political system conceived by Karl Marx and the party was renamed the Communist Party USA
Friederich Engels, who authored The Communist (CPUSA), and under Earl Browder’s leadership,
Manifesto (1848), and applied by V. I. Lenin and party membership grew tenfold and focused on op-
Leon Trotsky, who spearheaded the Bolshevik Rev- position to Nazis and fascists. In 1939, the party had
olution (1917) that made Russia a communist state. 75,000 members and many other supporters in so-
With ideals such as a harmonious, classless society called front organizations. Browder sought to make
offering rights and benefits for workers, commu- the party a uniquely American organization despite
nism—especially as manifested by the Workers efforts by Communist International (Comintern) to
Party in the United States—appealed to some Beats; exert influence. The Cold War, McCarthyism, and
however, as totalitarianism and violations of human the House Un-American Activities Committee
rights marked the communist governments in Rus- made affiliation with communism difficult, and
sia, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, and other na- members of the communist movement in the
tions, the Beats doubted and resisted communism as United States either disassociated themselves from
much as any other abusive governmental authority. the party or went underground.
According to The Communist Manifesto, society The Beat Generation had some connections to
faces a struggle between capitalistic employers (the the Communist movement in the United States; in
bourgeoisie) and workers (the proletariat). Through fact, newspaper columnist Herb Caen coined the

Communism and the Workers’ Movement

term “beatnik” to associate the Beats with commu- tushenko and Ernesto Cardenal, who were in
nism by applying the suffix “nik” to “beat,” creating Nicaragua as part of an international poetry meet-
a verbal parallel to Sputnik, the Soviet satellite ing, Ginsberg contributed to “Declaration of Three”
launched in 1957. (1982), which supported the Nicaraguan govern-
Allen Ginsberg’s mother was a Russian émigré ment and questioned the tactics of the United States
and was affiliated with the Communist Party in the in opposition to the Sandinistas.
United States. In “America,” a poem included in In 1984, Ginsberg visited China as part of a spe-
Howl and Other Poems (1956), Ginsberg refers to cial visit for a group of American writers, including
the party meetings he attended with his mother Gary Snyder, Toni Morrison, and William Least
and describes party members as warm, friendly Heat Moon. Ginsberg extended his visit by arrang-
people (42). Drawing ideas and ideals from such ing to teach, and through many conversations he
people, Ginsberg intended to become a labor learned about the hardships of the Cultural Revo-
lawyer. Ginsberg also refers to Trotskyites in lution and restrictions on sexual freedom in the
“America” (39), revealing nostalgia for communist People’s Republic. He questioned such limitations
goals prior to Stalin and noting the vast proportions on freedom and found that communist China had
of Trotsky’s legacy. In “Howl,” Ginsberg refers to two levels of freedom, the first in the public sector,
the distribution of communist brochures at Union where expression was limited, and the second in
Square in New York City (13). the home, where personal views might be shared
Gary Snyder was involved in the union move- with confidence.
ments for loggers in Washington and was later re- Lawrence Ferlinghetti was receptive to commu-
fused employment with the U.S. Forest Service be- nism as an alternative to capitalism but refused to be
cause of perceived communist associations. blind to the faults of communism. In January 1959,
Disgusted by such blacklisting, Snyder eventually Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, at the invitation of the
left the United States for Japan. communist party in Chile, attended a writers con-
Despite previous connections to communism, ference at the University of Concepción and appre-
Ginsberg clashed with communist authorities ciated presentations about communism. Fer-
when he traveled to various communist nations. In linghetti visited Cuba in December 1960 and found
Cuba in 1965, Ginsberg objected to the failure of that the redistribution of wealth was an improve-
the government to protect the rights of homosexu- ment of Cuban society, an improvement not in evi-
als. Driven from Cuba, Ginsberg won popular sup- dence in other Caribbean nations. In his journal,
port in Czechoslovakia and was named King of Ferlinghetti describes the beauty and peacefulness
May in 1965. Nevertheless, communist authorities in Havana and in Cuba as a whole. In 1967, Fer-
seized his notebook, and, viewing Ginsberg as a linghetti visited Germany, where he planned to read
dangerous agitator, the authorities expelled him with Russian poet Andrei Voznesenski at a collo-
from the country. quium. The Berlin Wall depressed Ferlinghetti, and
In 1982, during a visit to Nicaragua, Ginsberg life in the eastern sector seemed devoid of zest and
sought to avoid the controversies of 1965 and in a spirit. Voznesenski facilitated a visit to the Soviet
meeting with Daniel Ortega expressed concerns Union, and after a brief visit to Moscow, Ferlinghetti
that both communists and capitalists might exploit began a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a
Ginsberg’s visit for the purposes of propaganda. journey that fell far short of his expectations and ul-
Ginsberg questioned freedom of the press in timately necessitated his return to the United States
Nicaragua because a newspaper opposed to the gov- so that he could recover from pneumonia. In 1984,
ernment had been silenced. Learning that this in Nicaragua, Ferlinghetti tried to be open to the
newspaper was an arm of the U.S. Central Intelli- Sandinistas, but was concerned about communist
gence Agency, Ginsberg subsequently accepted the leaders who dressed elegantly, had servants, and
actions against the paper. Joining with Yevgeny Yev- lived in relative luxury. Nevertheless, he participated


in an international poetry gathering and enjoyed connection of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka to

contact with Ernesto Cardenal and Daniel Ortega. communism, see William J. Harris, ed., The LeRoi
Back in the United States, Ferlinghetti compiled an Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader, 1991.
account of this visit to Nicaragua and published it See also Ginsberg, Allen; Ferlinghetti, Lawrence;
through City Lights under the title Seven Days in Baraka, Amiri
Nicaragua Libre (1984). Ferlinghetti made a second
visit to Nicaragua with his son in 1989 and reaf-
firmed his positive view of the Sandinista regime. Confession
In 1960, LeRoi Jones visited Castro’s Cuba, and Confessional literature is raw, highly personal, and
artists there challenged Jones to make his art a vehi- emotional. It often takes on taboo subject matter,
cle for political activism. Subsequently, Jones dis- such as mental illness, suicide, homosexuality, and
connected himself from the Beats and pursued drug use. As the label suggests, confessional poetry
black nationalism, but around 1974, LeRoi Jones/ gives the reader a sense of knowing intimate details
Amiri Baraka began to feel that the movement for about the writer. Brutal honesty and frankness, as
black nationalism was flawed. He sought a new de- well as intimacy, are inherent in the genre.
sign for art, and, returning to ideas first suggested to The writer of the confessional poem often feels a
him in Cuba, he advocated through his art the de- sense of release, having shared intimate secrets with
struction of the capitalist system and the develop- a willing and sympathetic audience. Like a sinner
ment of a socialist system. He expressed his prefer- confessing to a priest, the poet feels a sense of
ence for socialism in the poetry collection Hard weight being lifted, and the reader can help to carry
Facts (1975) and in the play What Was the Relation- that weight simply by understanding, by responding
ship of the Lone Ranger and the Means of Produc- to the poem in a positive way. Under the right cir-
tion? (1978). Daggers and Javelins (1984), a collec- cumstances, the reader may even feel that the poet
tion of essays, also advocated Marxism. speaks for him or her in some way. Confessional po-
Of all the Beat writers, Jack Kerouac had the etry can, then, provide emotional cleansing and re-
least taste for communism. He disassociated him- lease for both the writer and the reader.
self from the protests and radicalism in which some In the extended narrative of Part II of “Kad-
Beats participated, distrusting challenges to the na- dish,” which is published in Collected Poems:
tion he loved. He declared that his family had al- 1947–1980 (1984), Allen Ginsberg describes his
ways voted for the Republican Party. journey with his mentally disturbed mother to find
—James E. Lawlor a rest home in New Jersey. Only twelve years old,
Allen must assist his mother despite her delusions
Bibliographical References and irrational fears. Allen succeeds in getting his
For a review of events related to the rise of mother into the rest home, and he returns to the
communism in Russia, see Robert Service, A family’s residence. This episode is intensified when
History of Twentieth-Century Russia, 1998; Naomi goes mad in the middle of the night and
compare John Paxton, ed., Encyclopedia of
young Allen must witness Louis Ginsberg, Allen’s
Russian History, 1993; for information on the
Communist Party in the United States, see F. M. father, who receives a frightening phone call at two
Ottanelli, The Communist Party of the United in the morning and must set out to take care of
States from the Depression to World War II, 1991, Naomi and bring her to a mental hospital.
and J. E. Haynes and H. Klehr, The American Ginsberg also confesses in Part II of “Kaddish”
Communist Movement, 1992; Barry Silesky, the horrible moments of his mother’s illness when
Ferlinghetti: The Artist in His Time, 1990, covers
her excretory functions rage out of control and she
the details of Ferlinghetti’s visits to communist
countries; Michael Schumacher, Dharma Lion, vomits blood into the toilet. He recalls her dreamy
1992, offers the details of Ginsberg’s visits to recollection of an afternoon spent with God, whom
communist nations; for information on the she sees as a helpless and lonely figure. Ginsberg


even confesses that his mother’s behavior is at fever and Desolation Angels, in which the reader en-
times grossly erotic, making him contemplate an counters the narrator’s literal and figurative sense of
incestuous union. isolation and solitude, as well as his introspective
In Part IV of “Kaddish,” Ginsberg addresses his self-examination, as he tells his story from a lonely
dead mother, recalling her agony and unfolding the mountain top. Other confessional Beat poets in-
agony he experienced in response to his mother’s clude, but are certainly not limited to, Philip
illness. In particular, Ginsberg focuses on his Whalen, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Elise Cowen,
mother’s eyes as he lists horrors and a few moments Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Michael McClure.
of tender pleasure. At the end of this reading, the —Beth Lagaron
reader’s emotions are drained.
Two other well-known Beat writers who fall
Bibliographical References
under the category of confessional poets of the One finds “Kaddish” in Allen Ginsberg, Collected
Beat Generation are Diane di Prima and Jack Ker- Poems 1947–1980, 1984; Diane di Prima, “Brass
ouac. Di Prima’s poetry possesses a unique combi- Furnace Going Out: Song, after an Abortion,”
nation of strength and vulnerability. Her words feel appears in Ann Charters, ed., The Portable Beat
like an extension of herself, particularly in poems Reader, 1992, and with short introductory
remarks from the editor; Diane di Prima, Pieces
included in Pieces of a Song (1990), such as “Song
of a Song, 1990, offers a full range of confessional
for Baby-O, Unborn,” “Rant,” and “Poem of Re- poems; Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans, 1958;
fusals.” Di Prima’s poem “Brass Furnace Going Visions of Gerard, 1963, and Desolation Angels,
Out,” which is included in Ann Charters, ed., The 1965, are prime examples of Kerouac writing in
Portable Beat Reader (1992), is a woman’s confes- the confessional mode; Robert Phillips in The
sion about her experience with abortion. It is di- Confessional Poets, 1973, intentionally leaves
Ginsberg out of his discussion, but Phillips
vided into twelve numbered sections, each section
explains his decision in the introduction.
expressing a new difficult and emotionally charged
reaction to the abortion. In “Brass Furnace,” di See also Ginsberg, Allen; di Prima, Diane; Kerouac,
Jack; Whalen, Philip; Baraka, Amiri; Cowen, Elise;
Prima speaks of sending the fetus in a bottle to the
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence; McClure, Michael
father with an extended letter. Not every stanza,
however, is an example of horror. Even though the
child is aborted, di Prima imagines that the child is
somehow alive and expresses motherly concern,
tenderness, and generosity toward it. In all, the Conformity
poem gathers images that reflect the range of emo- Uniformity of behavior, goals, values, and attitudes
tions of a woman who has experienced an abortion associated with the post–World War II environ-
and gives voice to the feelings that many writers ment in the United States, particularly in suburban
could never be frank enough to reveal. areas.
Like Ginsberg and di Prima, Jack Kerouac is In the Eisenhower years, many people of similar
powerfully confessional in his writing. In The Sub- ages had similar backgrounds; these people pur-
terraneans (1958), he acknowledges that the act of sued marriage, family, home ownership, and mate-
writing may not purge his pain and may, in fact, in- rial gratification. Though not all of post–World War
tensify his agony, but he aims to achieve some dig- II America participated in such behavior, a pattern
nity for his pain through his candid prose. In a of conformity did emerge, and the Beat Genera-
surge of emotion, Kerouac recounts the sorrow of tion, with its emphasis on individuality, rebelled
a love affair ruined by disloyalty. against oppressive and limiting standards for work,
Two other confessional novels by Kerouac are Vi- dress, daily life, success, and artistic expression.
sions of Gerard, in which the reader watches as the Soldiers returned from war, and anxious to set
young narrator loses his saintly brother to rheumatic the hardships and sacrifices of the past behind


Conformity at midcentury is revealed in Levittown, where thousands of identical homes were constructed. (Bettmann/

them, young men and women got married and or other development. Federal funds were dedi-
started families. These families soon needed cated to the development of highways, leaving pri-
homes, and in some cases land developers, such as vate money to steer community development. The
the Levitt family, met the need for housing by result was suburbia, a community in which people
building many identical homes in sprawling subur- were substantially alike.
ban projects. For example, in 1946 the Levitts con- Reinforcing patterns of conformity were trends
verted 4,000 acres of potato fields in a sector within in communications and politics. Television central-
commuting distance of Manhattan into a develop- ized news coverage, reducing the effect of diverse
ment of more than 17,000 identical four-bedroom, local newspapers. Dwight Eisenhower dominated
Cape Cod–style houses. Soon more than 80,000 national politics, and his landslide election and re-
people occupied the development. election demonstrated that Americans, to a signifi-
The Federal Housing Authority and Veterans cant degree, were thinking as one.
Administration provided home mortgage loans to If homes, cars, televisions, and clothing seem to
many returning military personnel, with loan prac- be superficial indications of the direction of a society,
tices often contributing to racial uniformity in oc- one should consider what William H. Whyte, the au-
cupancy. Zoning ordinances further contributed to thor of The Organization Man (1956), noticed about
uniformity by preventing the intrusion of industry careers at midcentury. According to Whyte, citizens

Conner, Bruce (1933–)

accepted the idea that they were valuable insofar as Perhaps the biggest rebellion against conformity
they could contribute to the progress of a group or occurs in Junky (1953) by William Burroughs. In the
organization. Citizens thought about their immedi- prologue to the novel, although William Lee, the
ate surroundings and circumstances, leaving issues narrator, refers to an era prior to the late forties and
of morality and social progress to the organization. early fifties, he nevertheless comments on the
Even if citizens disagreed with the organization and stifling conventionality of middle-class life in the
rejected it, ultimately they returned to it or con- Midwest. The lawn, the garden, and the home sur-
nected themselves to another group or organization. rounded by a fence are comfortable but oddly un-
The Beats turned a creatively critical eye on a so- satisfying (xxxv). After reading the autobiography of
ciety they felt was slipping into unhealthy conform- a burglar who winds up in jail for most of his adult-
ity. Gregory Corso in “Marriage,” which is included hood, Lee remarks that jail seems more interesting
in The Happy Birthday of Death (1960), envisions than living in a lifeless suburb (xxxvi). Lee goes on to
various scenarios for marriage, including one in- narrate his descent into crime and drug addiction.
volving the husband who returns from work to sit in Despite the negative views of suburbia and con-
a big chair by the fire while his wife, the ecstatic formity, the overall effect of such a lifestyle is not
homemaker, prepares (and burns!) his dinner. so clear. Herbert Gans in The Levittowners (1967)
Corso imagines a community with lawnmowers, notes that some analysts theorize that a commuting
picket fences, daily milk deliveries, and concerned father, a homogeneous community, and a dull envi-
citizens collecting for charity. Fearful of losing his ronment create depression and even madness, but
freedom, Corso finds that he cannot commit to Gans insists that families are in fact unified, happy,
marriage and its requirements for health insurance, and productive (220).
payments of bills, and community organizations —James E. Lawlor
(29–32). In Big Sur (1962), Jack Kerouac mocks the
conformity of Americans on vacation as they travel
Bibliographical References
in their station wagons and wear carefully pressed One can get information about the rise of suburban
clothing. Children in the backseat shout and bicker. conformity in Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass
A travel service has planned and mapped the whole Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United
trip in standard fashion, and no hope for sponta- States, 1985; Herbert Gans, The Levittowners:
neous exploration exists (44–45). Life and Politics in a New Suburban Community,
1967; David Halberstam, The Fifties, 1993; and
In Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums (1959), Ray
William H. Whyte, The Organization Man, 1956.
Smith bemoans the sad pattern of conformity in The Beat response to this trend in society is clear
neighborhoods near college campuses. People view in Gregory Corso, The Happy Birthday of Death,
the same programs at scheduled times and experi- 1960; Jack Kerouac, Big Sur, 1962; The Dharma
ence a uniform response to the broadcasts (39). In- Bums, 1959; and William S. Burroughs, Junky,
stead of enjoying individual conversations, people 1953.
silently bathe in the blue light of TV (104). Ray’s See also Styles of Dress, The Beats and; Materialism;
friend, Japhy Ryder, distinguishes himself from the Marriage; Sexual Attitudes and Behavior; Cold War
world of work and consumerism that imprisons
people and makes them demand senseless products
that soon become senseless trash (97). When Ray Conner, Bruce (1933–)
stops in Independence, Missouri, on his way to Assemblage artist and filmmaker; photographer
Rocky Mount, North Carolina, he looks out his win- and producer of light shows. Instrumental in the
dow in the morning and sees energetic young men Assemblage movement in San Francisco that flow-
dressed in the formal style that their office jobs re- ered in 1957.
quire—all the men are hurrying to be successful on Born in McPherson, Kansas, Conner attended
the national scene (131). high school with Michael McClure. Conner earned

Corso, Gregory (1930–2001)

a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Ne- ure, characterized by a talent for irreverent humor,
braska in 1956 and arrived in San Francisco in surrealistic imagination, and a rebellion against so-
1957, where he met Wallace Berman and the ciety’s standard traditions and conventions. When
group of artists associated with him. the Beat Generation finally erupted into public
In assemblages, Conner brings together waste consciousness in the late 1950s, the mass media fo-
and scrap materials and often includes wax and cused its attention on three major figures as repre-
nylon stockings. “Child” (1959), now in the collec- sentatives of the group: Jack Kerouac, Allen Gins-
tion at the Museum of Modern Art in New York berg, and Gregory Corso. In part, this focus was
City, displays a charred, waxy baby that is shrouded because of the willingness of this trio to take on the
in nylon and fastened in a high chair. “Couch” task of challenging the social and literary mores of
(1963), now part of the collection at the Norton the time, but the central role of this trio of writers
Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, appears to was also a result of their ability to capture the re-
be a once dignified daybed made wretched through bellious spirit of the Beats.
wear and tear and an accumulation of paint. “Por- Corso, in particular, was able to captivate the
trait of Allen Ginsberg” (c. 1960–1961) is a pro- media’s fascination with the outré: his unconven-
foundly abstract gathering of debris, wax, and paint. tional behavior and surrealistic comments, more
Large images of these assemblages are shown in than the quality and nature of his writing, of which
Beat Culture and the New America 1950–1965, ed. many of the correspondents seemed unaware,
Lisa Phillips (1995) the book that serves as a record vaulted him onto a platform of prominence, and
of an exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 1995. Corso delighted in generating outrage, in daring to
Conner’s films include A Movie (1958), which snap a wet towel at society’s buttocks—and the
presents portions of previously made films edited so media smiled in indulgent patronization of his an-
as to create a subliminal commentary on the original tics. Time magazine published an article on the
films. Marilyn Times Five (1973) similarly inter- “Beatniks” of California’s Venice West and North
weaves selections from Marilyn Monroe’s various Beach and quoted a passage from his poem
films. “Bomb,” even titling the article “Bang Bong Bing,”
Conner laments that his work, which was some- an altered version of a passage from the poem, and
times sold in an unfinished state, has been modi- including a photograph of one of the Beat writ-
fied or “repaired” by subsequent owners or gallery ers—Corso. Newsweek provided an article on a
directors. 1959 symposium in New York City on the Beats,
—William Lawlor including one photograph, again of Corso. In the
same year, Mademoiselle featured an article on the
Bibliographical References Beats and included one poem: Corso’s “The Shake-
See Kristina McKenna, “Bruce Conner in the down.” In addition, a 1963 Time article on the gen-
Cultural Breach,” Los Angeles Times, 10 June trification of the Beats focused on Corso’s first mar-
1990; Rebecca Solnit, “Historical Constellations:
riage, without even mentioning his most famous
Notes on California, 1946–1961,” in Beat Culture
and the New America 1950–1965, ed. Lisa poem, “Marriage.”
Phillips, 1995, comments on Conner’s role in the Gregory Corso was born in Greenwich Village,
Assemblage movement. New York, on 26 March 1930. His mother aban-
See also Painting; Film; Berman, Wallace; DeFeo, Jay; doned the family before he was a year old, and
McClure, Michael Corso spent much of his childhood and early ado-
lescence in a variety of foster homes (briefly return-
ing to live with his father when the latter remar-
Corso, Gregory (1930–2001) ried), orphanages, and Catholic Boys’ homes,
Throughout the early years of the Beat movement, attending school only to the sixth grade. In 1942,
the poet Gregory Corso was a popular literary fig- charged with theft, he was sent to a Youth Home for

Corso, Gregory (1930–2001)

later introduced him to Jack Kerouac, William S.

Burroughs, and John Clellon Holmes. After itiner-
ant jobs as a cub reporter for the Los Angeles Ex-
aminer, a door-to-door salesman of tract homes in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and a merchant seaman
on a Norwegian ship, he moved to Cambridge,
Massachusetts, where he was a drop-in at Harvard
University. Here he published poems in local peri-
odicals and wrote a brief play, which was performed
by the Harvard Dramatic Workshop in 1955. The
same year, a group of local subscribers funded the
publication of his first collection of poems, The
Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems, an ap-
prentice work with some flashes of real, if stum-
bling, brilliance.
In the summer of 1956, he joined Ginsberg in San
Francisco, where Corso gave a reading at San Fran-
cisco State College, which led to an invitation by the
critic and poet Randall Jarrell to Washington, D.C.
Corso traveled first to Mexico City and then, after a
brief stay with Jarrell, went to New York before leav-
ing for Europe in 1957 for an extended stay, living
primarily in Paris for several years. By 1958, he had
begun taking heroin, and during the 1960s his ad-
diction had significantly affected his poetic output.
He returned to the United States at the end of 1958
and participated in a number of readings and per-
Beatnik poet Gregory Corso reading his work at a party.
formances with Ginsberg, including a benefit for Big
(Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Table and a presentation at Columbia University, be-
fore returning to Western Europe in mid-1959,
spending the following years wandering back and
four months, and then spent three months in the forth across the Atlantic. In January 1965, he taught
children’s observation ward of Bellevue Hospital. a course on Shelley at the State University of New
He spent most of the next few years living on the York at Buffalo but was dismissed for declining to
streets of New York, and in 1946 he organized a sign a certificate declaring nonaffiliation with com-
robbery heist of $21,000 and fled to Florida. Ar- munism required of New York teachers by the 1949
rested, he was sentenced in 1947 to Clinton Prison Feinberg law. Beginning in 1975, he taught sporad-
in Dannemora, New York, where he was incarcer- ically during summers at the Naropa Institute (now
ated for three years. Although this experience was Naropa University) in Boulder, Colorado.
traumatic for the young man, he also discovered the In 1958, Lawrence Ferlinghetti published
delights of classic literature, especially the works of Corso’s Gasoline in the City Lights Pocket Poets Se-
Percy Bysshe Shelley, in the prison library and ries. This volume, although containing such
began writing his own poetry. Released in 1950, overindulgent exercises as “Ode to Coit Tower” and
Corso found work doing manual labor in New “Sun,” showcases some of the poet’s brilliant short
York’s garment district, and in the Pony Stable, a works, including “Italian Extravaganza,” “Birth-
Greenwich Village bar, he met Allen Ginsberg, who place Revisited,” “This Was My Meal,” and “Last

Corso, Gregory (1930–2001)

Night I Drove a Car.” These and other brief poems ing—1975,” directly addresses Corso’s Beat connec-
in the volume reveal tight control of tone, telling tions and his drug dependency, as well as the latter’s
imagery, and canny wit. Later in the same year, Fer- effect on his poetic production, with defensiveness,
linghetti published as a broadside Corso’s “Bomb,” lack of conviction, and ambiguous apology. How-
a longer poem with a visual motif of a mushroom ever, many of the poems—especially “For Homer,”
cloud. This surreal poem caused a minor sensation “I Gave Away . . . ,” and “The Whole Mess . . . Al-
because of its celebration of the bomb in a transhis- most”—recapture the power, humor, and skill of his
torical and transgeographic setting. strongest earlier work.
In 1960, Corso published his remarkable collec- Corso’s last volume, Mindfield, appeared in 1989
tion The Happy Birthday of Death. This volume and included poems selected from his earlier
proclaims the poet as a major talent and contains books, previously uncollected poems, and several
many of Corso’s most important poems, including new poems. One of the new poems, “Field Re-
his most famous poem, “Marriage,” a whimsical and port,” an apparent pastiche of poetic fragments,
humorous exploration of the social conventions and has a tone and quality of literary farewell.
clichés of courtship, wedding, honeymoon, cohabi- Corso died of prostate cancer on 17 January
tation, and parenthood. The poem dances back and 2001 after extended illness, leaving behind a body
forth between the attractions of commitment and of work that is singular in its contributions to
social integration and the threats of loss of individ- humor in poetry, its experimental use of language
uality and the sacrifice of imaginative integrity. In and imagery, and its passionate celebration of
addition, in an innovative publishing feat, “Bomb” imagination and individuality in the midst of sti-
was included as a central foldout in the collection. fling convention. His ashes were buried at the foot
In 1961, Corso published The American Express, of Shelley’s grave in the Protestant Cemetery of
an experimental fabulist novel featuring a cast of Rome, Italy.
unconventional and discontented characters with —Michael Skau
parallels to the Beat writers of the 1950s. The fol-
lowing year saw the publication of Long Live Man, Principal Works
a disparate collection of homily-like poems lacking Poetry: The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other
the control of his previous volume of poetry. Poems, 1955; Gasoline, 1958; Bomb (broadside),
1958; The Happy Birthday of Death, 1960;
His 1970 collection Elegiac Feelings American
Selected Poems, 1962; Long Live Man, 1962; The
primarily included poems that had appeared in pe- Mutation of the Spirit: A Shuffle Poem, 1964;
riodicals between 1956 and 1963. Most noteworthy Elegiac Feelings American, 1970; Herald of the
are a number of newer long poems, including “The Autochthonic Spirit, 1981; Wings, Wands,
Geometric Poem,” whose holographic pages reveal Windows, 1982; Mindfield, 1989.
Corso’s revisions, and several poems that examine Novel: The American Express, 1961.
Film: Pull My Daisy, 1959.
the poet’s complex feelings toward America, atti-
Recording: Die on Me, 2002.
tudes especially evident in his elegies for John F. Letters: An Accidental Autobiography: The Selected
Kennedy (“Lines Written Nov. 22, 23—1963—in Letters of Gregory Corso, 2003.
Discord”) and for Jack Kerouac (“Elegiac Feelings
American”). Also notable in this volume is “Muta- Bibliographical References
tion of the Spirit” (originally published in 1964 as a Corso’s early autobiographical summary can be found
sheaf of nine poem pages, which Corso designed to in Donald Allen and George F. Butterick, eds., The
be read in chance order), a remarkable testimony Postmoderns: The New American Poetry Revised,
1982; other biographical materials can be found in
to the strength and persistence of the human spirit.
Carolyn Gaiser’s “Gregory Corso: A Poet the Beat
Corso’s next collection, Herald of the Au- Way,” in Thomas Parkinson, ed., A Casebook on
tochthonic Spirit, was more than ten years later, in the Beat, 1961, 266–75; Bruce Cook’s chapter “An
1981. The opening poem, “Columbia U Poesy Read- Urchin Shelley,” in his The Beat Generation, 1971;

Cowen, Elise (1933–1962)

Thomas McClanahan’s entry in American Poets lationship between Ginsberg and Cowen, referring
since World War II, Vol. 5, Part 1 of Dictionary of to Ginsberg as Irwin Garden and Cowen as Bar-
Literary Biography, 1980, and Marilyn Schwartz’s bara Lipp.
fine entry in The Beats: Literary Bohemians in
Cowen’s mother and father wanted the capstone
Postwar America, Vol. 16, Part 1 of the same
dictionary, 1983, and Neeli Cherkovski’s more of their success to be the flowering of their daugh-
personal “Revolutionary of the Spirit: Gregory ter, but Cowen never met their expectations. She
Corso,” in his Whitman’s Wild Children, 1988; had recurring problems with depression and men-
critical analysis of Corso’s works appears in tal illness; she did not perform consistently at the
Gregory Stephenson’s Exiled Angel: A Study of the university; she fell in with friends who were homo-
Works of Gregory Corso, 1989; Michael Skau’s “A
sexuals and drug users.
Clown in a Grave”: Complexities and Tensions in
the Works of Gregory Corso (which also includes a Despite her mental distress, Cowen was an active
thorough bibliography of Corso’s own intellectual. She studied French so that she could
publications), 1999; and Kirby Olson’s Gregory read Arthur Rimbaud in the original. The books she
Corso: Doubting Thomist, 2002; important, and favored included The Oxford Anthology of Greek
often very personal, interviews of Corso appear Poetry, The Poems of Dylan Thomas, Ezra Pound’s
with Allen Ginsberg in Journal for the Protection of
Pisan Cantos, Freud’s Introductory Lectures, and
All Beings 1 (1961): 79–83; with Michael Andre in
Unmuzzled Ox 2.1–2 (1973): n. p.; with Robert Voltaire’s Candide. For a university assignment, she
King in Arthur and Kit Knight, eds., The Beat attempted to fully explicate T. S. Eliot’s Four Quar-
Diary, 1977: 4–24; and with Gavin Selerie in The tets. She completed a degree at Barnard in 1956.
Riverside Interviews: 3—Gregory Corso, 1982. After treatment at Bellevue for depression,
See also Atomic Era; Cold War; Conformity; Film; Cowen returned to her parents’ home on Bennett
Marriage; Native American Cultures; Paris, The Avenue. Her parents had plans for a trip to Florida
Beats in to facilitate Cowen’s recuperation, but on 1 Febru-
ary 1962, Cowen leapt to her death from the win-
dow of her parents’ apartment.
Cowen, Elise (1933–1962) Tormented by the suicide and displeased by the
Poet; last girlfriend of Allen Ginsberg and typist for references to drugs and sex in Cowen’s writings,
the manuscript of “Kaddish”; friend of Joyce John- Cowen’s parents destroyed all of her works in their
son, who records Cowen’s life and tragic decline in possession; however, Leo Skir retained a collection
Come and Join the Dance (1962) and Minor Char- of poems and fragments at his home. Those poems
acters (1983). are the surviving record of Elise Cowen’s artistic
Born on Long Island in 1933, Cowen was the production.
daughter of well-to-do Jewish parents. The family —William Lawlor
took an apartment on Bennett Avenue in the Wash-
ington Heights area of Manhattan, and Cowen, ac- Bibliographical References
cepted at Barnard College, began her university See Joyce Johnson, Minor Characters, 1983, and
Joyce Glassman (Joyce Johnson) Come and Join
studies in the spring of 1952. While at Barnard,
the Dance, 1962. See also Leo Skir, Boychick,
Cowen met Joyce Johnson and Leo Skir; she also 1971; Herbert Huncke, Guilty of Everything: The
began an affair with philosophy professor Alex Autobiography of Herbert Huncke, 1990:
Greer, and through Greer, Cowen met Allen Gins- 127–143; Herbert Huncke, The Evening Sun
berg, whom she dated in 1953. Cowen developed Turned Crimson, 1980: 183–194; a compact
an unshakable desire for Ginsberg, and even after treatment of Cowen’s life and anguish is Leo Skir,
“Elise Cowen: A Brief Memoir of the Fifties,” in
Ginsberg declared his homosexual desires for
Brenda Knight, ed., Women of the Beat
Peter Orlovsky, Cowen persisted in her efforts to Generation, 1996. Knight’s collection also
be connected with Ginsberg. In Desolation Angels includes a biographical discussion of Elise
(1965), Jack Kerouac describes the problematic re- Cowen, selections of Cowen’s writings, and

Creeley, Robert (1926–2005)

bibliographical references to little magazines in of poets, including Charles Olson. Although the
which Cowen’s poetry appears. Additional magazine failed to materialize, Creeley continued a
samples of Cowen’s poetry are in Richard voluminous exchange of letters with Olson that was
Peabody, ed., A Different Beat, 1997. Allen
said by Creeley to occupy as much as eight hours
Ginsberg refers to Elise Cowen in his Journals:
Early Fifties, Early Sixties, ed. Gordon Ball, 1977; per day at its peak (published in Charles Olson and
Jack Kerouac gives his fictional interpretation of Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence, in
Elise Cowen in Desolation Angels, 1965. nine volumes, 1980–90). The aspiring poet was in-
See also Johnson, Joyce; Mental Illness vited by Olson to join the Black Mountain College
faculty in 1954, where he joined such poets as
Denise Levertov and Ed Dorn. To ensure Creeley’s
academic qualifications, Olson awarded him an un-
Creeley, Robert (1926–2005) dergraduate degree from the college. Creeley con-
Robert Creeley, one of the Black Mountain Poets, tinued his academic studies at the University of
is known for minimalist poetry that is explicitly self- New Mexico, where he earned a master of arts de-
conscious and that, incorporating rhythms and gree in 1960.
phrasings of speech, demands to be read aloud for Creeley collaborated with Olson in exploring a
full effect. In the 1950s, Creeley was invited by poet new approach to poetry while also editing the
Charles Olson, rector of Black Mountain College, Black Mountain Review. Both broke with tradi-
an experimental school in North Carolina, to join tional conventions and models while emphasizing
the faculty of writers and artists. There Creeley de- what they called “projective verse,” poetry in which
veloped his poetic style while also editing the pres- the form of a poem is a projection of the poet’s self-
tigious Black Mountain Review. He later estab- consciously personal subject matter.
lished a close relationship with such Beat writers as Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Creeley con-
Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in San Francisco. tinued to explore his intimate relationship with the
In his poetry, Creeley attempted to locate the moment, seeking the minimal essence of an expe-
essence of the present moment as he experienced rience, an approach that yielded a corresponding
it, a paring away that led to minimalism in wording minimalism in structure and wording. Many of his
and structure. He helped to divert poetry from its poems consist of short lines with a high percentage
past grounding in traditional conventions in favor of of monosyllabic words. Interacting with the Beat
a self-conscious examination of the poet’s immedi- poets, including Allen Ginsberg, encouraged atten-
ate thoughts and feelings. He also contributed to tion to performance-based poetry, with reading
the growing sense of poetry as performance that aloud required for a full appreciation of many of
marked some of the most innovative poetry of the Creeley’s poems. Subtle reflections of the rhythms
1950s and 1960s, including the work of Ginsberg, of the spoken word, along with muted rhyming eas-
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gary Snyder. ily missed when silently reading the words on
Robert Creeley was born on 21 May 1926 in Ar- paper, became prominent characteristics of his po-
lington, Massachusetts, and enrolled at Harvard etry. At the same time, he usually avoided such tra-
University in 1943. World War II intervened, and ditional devices as metaphor, irony, and inherited
Creeley left Harvard for wartime duty, driving am- stanzaic forms. His poetry, both then and later, is
bulances for the American Field Service in India often domestic, addressing important relationships
and Burma. He later returned to Harvard but did with family and friends.
not complete a degree. Donald Allen’s influential anthology The New
The defining period for Creeley as a poet oc- American Poetry: 1945–1960 (1960) included a se-
curred in 1950 when, with a friend, Jacob Leed, he lection of Creeley’s poetry. Creeley’s first major vol-
embarked on a plan to begin a poetry magazine. ume, For Love: Poems 1950–1960, appeared in 1962
That project led to correspondence with a number and was followed in 1967 by an expanded edition of

Cunningham, Merce

Words, first published two years earlier. Other im- Poet (1989–1991) and a chancellor of the Academy
portant volumes of poetry throughout the 1960s and of American Poets (1999–2002).
1970s included Pieces (1968), expanded and rere- —Edward J. Rielly
leased in 1969; Thirty Things (1974); Selected Poems
Bibliographical References
(1976); and Hello: A Journal, February 29–May 3,
Tom Clark, Robert Creeley and the Genius of the
1976 (1978). A more inclusive collection of poetry American Common Place, 1993; Cynthia
from these decades is The Collected Poems of Robert Edelberg, Robert Creeley’s Poetry: A Critical
Creeley, 1945–1975 (1982). He also published a Introduction, 1978: Ekbert Faas, with Maria
novel, The Island (1963); the collection of short sto- Trombacco, Robert Creeley: A Biography, 2001;
ries The Gold Diggers and Other Stories (1965); and Willard Fox, Robert Creeley, Edward Dorn, and
Robert Duncan: A Reference Guide, 1989.
a play, Listen, first produced in London in 1972 and
published the same year. See also Black Mountain, North Carolina, and Black
The 1979 volume Later marked a change in Cree- Mountain College; Little Magazines
ley’s approach. Departing from an almost exclusive
focus on the present moment, he turned increas-
ingly to the past and a reliance on memory. The fact Cunningham, Merce
of aging informs much of the poetry from the late Dancer and choreographer noted for spontaneous
1970s onward, drawing the poet into the process of and collaborative performances. Although not a
looking backward while growing older in order to Beat artist, his experimental approach to dance
understand one’s life as a whole. This expanded per- corresponds in various ways to the experimenta-
spective continues in subsequent collections, among tions of the Beats in writing and other forms.
them Mirrors (1983), Memory Gardens (1986), Born in Centralia, Washington, on 16 April 1919,
Windows (1990), Echoes (1994), Life & Death the son of Clifford Cunningham, a lawyer, and Mar-
(1998), and Just in Time: Poems 1984–1994 (2001). ion Cunningham, Merce Cunningham, according
The titles of some of these later collections are to his mother’s recollection, danced down the aisle
evocative of the poet’s growing sense of mortality of his family’s church at age four. At age eight, he
and the shortness of time. began lessons in tap dance. In high school, Cun-
By the end of the twentieth century, Creeley had ningham studied with Maud Barret, who opened
published more than sixty collections of poetry Cunningham’s mind to the possibility of dropping
along with several volumes of fiction and a wide rules and conventions.
range of critical nonfiction. Many of his essays were Cunningham spent a year at the University of
gathered in Collected Essays (1989). He also pub- Washington in Seattle in 1937 but transferred to the
lished an account of his own life, Autobiography Cornish School for Performing and Visual Arts. He
(1990). His editorial efforts included Whitman: Se- studied with Bonnie Bird, who taught the tech-
lected Poems (1973), The Essential Burns (1989), niques of Martha Graham. He met John Cage, a
and Charles Olson’s Selected Poems (1993). In ad- musician and composer, and began a lifelong part-
dition, he influenced generations of students nership in the arts. He spent summers at Mills Col-
through his teaching. After Black Mountain Col- lege in Oakland, California, where he was able to
lege, which he left in 1955, he taught at a school for study under Martha Graham. From 1939 to 1945,
boys in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the University he participated in Graham’s dance company in New
of British Columbia, Vancouver; the University of York City.
New Mexico; and, from 1965 on, the State Univer- In 1944, Cunningham gave his first solo dance
sity of New York at Buffalo. At Buffalo, he held sev- concert in New York. In 1947, he wrote a work for
eral positions of increasing honor, culminating in the New York Ballet.
that of Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and In 1953, he joined Black Mountain College and
Humanities in 1989. He also was New York State founded a company of six dancers. For this company,

Curriculum, Beats in the

John Cage and David Tudor were musicians. mance was not fixed and ranged from twenty min-
Robert Rauschenberg served as a set designer. In utes to almost two hours. The background was re-
1954, Cunningham’s dance company gave its first flective, as were the dancers’ costumes. The out-
New York performance, but the performance was come was unpredictable.
not reviewed. Cunningham showed that dance could be any-
In 1954, Cunningham won a Guggenheim fellow- thing. A dancer could stand still, ride a bike, or en-
ship. Despite this award, financial struggles always gage in any locomotion. Cunningham revolution-
imposed limits on productions and performances. ized the concept of dance as he moved dance from
He relied on the support of fellow artists often. the stage to gymnasiums and even Grand Central
In 1964, Cunningham and his company began a Station.
world tour, and from 1965 to 1968, the company By the 1980s, Cunningham had entered the
performed many times, both abroad and in the mainstream. His company offered a regular sum-
United States. mer season of performances.
Cunningham did not try to steer the thinking of —William Lawlor
his audience. He sought dance that was beyond in-
tention and aimed at discovery in the moment, in
Bibliographical References
the act of dance. The conventional structures of James Klosty, ed., Merce Cunningham, 1975,
dance, including conflict and resolution, or cause includes an introductory chapter and
and effect, did not suit Cunningham. He expected contributions by fellow dancers and collaborators,
dancers not to play roles but to be themselves. including John Cage. In The Dancer and the
Winterbranch (1963) was based on the motion of Dance: Merce Cunningham in Conversation with
Jacqueline Lesschaeve, 1985, one finds an
falling. The production included lights, but they
interview with Cunningham, who comments on
were not coordinated to highlight particular portions his own choreography. Ricard Kostelanetz, ed.,
of the dance. La Monte Young prepared an experi- Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Space and Time,
mental musical score of loud tape-recorded sounds. 1992, includes contributions by Cunningham’s
Story (1963) allowed dancers to approach a pile friends and colleagues, with selections
of clothing and make a selection; each dancer had representing each stage in Cunningham’s career.
to invent a dance based on the selected clothing. See also Dance; Black Mountain, North Carolina, and
Field Dances (1963) gave dancers the options of Black Mountain College; Cage, John
performing or not performing. Dancers chose their
own gestures and movements.
Variations V (1965) included sensors as part of Curriculum, Beats in the
the set; when dancers moved, they tripped sensors, Once excluded from university and high school cur-
which cued musicians to make sound. The set was ricula, the Beats are now present in diverse courses
experimental and included a TV, film images, a bi- in literature, history, political science, sociology, reli-
cycle, a gym mat, plastic plants, and furniture. gious studies, music, film, painting, photography,
How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run (1965) pre- dance, women’s studies, and many other subjects. A
sented readings of stories by John Cage. Dancers computer search based on the key words “Beat Gen-
responded to sports images. eration” and “syllabus” yields more than four thou-
During his career, Cunningham made collabora- sand items, many of them syllabi for classes dedi-
tion a prominent part of his work. Jasper Johns, cated, in whole or in part, to the artistry and cultural
Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, and influences of the Beat Generation.
Robert Morris all worked in conjunction with Cun- The proliferation of courses on the Beat Gener-
ningham. ation is ironic because in the 1950s neither teach-
Canfield (1969) was based on the card game ers nor the Beats themselves wanted the Beats in
known as solitaire. The duration of the perfor- the curriculum. Skeptical about the merit of Howl

Curriculum, Beats in the

Cadets at the Virginia Military Institute read Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg. (Photo by Gordon Ball)

and Other Poems (1956), On the Road (1957), and sistance from academics interested in rigor, disci-
Naked Lunch (1959), professors and academics pline, and the established canon.
dismissed such works as insubstantial material that Questions about the reputation of the Beats per-
was part of a passing fad. The Beats themselves re- sist despite distinctions such as the Pulitzer Prize,
jected boring academics who too often stood by as the National Book Award, and membership in the
hypocrisy, injustice, and militarism went forward. American Academy of Arts and Letters. During the
If being part of the curriculum meant being part of 1970s the study of the Beats occurred less fre-
courses taught by such academics, then exclusion quently in literature classes and more frequently in
from the curriculum was preferable. courses on sociology, history, and American stud-
Nevertheless, neither the academics nor the ies. However, as the 1980s drew to a close, a sub-
Beats kept Beats out of the classroom. John Tytell, stantial revival of interest in the Beats occurred,
who has taught classes on the Beat Generation and sales of their books were impressive, particu-
since the 1960s at Queens College of the City Uni- larly on college campuses. In the 1990s, New York
versity of New York, states that enrollment for University hosted two major conferences on the
courses on the Beats has always exceeded expecta- Beat Generation, and then the National Gallery
tions. Despite demand for the classes, course pro- and the Whitney Museum had exhibitions that
posals have faced some obstacles because the brought to light the diverse, interdisciplinary as-
checkered reputation of the Beats has sparked re- pects of the Beat movement.

Curriculum, Beats in the

Several key questions are central to the study of students, guiding them toward an understanding of
the Beat Generation. The first is the issue of the achievements of individual authors. Always con-
whether a Beat Generation actually exists. If the scious of the preservation of his teaching activities
Beat Generation consists of Kerouac, Ginsberg, for the future, Ginsberg arranged for video and
Burroughs, and a few others, then the Beat Genera- audio recordings and compiled many files of docu-
tion does not exist because a generation cannot be ments. These recordings and files are now part of
based on just a few people. On the other hand, if the the Ginsberg archive housed at Stanford University.
Beat Generation includes dozens and dozens of Numerous other figures from the Beat Genera-
artists, including not only writers but also dancers, tion have also taught about the Beats. Anne Wald-
painters, sculptors, musicians, then the Beat Gener- man, Diane di Prima, Gary Snyder, David Meltzer,
ation does not exist because the concept is too loose, and many others have offered classes. This core of
too vague. teachers is now greatly expanded. In 2000, a study
If one accepts that the Beat Generation exists, of college catalogs revealed 269 courses with spe-
then the definition of “Beat,” “beatnik,” “beati- cific references to the Beats in the course descrip-
tude,” and “Beat Generation” must be explored; in- tions. These data, however, represent only the tip of
deed, the history and evolution of these terms the iceberg because numerous classes that do not
bears consideration. Once such terms are defined, refer to Beats in their catalog descriptions, such as
one can proceed to distinguish fact from legend, “Contemporary Literature” or “Themes in Litera-
artistry from pop-culture impressions. ture,” nevertheless treat the Beats substantially in
Perhaps the greatest teacher of the Beat Gener- many cases.
ation was Allen Ginsberg. At Brooklyn College and —William Lawlor
the Naropa Institute, Ginsberg often gave classes Bibliographical References
on Beat literary history. He loved to collaborate College Literature 27.1 (Winter 2000) is a special
with others in the teaching process, and to make issue dedicated to the theme of teaching Beat
ideas rich and clear, he invited speakers and formed literature. To that issue, William Lawlor
contributes “A Compact Guide for Sources for
panels to discuss topics such as censorship and the
Teaching the Beats.” A more thorough treatment of
significance of particular writers. Students had the teaching the Beats is Lawlor’s The Beat Generation:
chance to hear about the Beats not only from Gins- A Bibliographical Teaching Guide, 1998.
berg, but also from Herbert Huncke, Michael Mc-
See also Whitney Museum Exhibition: Beat Culture
Clure, William S. Burroughs, and dozens of other and the New America 1950–1965; New York
friends who answered Ginsberg’s call for assistance. University Conferences on Beat Culture; Tytell,
Ginsberg gave bibliographical assignments to his John; Beat and Beatnik; Beatitude; Library Holdings

Dance consideration. Like the writers of the Beat Genera-
Avant-garde dance in the second half of the twenti- tion, who set aside rules for form and trusted the
eth century, like the Beat movement, was a reaction subconscious and spontaneous creativity, avant-
to established patterns and an exploration of new garde dancers refused to let logic dominate move-
possibilities in movement and presentation. Al- ment. Drawing from the same Black Mountain
though avant-garde dancers are not usually seen as teachings that influenced the Beats, avant-garde
representatives of the Beat movement, underlying dancers sought to follow the edict of Charles Olson
theories of creativity, including the abandonment of in his essay “Projective Verse,” which appeared in
conventional continuity and an emphasis on chance Human Universe (1951): “One perception must im-
and responses to the moment at hand, establish mediately and directly lead to a further perception.”
clear parallels. Avant-garde dancers came of age in Merce Cunningham was significant in advancing
a bohemian era cultivated by the Beats; the art of the principles of avant-garde dance. He studied
William S. Burroughs influenced dancers, and the anatomy and the motions associated with each
interdisciplinary interests of Diane di Prima created body part. Once he developed an inventory of
interaction among Beat poets, Beat dramatists, and movements, he experimented with simultaneous
avant-garde dancers. presentations of ordinary and extraordinary mo-
In the late 1920s, dance was primarily theatrical, tions. To determine the direction and duration for
and movements in dance were symmetrical and motion, Cunningham relied on chance. He also
delicate. The repertoire of movements for such per- was open to motionlessness as part of dance.
formances proved unsatisfactory for a new group of Like Cunningham, Katherine Litz and Sybil
dancers, many of whom studied under Martha Gra- Shearer juxtaposed typical and atypical bodily move-
ham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman. The ments; however, as these dancers made their juxta-
new dancers expressed social protest and psycho- posed movements into part of a passage through a
logical complexities through distortions of ordinary dance space, the atypical movements became less
motion; the dancers’ method was parallel to the pronounced. Alwin Nikolais, like Cunningham,
work of abstract painters who distorted the human studied motions associated with particular actions;
form in their work to express emotions. by removing the motions from their standard con-
Eventually, however, the expression of emo- texts, Nikolais isolated motion and made it the focus
tion—or social commentary—lost its appeal, yet the of art. Paul Taylor allowed time and space to influ-
new repertoire of movements retained value. ence his style of motion: a dancer might begin move-
Dancers sought to make motion itself the primary ment across a dance space with common motion and


Merce Cunningham, the founder of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and a pioneer in modern dance, rehearses
with his dance group, 1957. (Charles E. Rotkin/Corbis)

shift to uncommon motion after a particular dura- phy was furthered when Merce Cunningham com-
tion or upon reaching a particular point in the dance bined with composer John Cage. Agreeing on a par-
space. ticular duration for a collaborative work, Cage con-
George Balanchine carried avant-garde dance ceived music independently while Cunningham
forward with his resourceful invention of new worked out movement. In performance, music
movements, but Balanchine coordinated his ges- combined with dance only by chance, and rules of
tures with musical scores. In response to Balan- continuity went unobserved.
chine, Merle Marsicano sought to reduce the au- In the summer of 1962 at the Judson Memorial
thority of music over dance by choosing music that Church in Greenwich Village, New York, avant-
downplayed emotion and did not draw attention to garde dance entered a new phase. The rise of the
itself. The disconnection of music from choreogra- Beat culture in the United States gave new empha-

de Kooning, Willem (1904–1997)

sis to the bohemian lifestyle in Greenwich Village, Bibliographical References

and this atmosphere created new possibilities in For a review of the founders of the avant-garde in
dance. Happenings were occurring, and Pop Art dance, see Selma Jeanne Cohen, “Avant-garde
Choreography,” Criticism 3 (Winter 1961): 16–35;
was on the rise. Influenced by the collaboration of
this article reappeared in Dance Magazine as a
Cunningham and Cage, avant-garde dancers three-part study published in 1962 in the June,
turned away from music and toward dance con- July, and August issues. The development of
certs. Chance was allowed to rule, and everyday ac- avant-garde dance in the Judson Dance Theater is
tivity became the dancer’s point of focus. explained in Sally Banes, Democracy’s Body,
Communication with James Waring led to inter- 1983. Merce Cunningham (1975), ed. James
Klosty, includes an introductory chapter and
action among avant-garde dancers, members of the
contributions from fellow dancers and
Living Theater, and people involved with Diane di collaborators, including John Cage.
Prima and Alan Marlowe in the New York Poets
See also Cunningham, Merce; Black Mountain, North
Theater. In The Floating Bear, a mimeographed
Carolina, and Black Mountain College; Cage, John
journal published by di Prima and LeRoi Jones, re-
views of avant-garde dance concerts appeared often.
These interactions reinforced and carried for-
de Kooning, Willem (1904–1997)
ward ideas. Dancers intended not to tell a story, not
Painter and sculptor, pioneer of Abstract Expres-
to express emotion. The audience was important,
sionism, and influential as a forerunner of Pop Art,
but gratifying the expectations of the audience was
de Kooning, along with Jackson Pollock, was one of
not. Instead of trying to make movement “mean”
the leading avant-garde artists whose reputation
something, movement itself was the object of art.
and influence helped to make New York the center
Even the absence of movement could be consid-
of artistic innovation after World War II.
ered dance. Both William Burroughs and avant-
Born in Rotterdam and formally trained as a com-
garde dancers took inspiration from the Dadaists,
mercial artist and designer, de Kooning emigrated to
and avant-garde dancers found that Burroughs’s
the United States and settled in New York in 1927.
Naked Lunch demonstrated possibilities for an an-
From the 1920s to the 1940s, he created experi-
tinovel that could help a dancer arrive at an anti-
mental and abstract still lifes. He worked for the
dance. Charlie Parker’s improvisational jazz style
Federal Art Project from 1935 to 1937 and had his
also suggested to dancers that art could be discov-
first one-man show at age forty-four in 1948. Best
ered in the midst of performance.
known for his Women series, of the 1950s, de Koon-
In March 1962, a Poets Festival was held at the
ing’s impressionistic style was influenced by Cubism
Maidman Playhouse on 42nd Street in Manhattan.
and Surrealism, and his own work influenced lead-
The program included music, happenings, films,
ing artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert
and dance concerts. The event was reviewed in var-
Rauschenberg. De Kooning died of natural causes
ious newspapers and journals, with one reviewer
in East Hampton, New York, on 19 March 1997, fol-
noting the presence of beatniks, another expressing
lowing a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease.
distaste, and another revealing openness to the ex-
—Gary Kerley
From these beginnings one may trace the per-
Bibliographical References
formances of Yvonne Rainer, who creates a dialec-
Sally Yard, Willem de Kooning, 1997; Diane
tical combination of grotesque and ordinary move- Waldman, Willem de Kooning, 1988; George
ments; the work of Steve Paxton, who emphasizes Scrivani, ed., The Collected Writings of Willem de
quotidian activities, such as walking or eating; and Kooning, 1988; Harry F. Gaugh, Willem de
the efforts of Robert Morris, whose use of props Kooning, 1983; T. B. Hess, Willem de Kooning,
connected history and dance. 1959.
—William Lawlor See also Rauschenberg, Robert; Painting

DeFeo, Jay (1929–1989)

DeFeo, Jay (1929–1989) the career and personality of DeFeo, appears in

Avant-garde painter in San Francisco noteworthy es- the New York Times, 10 October, 2003; Rebecca
pecially for The Rose, a long-term project begun in Solnit, “Heretical Constellations: Notes on
California 1946–1961” in Beat Culture and the
1958 and continued until 1966, when DeFeo was
New America 1950–1965, ed. Lisa Phillips, 1995,
compelled to vacate her apartment and had to re- includes commentary on DeFeo’s work and
move the massive work. When The Rose was dis- career and features a large photo of “The Rose.”
played at the Whitney Museum in New York City in
See also Whitney Museum Exhibition: Beat Culture
1995, specifications indicated that through years of and the New America 1950–1965; Conner, Bruce;
accumulated painting and embedding, DeFeo had San Francisco; Painting
created an abstract assemblage eleven inches thick,
about eleven feet tall, and around eight feet wide.
The painting (or sculpture) weighed about a ton. Denver, Colorado
DeFeo was born Joan DeFeo on 31 March 1929. In 1947, a year after Jack Kerouac and Neal Cas-
She attended the University of California, Berkeley sady met in New York City, Kerouac and Allen
(1946–1950), and with a Sigmund Martin Heller Ginsberg decided to spend the summer with Cas-
Traveling Fellowship (1951–1952) from Berkeley, sady in Denver. Although Cassady had been born
she traveled to Florence, Italy, and Paris, France, in Salt Lake City, he had grown up in the Curtis
where she studied and experienced numerous Park neighborhood in Denver. For Kerouac and
works of art. She was married to fellow artist Wally Ginsberg, Cassady himself was enough of a reason
Hedrick. to spend a few months in Denver. Kerouac was, of
DeFeo’s apartment at 2332 Fillmore Street in San course, fascinated by the Beat prototype that he
Francisco was a gathering point for various artists, recognized in Cassady, and even though Cassady
including Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Michael Mc- was married to his first wife, LuAnne Henderson,
Clure, Joanna McClure, Jack Spicer, and Ed Moses. and had just become romantically involved with
In 1954, she exhibited her work at The Place in Carolyn Robinson, who would become his second
San Francisco. In 1957, she showed her work at the wife, Ginsberg made no secret of his own sexual at-
Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. In 1959, her work traction to Cassady.
(and the work of Wally Hedrick) was displayed Denver was an interesting place and convenient
alongside the works of Jasper Johns, Robert base for the Beats for other reasons as well. They
Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella at the Museum of spent most of their time in Denver in the Larimer
Modern Art in New York as part of an exhibit titled Street district of the city, a skid-row area that over
“16 Americans.” the past several decades has gradually been razed
After her death from cancer in Oakland, Califor- until almost nothing now remains of it. When they
nia, on 11 November 1989, the Whitney Museum were in Denver, however, it was a colorfully seedy
hosted exhibitions (1995 and 2003). In 2004, at the area full of eccentric characters and idiosyncratic
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, a sympo- establishments. Nearby was the Five Points dis-
sium titled “Jay DeFeo: Myth and Reality” included trict. Long a predominantly African American
a screening of Bruce Conner’s film The White Rose neighborhood, it included the well-known Rosson-
(1967), which documented the removal of The Rose ian Hotel, as well as a number of smaller clubs that
from the Fillmore Street apartment. featured live jazz performances.
—William Lawlor Moreover, as the Beat writers established them-
selves in New York and San Francisco, Denver be-
came a natural stopover in their transcontinental
Bibliographical References
See Jay DeFeo and The Rose, eds. Jane Green and jaunts and a base for their journeys south to visit
Leah Levy, 2003; Michael Kimmelman’s “An William S. Burroughs in Mexico. Kerouac was so
Obsession: Now Excavated,” which summarizes enamored of Denver that he used his advance for

di Prima, Diane (1934–)

The Town and the City to buy a modest home on ouac’s descent from Desolation Peak, a review of
West Center Avenue in Lakewood, a town just west On the Road (1957) in the New York Times made
of Denver. When he attempted to relocate, how- Kerouac famous overnight.
ever, his family felt more dislocated than at home, —William Lawlor
and Kerouac soon gave up the idea of using the city
as a more permanent base. Bibliographic References
Finally, in the 1940s and 1950s, Denver was See James Jones, Jack Kerouac’s Nine Lives, 2001;
home to a number of vibrant small presses, most John Suiter, Poets on the Peaks, 2002.
notably Alan Swallow’s independent publishing See also Mountains, Beats in the
company. These book publishers and literary jour-
nals were receptive to the work of new writers, in-
cluding the Beats—with Swallow, for instance, di Prima, Diane (1934–)
publishing the work of Harold Norse and the first Prolific writer, founder of the Poets Press, and
studies of Kenneth Patchen’s work. coeditor of The Floating Bear, Diane di Prima de-
—Martin Kich fied the expectations of family, friends, and soci-
ety—she pursued the path of a woman writer dur-
Bibliographical References ing a time when that was an anomaly, and she is
The experiences of the Beats in Denver have been thus considered the archetypal Beat woman. Dur-
chronicled in Neal Cassady, The First Third, 1971 ing her connection with the Beat movement, di
(rev. ed. 1981); in Kerouac’s On the Road, 1957, Prima clearly struggled within the confines of that
and Visions of Cody, 1972, and in Ginsberg’s
male-dominated ideology: she at times was slighted
Howl and Other Poems, 1956, and “Denver
Doldrums.” A virtual “Beat Tour” of the city is for having children and often was not invited to po-
available at http://www.denvergov.org/ etry readings with her male counterparts, even
AboutDenver/today_driving_beat.asp though she published alongside them, simply be-
See also Cassady, Carolyn; Cassady, Neal; Ginsberg, cause of her status as a woman writer. Yet di Prima
Allen; Kerouac, Jack never sacrificed her identity. She survives as a work-
ing writer, one whose bibliography includes poetry,
memoirs, and drama. By writing about personal ex-
Desolation Peak periences, whether symbolically or overtly, di Prima
A mountaintop in the state of Washington where has created a body of literature that exudes an ardor
Jack Kerouac spent sixty-three days in solitude in toward the transgression of limits. Her oeuvre
the summer of 1956 as a fire lookout for the U.S. stands as a testament to the provocative nature of
Agriculture Department. At an elevation of more the Beat Generation.
than 6,000 feet, Kerouac lived in a small cabin that Born on 6 August 1934 in Brooklyn, New York,
offered panoramic views of surrounding mountains di Prima is a second-generation Italian American.
and bodies of water, including Mount Hozomeen Domenico Malozzi, her maternal grandfather, was
(8,080 feet) and Ross Lake. The names of sur- an anarchist and atheist, and di Prima spent the
rounding mountains are sometimes innocuous, as early years of her life listening to Italian opera and
in Jack Mountain or Golden Horn, but names such reading Dante with him. She grew up during
as Mount Terror, Mount Fury, Mount Despair, and World War II and went to Catholic school at St.
Mount Challenger reveal the demands of the envi- Mary’s until age thirteen.
ronment. Kerouac’s experience impressed him so Di Prima attended Manhattan’s all-girls Hunter
deeply that he referred substantially to Desolation High School; while there she studied French and
Peak in four books: The Dharma Bums (1958), Latin, read Nietzsche and Wolfe, and ran the liter-
Desolation Angels (1965), Book of Blues (1995), ary magazine. She discovered the English Roman-
and Lonesome Traveler (1960). Shortly after Ker- tics, and with a passion for Keats at age fourteen,

di Prima, Diane (1934–)

she vowed to be a poet. During the summer child, for whom di Prima, a single mother, assumed
months, she took typing classes and studied at responsibility.
Washington Irving High School. She then attended Di Prima published her first book of poems, This
Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. After a year Kind of Bird Flies Backward, in 1958, only a year
and a half, she and some friends dropped out and after Kerouac’s On The Road introduced readers to
headed for New York City’s Greenwich Village. By the Beat milieu. She published this collection of
the spring of 1953, di Prima had her own apart- poems with LeRoi and Hettie Jones’s Totem Press,
ment on the Lower East Side and continued her and the work includes an introduction by
education, taking courses at various schools and be- Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The writing and publishing
ginning her life as a working writer. of This Kind of Bird Flies Backward, simultaneous
Along with Keats, Ezra Pound had a great influ- with the publication of “Howl” and On The Road,
ence on di Prima. During the midfifties, she estab- marks di Prima as a Beat writer not because of her
lished correspondence with Pound, visiting him a connection with Ginsberg and Kerouac, but be-
few times during his stay at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital cause of the new bohemian vision she shared with
in Washington, D.C. Di Prima also exchanged let- them. This Kind of Bird Flies Backward themati-
ters with Kenneth Patchen. By 1956, she began cor- cally focuses on identities of the self as defined
responding with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen through the discourses of love, birth, and death; di
Ginsberg as well, and a year later she met Ginsberg, Prima weaves her words between the identities of
Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, and Jack Kerouac single mother and hip Village poet.
in New York. The same year, 1957, she had her first This Kind of Bird Flies Backward subtly ges-
tures toward what di Prima’s next publication, Din-
ner and Nightmares (1961), more clearly accom-
plishes: a prosaic presentation of the humor and
horror prevalent in the domestic spaces of strug-
gling artists and writers. Dinners and Nightmares,
one of di Prima’s more famous publications, ex-
plores the creativity that lies within the life of the
Beat artist. In this work, she plainly places domes-
ticity and femininity into Beat poetry; thus Dinners
and Nightmares can be considered the highlight of
di Prima’s publications as Beat woman writer be-
cause it successfully works alongside, yet so
unashamedly transcends, the masculine values of
the Beat aesthetic.
Along with the publication of Dinners and
Nightmares in 1961, di Prima cofounded the New
York Poets Theatre with LeRoi Jones and other
artists. She also began editing The Floating Bear
with Jones. The Floating Bear published works by
writers such as William Burroughs and Gary Sny-
der. As editors of that free literary newsletter, di
Prima and Jones were arrested and charged with
obscenity (although this case was thrown out by a
grand jury). During this time, di Prima and Jones
Diane di Prima is a poet, prose writer, playwright, and ed- broke off the intimate affair they began years ear-
itor. (Christopher Felver/Corbis) lier; Jones is the father of di Prima’s second child.

di Prima, Diane (1934–)

Also in the sixties, di Prima began studying Zen Translation: Seven Love Poems from the Middle
Buddhism and lived for a while at Timothy Leary’s Latin, 1965.
farm in Millbrook, New York. By 1968, di Prima Memoirs: Memoirs of a Beatnik, 1969; Memoirs of a
Beatnik (revised edition), 1988; Recollections of
moved to San Francisco and began work with the
My Life as a Woman: The New York Years, 2001.
Diggers, an anarchist street theater group. During Drama: Zip Code: The Collected Plays of Diane di
this time, she wrote Revolutionary Letters, a se- Prima, 1992.
quence of poems later published by City Lights
Olympia Press published Memoirs of a Beatnik Bibliographical References
George F. Butterick provides a biography of di
in 1969. In this memoir, di Prima celebrates Beat
Prima in The Beats: Literary Bohemians in
existence through a female lens. Chronicling her Postwar America, Vol. 16, Parts 1 and 2 of
encounters with lovers and describing her 1957 in- Dictionary of Literary Biography, edited by Ann
troduction to Ginsberg, Orlovsky, Corso, and Ker- Charters, 1983; Michael Davidson analyzes the
ouac, Memoirs of a Beatnik aptly describes the poetry of di Prima and other San Francisco
game of “cool” Beat women were expected to play. writers in his book, The San Francisco
Renaissance: Poetics and Community at Mid-
Although it is certainly a (s)exploitation of di
Century, 1989; Girls Who Wore Black: Women
Prima’s writing abilities and a parody of the clichéd Writing the Beat Generation, 2002, includes an
image of a beatnik, Memoirs of a Beatnik brilliantly article by Anthony Libby, “Diane di Prima:
captures bohemian living for the reader. ‘Nothing Is Lost; It Shines in Our Eyes,’” which
Loba, di Prima’s epic poem that began in 1971, discusses a range of works from di Prima’s oeuvre;
shows di Prima as one who has survived the strug- Brenda Knight’s Women of the Beat Generation:
The Writers, Artists, and Muses at the Heart of a
gling essence of a woman writer and who is thus
Revolution, 1996, devotes a section to di Prima
prepared to examine the universal experience of a and her writing, titled “Diane di Prima, Poet
multilayered female life-principle. Although Loba Priestess”; David Meltzer, Marina Lazzara, and
is surely well beyond di Prima’s existence as Beat James Brook published an in-depth interview
writer, its exploration into feminine mythology with di Prima in the book San Francisco Beat:
stands as a reminder of the Beat Generation’s ded- Talking with the Poets, 2001; Ann Charters
analyzes Loba in an article titled “Diane di Prima
ication to spiritual investigation.
and the Loba Poems: Poetic Archetype as Spirit
Di Prima has been a teacher of many and has Double,” published in Beat Indeed! 1985, and
carried the Beat torch of community and experi- Peter Warshall interviewed di Prima regarding
ence into the millennium. She continues to share her writing of Loba in “The Tapestry of
her works with others in print and performance Possibility,” published in Whole Earth 98 (Fall
and often offers writing workshops in the San 1999): 20–22; Amy L. Friedman’s “‘Being here as
hard as I could’: The Beat Generation Women
Francisco area.
Writers,” published in Discourse 20.1 and 2
—Dawn M. Janke (Winter and Spring 1998): 229–244, offers insight
into di Prima’s role as woman writer of that
Principal Works
milieu, as does Alix Kates Shulman’s “Women
Poetry: This Kind of Bird Flies Backward, 1958;
Writers in the Beat Generation” published in
Dinners and Nightmares, 1961; The New
Moody Street Irregulars 28 (Fall 1994): 3–9;
Handbook of Heaven, 1963; Earthsong, 1968;
Joyce Johnson’s “Beat Queens: Women in Flux”
Kerhonkson Journal 1966, 1971; Revolutionary
and Hettie Jones’s “Babes in Boyland,” both
Letters, 1971; The Calculus of Variation, 1972;
published in The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats:
Freddie Poems, 1974; Selected Poems: 1956–1975,
The Beat Generation and American Culture,
1975; Brass Furnace Going Out: Song after an
1999, also offer commentary on the role women
Abortion, 1975; Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems,
played in the Beat movement.
1990; Seminary Poems, 1991; Loba (Parts 1–16:
Books I and II), 1998; Dinners and Nightmares See also Censorship; Baraka, Amiri; Little Magazines;
(expanded edition), 1998. Jones, Hettie

Dorn, Edward (1929–1999)

Dorn, Edward (1929–1999) 1975 (republished as Gunslinger, 1989); Collected

One of the most significant Black Mountain poets, Poems: 1956–1974, 1975; Hello, La Jolla, 1978.
Edward Dorn is distinguished among his contem- Prose: The Shoshoneans, 1966; The Rites of Passage,
1965 (republished as By the Sound, 1971); Some
poraries as a strikingly political voice. He was born
Business Recently Transacted in the White World,
in Villa Grove, Illinois, on 2 April 1929. He spent 1971; The Poet, the People, the Spirit, 1976; Way
some time at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and West: Stories, Essays & Verse Accounts,
had a brief stay at Eastern Illinois University, where 1963–1993, 1993.
he met Ray Obermayr, a professor who told him
about Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Bibliographical References
Partly in an effort to avoid being sent to Korea, The most recent biography is Tom Clark, Edward
Dorn: A World of Difference, 2002; a short
Dorn, who was interested in painting, went to
biography is William McPheron, Edward Dorn,
Black Mountain College in 1951, before Charles 1988; an excellent discussion of Gunslinger is
Olson became the rector. Dorn left after a short James K. Elmborg, “A Pageant of Its Time”:
time, but returned in the fall of 1954, studying with Edward Dorn’s “Slinger” and the Sixties, 1998.
Olson and becoming one of the few people to take See also Black Mountain, North Carolina, and Black
a degree from the college. Robert Creeley was his Mountain College
outside examiner.
When Dorn moved to San Francisco in 1956,
Kenneth Rexroth became his mentor, and Dorn Drugs
met Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Like Gins- More than any other community of American writ-
berg, he was a baggage clerk at the Greyhound Bus ers, the Beats used various drugs to attain spiritual
Terminal. Unfortunately, Dorn became involved in enlightenment and to gain aesthetic inspiration.
the controversy surrounding Robert Creeley’s af- Their receptiveness to drug experimentation de-
fair with Marthe Rexroth. Dorn was also a player in rived from their interest in African American jazz
the Merwin incident at Naropa in 1977. He was culture and the hipster culture of underground,
close to LeRoi Jones, who published Dorn’s first urban America. Although the Beat writers had var-
collection of poems. Jones (now Amiri Baraka) ious opinions regarding drug use as it pertained to
thought of Dorn as one of the most intelligent men their artistic endeavors, and although not all the
he had ever met and one of the few white men who writers associated with the Beats believed in its im-
understood him. Although they continued to corre- portance, drug use was seminal to the Beat move-
spond, they had a falling out over one of Dorn’s ment. William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and
poems. Dorn taught at Idaho State University at Jack Kerouac used drugs to inspire their artistic
Pocatello, the University of Essex, the University of output. Their most inspirational works, Naked
California at Riverside and at La Jolla, and the Uni- Lunch, “Howl,” and On the Road, respectively, can
versity of Colorado. His comic epic poem Gun- be read as the products of drug-induced states. As
slinger, which he started writing as a visiting pro- the Beat movement became more of a West Coast
fessor at Essex and wrote over several years, is one phenomenon in the late 1950s and early 1960s, hal-
of the neglected masterpieces of twentieth-century lucinogens replaced marijuana, Benzedrine, and
poetry. Dorn died in Denver, Colorado, on 10 De- heroin as the drugs of choice. Timothy Leary and
cember 1999 after losing his battle with pancreatic Ken Kesey, figures closely associated with and in-
cancer. spired by the Beats, attempted to promote hallu-
—Kurt Hemmer cinogens, with the support of Ginsberg, for social
change. Although there were drug casualties among
Principal Works them, some of the Beats continued their adherence
Poetry: The Newly Fallen, 1961; Hands Up!, 1964; to the benefit of drug-induced mind alteration well
Recollections of Gran Apacheria, 1974; Slinger, into old age.


African American jazz culture and the Times kind. Huncke became the model for the downtrod-
Square hipster culture (introduced to the Beats by den, underground figure wrongly rejected by soci-
Herbert Huncke) provided the Beats with access to ety that the Beats chose to champion. He con-
drug scenes that were prevalent in these environ- firmed for the Beats that kindness of soul did not
ments. The jazz genius Charlie Parker, who was one necessarily correspond to conformist attitudes. De-
of the great artistic inspirations for Kerouac, was a siring to enter into the criminal world already in-
notorious drug user. Another catalyst for the Beats’ habited by Huncke, Burroughs was inspired to try
involvement with drugs was Rimbaud’s belief in the one of the stolen morphine tartrate Syrettes he had
systematic derangement of the senses as a method tried to sell Huncke during their first encounter.
to escape the confines of society’s ideological chains. Burroughs’s early experiences as a junky were used
This attitude posited that ideologies established by as the basis for his first novel, Junky (1953), origi-
the dominant culture could control the senses, and nally published as Junkie under the pseudonym
that what was required to dismantle this control was William Lee by Ace Books. Subtitled Confessions of
the breakdown of the body’s perceptions manufac- an Unredeemed Drug Addict, it was sold as part of
tured by society. This dismantling was done in an ef- “two books in one” with the reprint of Maurice Hel-
fort to confront the reality the manufactured senses brant’s Narcotics Agent. Although drug use pro-
concealed. Drugs were used as tools to break vided the material for Junky, it was not until Bur-
through to a higher, more profound consciousness. roughs began the writings that became his most
The drugs of choice for the Beats living in New York famous novel, Naked Lunch (1959), that drug use
City in the 1940s were marijuana, Benzedrine, and had a profound influence on Burroughs’s creative
heroin. Hallucinogens became more prevalent as process. Burroughs’s drug use gave him the free-
the hub of the Beat scene became established on the dom finally to find his own voice. Unhindered by
West Coast in the late 1950s. aesthetic and moral constraints while writing cer-
The Beats generally believed society’s fear of il- tain sections of what would become the novel, Bur-
licit drug use was both hypocritical and calculated. roughs explored, via drugs, the intriguing and often
Those against the free use of drugs had no moral horrifying images that had previously been hidden
ground as long as they continued to accept the sale in his unconscious. The result was one of the most
and distribution of harmful legal drugs. A conspir- astonishing and disturbing books of the twentieth
acy theory was conceived by some of those in the century.
counterculture. Certain drugs were prohibited Although Naked Lunch can be read as a book ar-
from the masses, they believed, not because of the guing against the use of addictive drugs, it has prob-
government’s concern over the well-being of its cit- ably inspired as much drug experimentation as it
izens, but because of the government’s fear over has deterred. With the publication of Naked Lunch
losing control over citizens’ thoughts and lifestyles if and its ensuing censorship trials, Burroughs be-
certain illegal drugs were consumed. In reaction to came a famous junky. His face was on the cover of
the containment culture, the Beats saw experimen- the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
tation with drugs as a necessary attempt to avoid album and he was invited to Mick Jagger’s wedding
what they considered to be the mental shackles of to Bianca. In the 70s, when Burroughs lived in the
society. apartment known as the Bunker, he became the
The most notorious Beat drug user was William grandfather of the new punk movement as musi-
S. Burroughs. Burroughs’s first experiments with cians, such as Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, David Bowie,
hard drugs can be traced back to his meeting Her- and Deborah Harry, came to pay homage. Unfortu-
bert Huncke in the mid-40s. Huncke was a crucial nately, many fans also wanted to use drugs with
figure in influencing the Beats’ attitudes toward Burroughs. As heroin prices plummeted on the
drugs. A Times Square hustler and habitual drug streets of New York in 1979, Burroughs renewed a
user, Huncke was not only intelligent, but genuinely habit that he would not kick until just before he left


to live in Lawrence, Kansas in 1981. Even while in a Harvard professor who had experimented with
Kansas, Burroughs received visits by drug enthusi- psychedelic mushrooms in 1960 and experimented
asts. Kurt Cobain visited Burroughs in 1993, and successfully with psilocybin, the active ingredient
the following year committed suicide after taking a in the mushrooms, on prison inmates. Ginsberg
large dose of heroin. It is arguable that Burroughs and Leary, whose mantra was “Turn On, Tune In,
became such an important countercultural icon as Drop Out,” organized a series of drug experiments
much for his drug use as his writings. The irony is with psilocybin pills in an effort to gain support in
that Burroughs spent his life trying to fight against the artistic community for the public use of hallu-
being controlled. This effort ultimately led to his ex- cinogens. Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Dizzy
perimentation with drugs and his addiction. His ad- Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk were the first to
diction helped him theorize about the concept of partake in the experiment and were later joined by
control, but it also pigeonholed him as a gentleman Robert Lowell, Charles Olson, Barney Rosset, Bur-
junky to many of his admirers and detractors. Some roughs, and Kerouac. Resolute in his opinion that
say that Burroughs would not have become a writer hallucinogens were not the answer, Kerouac
had it not been for the encouragement of Ginsberg quipped, “Walking on water wasn’t built in a day,”
and Kerouac. Burroughs himself wrote that he a phrase he later included in Satori in Paris (108).
would not have become a writer had it not been for A decade earlier, Kerouac’s use of alcohol, mari-
his accidental shooting of his wife Joan in Mexico in juana, and Benzedrine helped create a good por-
1951. Yet another argument can be made that Bur- tion of his own work. Some scholars have specu-
roughs would not have become a writer had it not lated that the famous 1951 scroll draft of On the
been for his drug use. Road, composed in a manic three-week burst, was
Burroughs is arguably the junky par excellence, the result of Kerouac’s own experimentation with
but Allen Ginsberg was the leading Beat proponent drugs. Supposedly, he slept rarely, typed continu-
of drug use as a means of establishing a new mass ously, and went through dozens of sweat-soaked T-
consciousness. Although Burroughs’s addiction to shirts. This description suggests, as many believe,
heroin eventually led him to see the horrors of con- that Kerouac’s novel was written while he was using
trol, Ginsberg’s extensive drug experimentation in- Benzedrine. The Sampas family, heirs and promot-
spired him to imagine a new collective conscious- ers of the Kerouac estate, steadfastly deny that
ness. In 1948, he experienced his Blake visions, a Kerouac used anything stronger than coffee when
series of auditory and mystical sensations that con- producing the text. Whether or not this claim is
vinced him to pursue the elimination of his ordinary true, Kerouac was not the drug advocate that some
consciousness in an effort to embrace a spiritual of his acolytes became. By the end of the 1960s,
consciousness through drug use. This pursuit dom- with the help of Leary and Ginsberg, millions of
inated the next fifteen years of his life. The major Americans had experimented with LSD. It was not
works of Ginsberg’s career were partially influenced until 1963 while in India that Ginsberg, inspired by
by his belief in the creative benefits of drugs. Part the advice of various gurus, decided to give up on
II of “Howl” was inspired by the horrifying experi- his attempt to reproduce the Blake visions, and
ences Ginsberg had with Peter Orlovsky while on Buddhism eventually replaced drug use as Gins-
peyote. Using a combination of heroin, liquid berg’s source for attaining universal harmony.
Methedrine, and Dexedrine tablets, Ginsberg Leary, considered the “High Priest” of LSD, con-
began composing “Kaddish.” The success of his po- tinued to administer drug experiments in order to
etic skills while on various substances convinced attain spiritual enlightenment. While Leary revered
Ginsberg that he was on the right path. drug use as a religious experience, Ken Kesey and
In 1961, Ginsberg, having complete faith in his the Merry Pranksters, who took off across America
own drug experiences, started to conceive of a psy- with Neal Cassady, an amphetamines user with in-
chedelic revolution with Timothy Leary. Leary was terest in hallucinogens, at the wheel in 1964,

Duncan, Robert (1919–1988)

brought their own twist to the psychedelic revolu- Duncan, Robert (1919–1988)
tion. Kesey had volunteered for drug experiments Poet; political and literary activist. In San Francisco,
while working as a night attendant on the psychi- Robert Duncan established a literary circle that in-
atric ward of a hospital in 1959. His first novel, One spired several Beats. Recognizing Duncan’s impor-
Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), was inspired tance, Lawrence Ferlinghetti published Duncan’s
by a peyote vision. Rather than being awed by the Selected Poems (1959) as a City Lights title; Donald
spiritual dimensions of hallucinogens, the Merry Allen, aware of Duncan’s connection to both Black
Pranksters embraced the comic absurdity of drug Mountain College and the San Francisco Renais-
use in an effort to tear down the serious façade that sance, made Duncan a significant contributor to
they saw as stifling the American imagination. For The New American Poetry (1960).
Kesey, LSD could only open a new door for its user, Born in Oakland, California, Duncan was the
and this door, once entered, could not be entered adopted child of Theosophists Edwin Joseph
again. As the 60s came to a close, and an increasing Symmes, an architect, and Minnehaha Harris, who
number of people became statistics of illicit drug together stimulated Duncan’s interest in the occult.
use, it became increasingly difficult to promote se- Edward Howard Duncan and Marguerite Pearl
riously the use of drugs as life enhancing. Many of Carpenter were Duncan’s biological parents, but
the Beat writers suffered the consequences of their Duncan’s mother died in giving birth, and Dun-
often naïve experiments. Perhaps the Beat experi- can’s father did not have the resources to raise his
ment with drugs was a necessary failure—a warning child; therefore, the father surrendered his son for
for generations to come. Yet the price for this fail- adoption. At age three, Duncan suffered an injury
ure was extremely high. Kerouac was plagued with to his eyes that left him with double vision, and this
thrombophlebitis caused by excessive Benzedrine injury, in addition to Duncan’s fascination with the
use from the mid-40s. Some scholars claim that occult, influenced the formation of Duncan’s po-
Gregory Corso failed to achieve his full poetic etic outlook.
promise because of his drug use. Other critics say In 1938, Duncan traveled to New York, where
that drug use explains Kesey’s lack of output various movements in art, including Abstract Ex-
throughout his career. Cassady died from a lethal pressionism, Modernism, and Surrealism, were in-
mix of alcohol and barbiturates on the railroad teracting. With Sanders Russell, Duncan published
tracks of Mexico, just shy of his forty-second birth- Experimental Review, which featured works from
day. Dozens of minor characters associated with the writers such as Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and Ken-
Beats also became the casualties of drugs. Nonethe- neth Patchen. Around this time Duncan also
less, Burroughs, Huncke, and Leary continued to worked in connection with James Cooney, whose
use various drugs until their deaths at ripe old ages. publication The Phoenix was produced at a com-
—Kurt Hemmer mune in Woodstock, New York.
In 1941, Duncan was drafted for military ser-
Bibliographical References vice, but he soon declared his homosexuality and
Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, 1968; received a psychiatric discharge. Despite this dec-
Gerald Nicosia, Memory Babe: A Critical laration, Duncan married Marjorie McKee in
Biography of Jack Kerouac, 1983; Ted Morgan, 1943, but the marriage quickly ended. In 1944, in
Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William
Politics, Duncan published his essay “The Homo-
S. Burroughs, 1988; Barry Miles, Ginsberg: A
Biography, 1989; references to Artaud, Lenny sexual in Society.”
Bruce, Burroughs, and Leary can be found in In San Francisco in the mid 1940s, Duncan
Richard Rudgley, The Encyclopaedia of came under several important influences. Kenneth
Psychoactive Substances, 1999. Rexroth, who organized literary gatherings in his
See also Cassady, Neal; Ginsberg, Allen; Leary, home, spurred Duncan’s interest in the writings of
Timothy; Kerouac, Jack; Burroughs, William Seward H. D., who became the focus of many of Duncan’s

Dylan, Bob (1941–)

subsequent efforts in literary criticism. Jack Spicer MCMLIII–MCMLVI, 1958; Selected Poems,
and Robin Blaser experimented with forms based 1959; The Opening of the Field, 1960; Unkingd by
on recurring images, and subsequently Duncan Affection, 1963; Writing, Writing, 1964; Roots
and Branches, 1964; Passages 22–27 of the War,
conceived poetry based on the techniques of col-
1966; The Years as Catches First Poems
lage. Charles Olson and Duncan met in 1947, and (1939–1946), 1966; A Book of Resemblances:
this relationship led to the maturation of Duncan’s Poems 1950–1953, 1966; Names of the People,
theory of poetics and to Duncan’s involvement at Bending the Bow, 1968; The First Decade
Black Mountain College in the 1950s, including Selected Poems 1940–1950, 1969; Derivations
Duncan’s association with Robert Creeley. Selected from 1950–1956, 1969; Achilles’ Song,
1969; Play Time Pseudo Stein, 1969; Tribunals
Duncan’s first book, Heavenly City, Earthly City,
Passages 31–35, 1970; Ground Work, 1971;
was published in 1947, but the poem that was the Poems from the Margins of Thom Gunn’s Moly,
touchstone for many of his subsequent writings was 1972; A Seventeenth Century Suite in Homage to
“The Venice Poem” (1948). The poem gained form the Metaphysical Genius in English Poetry
through recurrent themes and mythic references. 1590/1690: Being Imitations, Derivations &
In 1951, Duncan forged a lasting relationship Variations Upon Certain Conceits and Findings
Made Among Strong Lines, 1973; An Ode and
with Jess Collins, a visual artist with special inter-
Arcadia (with Jack Spicer), 1974; Dante, 1974;
ests in collage. Collins and Duncan collaborated on The Venice Poem, 1975; Ground Work: Before the
many books, with Duncan adapting the techniques War, 1983; Ground Work II: In the Dark, 1987
of collage to his writing.
In 1952, Duncan’s poems began to appear in Cid Bibliographical References
Corman’s Origin and in Black Mountain Review, See Michael Davidson, The San Francisco
the publication of Black Mountain College, where Renaissance, 1989: 125–149; Ekbert Faas, Young
Duncan became a member of the faculty in 1956. Robert Duncan: Portrait of the Poet as
Homosexual in Society, 1983, is a biography that
Duncan emerged as a major writer in the 1960s.
covers the period through age thirty. Mark
In The Opening of the Field (1960), he wrote of a Andrew Johnson, Robert Duncan, 1988, serves as
pastoral place that is a product of his thought but a clear introduction, and Robert Duncan: Scales
also a possession of his soul—a place that lasts and of the Marvelous, eds. Robert Bertholf and Ian W.
shines forever and generates its own form. In Roots Reid, 1979, is a collection of essays. Nathaniel
and Branches (1964) and Bending the Bow (1968), Mackey’s “The World-Poem in Microcosm:
Robert Duncan’s ‘The Continent,’” ELH 47
he further established his characteristic experi-
(1980): 595–618, interprets Duncan’s method;
mental style. As the Vietnam war progressed, Dun- Steven Watson, “Robert Duncan,” in The Birth of
can often expressed his opposition to the war. the Beat Generation, 1995, provides a quick
Duncan won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1963 review.
and received writing fellowships from the National See also San Francisco Renaissance; Influences;
Endowment for the Arts three times. He won the Spicer, Jack
National Poetry Award in 1985.
In San Francisco in 1988, Duncan died after a
long struggle with renal disease. Dylan, Bob (1941–)
—William Lawlor Preeminent singer-songwriter of his generation,
harbinger of social change and role model for rest-
Principal Works less youth, Bob Dylan was inspired and empow-
Heavenly City, Earthly City, 1947; Poems 1948–49, ered by the somewhat older Beats. An original lyri-
1949; Medieval Scenes, 1950; Fragments of a
cist, conceptual visionary, and creative interpreter
Disordered Devotion, 1952; Caesar’s Gate Poems
1949–1950 with Collages by Jess Collins, 1955; of folk, blues, rock, pop, jazz, and other idioms, he
reprinted as Caesar’s Gate Poems 1949–1950 with expanded on Beat consciousness through musical
Paste-Ups by Jess, 1972; Letters Poems performance and recording, often in a Woody

Dylan, Bob (1941–)

Guthrie–style voice that has been much imitated

and satirized. A pop “legend,” he has maintained a
life so private that biographers debate the number
of women he has married. An important admirer
and ally of Allen Ginsberg, Dylan also inspired the
older man.
Grandson of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Bob
Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman, 24 May
1941, in Duluth, Minnesota. His father, Abram,
was employed by Standard Oil until crippled by
polio. In 1947, the Zimmermans moved to the
northern Minnesota “iron ore capital” of Hibbing,
childhood home of Robert’s mother, Beatrice.
As a teenager, “Bobby,” a rhythm and blues en-
thusiast who most emulated Little Richard, played
piano and sang in several rock-and-roll bands.
After his 1959 graduation from Hibbing High
School, he attended the University of Minnesota,
Minneapolis, where he embraced folk music and
acoustic guitar.
In his sophomore year, now calling himself “Bob
Dylan”—a name that revealed his respect for the Bob Dylan plays guitar in 1965. (Library of Congress)
poet Dylan Thomas—the young musician left col-
lege for New York City to meet his idol, Woody
Guthrie. Dylan was soon established as a Green-
wich Village–based folk singer and songwriter. The idol’s equilibrium. Following a 1966 one-motorcy-
single, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” as sung by folk-trio cle accident, he lived in relative seclusion near
Peter, Paul, and Mary, remains his most popular Woodstock, New York, with wife, Sara, children
composition. Romantic and professional involve- Jesse, Jakob, Samuel, and Anna, and Sara’s daugh-
ment with folk “queen” Joan Baez advanced Dylan’s ter, Maria, whom Dylan adopted. Here, Dylan
writing and performing career. wrote the quietly allegorical John Wesley Harding
In 1965, Dylan’s abrupt conversion to an electri- and, with The Band, the louder and light-hearted
fied accompaniment, surreal lyrics, and a rock-and- songs collected later as The Basement Tapes. Both
roll persona, as revealed at the Newport Folk Fes- stood in marked contrast to then-current psyche-
tival, dismayed folk purists. Inventive and personal delia. Negative criticism of efforts following the
lyrics from this period of greatest verbal genius 1969 Nashville Skyline was relieved by the popular-
make up the albums Bringing It All Back Home, ity of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” from the movie
Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, in which Dylan
found greatest popular acceptance on the single played the bit part of “Alias.”
“Like a Rolling Stone.” A “fab” Dylan is depicted in Dylan’s much-anticipated “novel,” Tarantula,
the D. A. Pennebaker documentary, Don’t Look was published reluctantly in 1971, as a response to
Back, which includes a version of “Subterranean widespread bootlegging. In 1975, Dylan resumed
Homesick Blues,” considered by many to be the public performance with his Rolling Thunder
first “rock video.” Revue, playing small venues while accompanied by
The pressures of public scrutiny, intense adula- an entourage of musicians, poets, and playwrights.
tion, and drug usage appeared to threaten the pop Extensive filming of the tour resulted in his self-

Dylan, Bob (1941–)

directed, fictional, four-hour feature, Renaldo and ter Honors, and an Academy Award for the single,
Clara. “Things Have Changed.” Throughout, the neo-
The 1975 album Blood on the Tracks, viewed as beatnik poet himself remained an enigmatic and
a passionate reaction to the end of his marriage to romantic figure, what was once a baby face now a
Sara, was a critical and popular success. “Hurri- sagging, deeply lined countenance adorned with a
cane,” a 1976 single, received significant airplay pencil-thin mustache.
and was aimed at the release of imprisoned boxer, Dylan was exposed in 1958–1959 to elements of
Rubin Carter. Beatness with visits to James Reese, aka Jim Dandy,
After the 1979 conversion of Jewish-born Dylan, a black disc jockey in nearby Virginia, Minnesota,
several factions of fans fled Christian-themed con- who shared an extensive collection of jazz and blues.
certs and rejected albums such as Slow Train Com- While of high school age and later as a college stu-
ing. Now widely viewed by critics as a figure in de- dent, Dylan frequented a bohemian locale adjacent
cline, Dylan garnered his first Grammy award for to the University of Minnesota named Dinkytown,
vocals on the single, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” The where “beatniks” such as Dave Morton and Dave
1985 multiple-set album Biograph, released after Whitaker introduced left-wing politics, marijuana,
the waning of his overt proselytizing, confirmed folk music, and the Beat classics A Coney Island of
recognition of Dylan’s contribution to American the Mind, “Howl,” and On the Road. The sponta-
music. neous bop prosody of Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues,
Since the late 1980s, Dylan has undertaken a according to Allen Ginsberg in Spontaneous Mind,
“Never Ending Tour,” that began after tours with “blew [Dylan’s] mind” (393). The connection be-
rock groups such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreak- tween music and poetry made by Kerouac, Kenneth
ers and The Grateful Dead. Together with Petty, Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, and Lawrence Fer-
Beatle George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbi- linghetti, who were primarily writers, would be con-
son, Dylan helped write and record as the “Travel- tinued through Dylan, a musician who is sometimes
ing Wilburys.” He contributed several songs to called a poet. Dylan has also acknowledged early fa-
Hearts of Fire, a failed 1987 film in which Dylan’s miliarity with Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Gregory
portrayal of the retired and reclusive rock star Billy Corso, and Frank O’Hara. Ginsberg’s “city poetry,”
Parker demonstrated an awkward but affecting he said, helped shape his own “city songs” such as
charisma. Renditions of folk-blues on Good As I “Desolation Row” (McGregor).
Been to You (1992) and World Gone Wrong (1993) Noted for his ability to assimilate and transform
confirmed Dylan’s ability to ignore the usual com- styles, in his surrealistic songs such as “Subter-
mercial forces and invited comparison with similar ranean Homesick Blues” and albums such as High-
material performed more than thirty years earlier. way 61 Revisited Dylan borrowed terms, attitude,
By the time he emerged from a life-threatening and general bop-ness from Ginsberg and Fer-
attack of histoplasmosis in May 1997, Dylan’s place linghetti. The seemingly spontaneous prose pas-
in rock history was secure, and he had become an sages in Dylan’s novella Tarantula borrowed from
ironic and uneasy establishment figure. The aptly the fiction of Kerouac, the “cut-ups” of William
stark dignity of the September 1997 album Time Burroughs, and the Journal of Albion Moonlight by
Out of Mind brought critical acclaim rivaling that Kenneth Patchen.
of his “genius” period of the 1960s. In 1965, a well-circulated set of photos by Larry
As his generation and that following it ascended Keenan meant for the Blonde on Blonde cover
to power in the 1990s, Dylan’s honors multiplied showed Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Michael Mc-
with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, his Clure, and Allen Ginsberg posing in an alley behind
Thirtieth Anniversary Concert Celebration, an ap- Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books. Ginsberg reported
pearance before Pope John Paul II, Kennedy Cen- that Dylan’s “chains of flashing images” of the pe-

Dylan, Bob (1941–)

riod were a stylistic debt to Kerouac (Screaming other scenes, he and Dylan, in Lowell, Massachu-
with Joy). Dylan began to tout Ginsberg as a poet, setts, stood at Kerouac’s grave, read from Mexico
mentor, and friend. City Blues, and improvised a song.
Besides absorbing Beat ideas, in his early years, According to Ginsberg’s biographer Barry Miles,
Dylan favored a “beatnik” lifestyle of apparent who visited John Lennon in Manhattan in 1976,
rootlessness and poor hygiene. He indulged in an Lennon said that hearing Ginsberg reading “Kad-
excess of wine, marijuana, and cigarettes. Eccen- dish” for a radio program made Lennon think of
tric appearance and sarcastic interviews exuded a Dylan’s voice. The experience prompted Lennon
Beat scorn of the hip for the square. He was often to say he understood how much Ginsberg had in-
photographed wearing sunglasses. fluenced Dylan and how close their styles were.
Dylan’s “finger-pointing” protest songs, such as —Dave Engel
“Blowin’ in the Wind,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,”
and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” brought him Principal Works
to the attention of Ginsberg. After a meeting at a Selected Albums: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,
party and an invitation from Dylan to a concert at 1963; Bringing It All Back Home, 1965; Highway
Princeton, the clean-shaven and top-hatted author of 61 Revisited, 1965; Blonde on Blonde, 1966;
Blood on the Tracks, 1975; Desire, 1976; Slow
“Howl” subsequently showed up on the sleeve of the
Train Coming, 1979; Biograph, 1985; Time Out of
Dylan album Bringing It All Back Home. Mind, 1997.
Ginsberg’s unreciprocated sexual attraction for Books: Bob Dylan, Tarantula, 1971; Chronicles
the heterosexual Dylan did not interfere with a life- Volume I, 2004.
long professional and personal relationship that Movies: Don’t Look Back, 1967; Renaldo and Clara,
ranged from Ginsberg escorting Dylan’s children 1976; Hearts of Fire, 1987; Masked and
Anonymous, 2003.
trick-or-treating and Dylan teaching Ginsberg a
chord sequence, allowing him to progress into mu-
Bibliographical References
sical accompaniment of his voice. In 1965, Gins-
Graham Caveney, Screaming with Joy: The Life of
berg toured the United States composing a poem Allen Ginsberg, 1999; Dave Engel, Just Like Bob
on an expensive tape recorder that Dylan paid for. Zimmerman’s Blues: Dylan in Minnesota, 1997;
Ginsberg appeared in the 1967 documentary Don’t Allen Ginsberg, Spontaneous Mind: Selected
Look Back and visited Dylan at Woodstock after Interviews, 1958–1996, 2001; Michael Gray, Song
the singer’s motorcycle accident. and Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, 1981;
Clinton Heylin, Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades
In 1971, with Dylan’s accompaniment on piano,
Revisited, 2001; The Rolling Stone Book of the
organ, and guitar, Ginsberg, at his expense, Beats: The Beat Generation and American
recorded “September on Jessore Road” and other Culture, ed. Holly George-Warren, 1999; Robert
material, later included on Holy Soul Jelly Roll – Shelton, No Direction Home: The Life and Music
Poems and Songs (1949–1993). He was an active of Bob Dylan, 1986; Howard Sounes, Down the
participant in the Rolling Thunder Revue and in Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, 2001.
the resulting movie, Renaldo and Clara. Among See also Music; Ginsberg, Allen; Fariña, Richard

Eastern Culture In “A Vision of Joy,” which is included in Some of
The Beat Generation actively explored Eastern cul- the Dharma (127), Kerouac creates an Eastern
tures and the religions associated with them. This world adapted for Western circumstances. He pic-
exploration affected the spiritual lives of the Beats tures himself in California or Mexico, with his
and was manifested in their artistic productivity. beard grown for four months, his supplies of water
Jack Kerouac, whom Allen Ginsberg in the dedi- ample and varied, and his schedule uncluttered.
cation to “Howl” called the “New Buddha of Amer- He reads his Buddhist books and contemplates as
ican prose” (5), dedicated himself to understanding he wishes. At night under the stars, he enters a
the Eastern outlook through composition of Some state of meditation and prayer that allows him to
of the Dharma, which he intended as a guidebook know enlightenment and set aside material posses-
to Buddhism for Allen Ginsberg but later claimed sions (127).
for himself as a sacred personal text. On December 27, 1955, in Rocky Mount, North
In Some of the Dharma, Kerouac explores Bud- Carolina, Kerouac in Some of the Dharma an-
dhism’s Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold nounces the start of his work on Visions of Gerard,
Path, but he also reflects on contrasts between the novel about Kerouac’s brother, who died of
East and West. Kerouac remarks that people of rheumatic fever. Kerouac invokes the help of God,
the West know nothing of enlightenment and can- praying to God for dedication to spiritual tasks and
not make spiritual connections that involve Nir- for immersion in the power of holy language (367).
vana. Kerouac compares the Westerner to an in- When Kerouac connected with Gary Snyder, the
vestigator relentlessly struggling to develop an Beat link to the East gained strength. Whereas Ker-
original type of sorrow (79). Interested in bringing ouac was self-taught, Snyder at Berkeley was a for-
enlightenment to himself and to Western society mal student of Eastern languages and literatures.
in general, Kerouac proposes a practical way of liv- To a significant extent, Snyder tutored Kerouac and
ing that involves the purchase of a used truck refined his understanding of Buddhist writers and
(117). This truck should become a mobile their texts. Snyder’s skills in mountaineering drew
monastery, which may be located on seacoasts, in Kerouac into serving as a fire lookout, which af-
the mountains, or outside Mexican villages. Prop- forded solitude and profound awareness of nature.
erly equipped with materials for eating, writing, The Eastern consciousness explored by Snyder and
studying, camping, and seeing by night (117), the Kerouac is a memorable part of The Dharma Bums
enlightened man can maintain his bearings toward (1958) as Japhy Ryder and Ray Smith exchange
what is pure (117). ideas on Eastern poetry and thought.

Eastern Culture

In Snyder’s writings, the appreciation of Eastern Just as the travels of Snyder led to an awareness
culture, philosophy, and literature is present in al- of Eastern cultures, the travels of Allen Ginsberg
most every work, but Earth House Hold (1969), connected him to the East. In India in 1962, Gins-
which includes “Buddhism and the Coming Revo- berg saw widespread poverty and disease, but in
lution” (90–93), is a concise discussion of Snyder’s 1963, he was able to take the counsel of Bankey
views of various forms of Buddhism and their con- Behari and Kali Pado Gaha Roy. These thinkers
trasts to Western political and religious systems. gave new outlooks to Ginsberg, and the trip itself
Snyder discusses the general Buddhist view that all eventually led to Indian Journals (1970).
life is suffering and that suffering is caused by In Cambodia, Allen visited Angkor Wat, the
senseless craving (90). Snyder concedes that Ma- ruins of a twelfth-century temple which had been
hayana Buddhism faces the question of the salva- the center of Hinduism for six hundred years. This
tion of all people but sees Buddhism in general as experience proved influential and led to the long
a means to overcome the traps of a person’s own poem “Angkor Wat.” Ginsberg’s travels to the East
mind and the habits established by culture (90). In- ended with his reunion with Gary Snyder in Japan.
stitutional Buddhism, which makes too many com- Ginsberg became involved in extended meditation,
promises with civil authority, can extinguish Bud- control of breathing, and chanting. By the end of
dhism (90). In Snyder’s view, Avatamsaka (Kegon) this third leg of the journey, Ginsberg was fully im-
Buddhism is based on the interconnection of all pressed with Eastern culture.
things: he insists that the predatory bird, its down- Back in the United States, Ginsberg’s open dispo-
ward flight, and the prey it seeks are one (92). Re- sition toward Eastern culture and Buddhism was
turning to a general view of Buddhism, Snyder in- shown in his affiliation with Tibetan Chögyam
dicates that wisdom, meditation, and morality (the Trungpa Rinpoche. Trungpa founded the Naropa In-
three components in the dharma path) apply not stitute with “crazy wisdom” and tried to establish the
only to the Buddhist pursuit of self-knowledge, but end of “spiritual materialism.” Anne Waldman and
also to the Western pursuit of social justice (93). Allen Ginsberg founded the Jack Kerouac School of
Snyder’s outlook on Eastern thinking and its ap- Disembodied Poetics at Naropa, and the Beat-East
plication to the improvement of Western civiliza- connection was solidified in Boulder, Colorado.
tion is humorously developed in “Smokey the Bear Although Kerouac, Snyder, and Ginsberg were
Sutra,” which is included in The Portable Beat all drawn to Eastern cultures, William S. Bur-
Reader, edited by Ann Charters (1992). The Great roughs never embraced them. He took part in a
Sun Buddha discusses enlightenment in the world Buddhist retreat on one occasion; on the whole,
(569). In the future the Sun Buddha will return as however, he showed no enthusiasm because he in-
Smokey the Bear, whose gestures and dress will re- sisted he was a writer, not a Buddhist. In fact, Bur-
veal that he is Buddha. He will require the world’s roughs distrusted Chögyam Trungpa, whose thirst
inhabitants to live responsibly in the universe and to for liquor and appetite for women made Buddhist
serve as caretakers for the planet. Those who will asceticism seem remote from Trungpa’s daily ways.
not live responsibly will incur Smokey’s wrath; those A key figure in the Beat connection to the East
who learn the sutra and put its ideas into practice is Alan Watts, who fostered an appreciation of Zen
will enjoy a pleasant and enlightened life (571). and Eastern thinking through his lectures and writ-
Snyder intensified his association with Eastern ings. “Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen” is the essay
ideas when he traveled to Japan to formalize his that connects Watts most directly to the Beats, but
studies of Zen. For twelve years, Snyder partici- Watts also offered a critical examination of The
pated in Zen studies in Japan. Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Dharma Bums, declaring that the novel trans-
the widow of Sokei-an, introduced Snyder to Zen formed Zen’s original sense of “anything goes.”
Master Muira Isshu, who later became Snyder’s Philip Whalen, one of the readers at the 6
teacher at the Shokoku Temple. Gallery on 7 October 1955, established formal con-

Elvins, Kells (1913–1961)

nections to Eastern culture through his visits to Both Burroughs and Elvins attended Harvard as
Japan in 1967 and 1969–1971. A resident of the undergraduates in the early 1930s and later, in
San Francisco Zen Center in 1972, Whalen was or- 1938, as graduate students. There at Harvard,
dained as a Zen Buddhist monk in 1973. In 1991, Elvins and Burroughs collaborated on Burroughs’s
Whalen was installed as Abbot at the Hartford first serious piece of writing, titled “Twilight’s Last
Street Zen Center in San Francisco. Gleaming” (1938), which they unsuccessfully tried
—William Lawlor to sell to Esquire magazine. The next year, Bur-
roughs visited Elvins in Huntsville, Texas, where
Elvins was working as a prison psychiatrist and re-
Bibliographical References
Some of the Dharma, 1997, is published in an searching a master’s thesis in psychology titled
oversize format to recreate the feel of Kerouac’s “Forty-Four Incestuous Fathers of Texas.” Elvins
diverse entries. On Eastern topics, the book is joined the Marines during World War II, earning a
rambling and repetitive, but the intensity of Purple Heart. Following the war, he moved to
personal comments saves the book. The Dharma Pharr, Texas, to oversee the citrus farm he inherited
Bums, 1958, emerges as a shorter and more
from his father, who died in an automobile accident
positive revelation of Kerouac’s interpretation of
Eastern ideas. Gary Snyder’s interest in Eastern in 1943.
thinking is a major theme throughout his writing, When Burroughs was forced to leave New York
but Earth House Hold, 1969, and “Smokey the City because of a drug conviction in 1946, Elvins
Bear Sutra” are accessible and brief entry points. suggested Burroughs buy some land and join him in
By examining Indian Journals, 1970, and “Angkor south Texas. The two were “gentlemen farmers” to-
Wat,” 1968, one sees Ginsberg’s view of the East
gether from 1946 to 1949. Elvins introduced “Billy”
through both prose and poetry. Ginsberg’s travels
in the East are described by Michael Schumacher to a crowd of south Texas “Beats” including “Tiger”
in Dharma Lion, 1992. To learn about a writer Terry, Ted Marak, Walter Benson, and Obie Dobbs.
and speaker who made Eastern thinking available Burroughs describes his life among this crowd and
to many Western readers and listeners, see Alan his experiences as a farmer in Junky, in which
Watts, “Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen,” which Elvins is called “Evans.” (Elvins also appears briefly
appears in The Portable Beat Reader, ed. Ann
in Queer, and he is “K. E.” in Naked Lunch.)
Charters, 1992. Philip Whalen’s Overtime, 1999,
reveals Whalen’s progress toward immersion in Neither Burroughs nor Elvins, however, was suc-
Eastern consciousness. cessful as a farmer, and Burroughs, Joan, and the
two children moved to Mexico City in September
See also Kerouac, Jack; Snyder, Gary; Ginsberg, Allen;
Watts, Alan; Whalen, Philip; Naropa Institute; 1949. Elvins and Marianne Standing arrived in Jan-
Trungpa, Chögyam uary 1951 and were living there when Burroughs
accidentally shot his wife, Joan, although Elvins was
apparently not present at the fatal party. Burroughs
and Elvins saw each other often over the next ten
Elvins, Kells (1913–1961) years—in Mexico, Tangier, and, most significantly,
Kells Elvins was a lifelong friend of William S. Bur- in Copenhagen, where Kells was living with his
roughs. Elvins lived near Burroughs on Price Road third wife, the actress Mimi Heinrich. Burroughs
in St. Louis, and they met in their early teens. It says that his trip to Denmark was the catalyst for
was Elvins’s father, Politte, who famously described writing the important “Freeland” section of Naked
the teenage Burroughs as looking “like a sheep- Lunch. Elvins died in 1961 in a hotel in New York
killing dog.” Elvins, on the other hand, was hand- City, where his wife was promoting her fashion line.
some and athletic, and Burroughs had an early He is buried in McAllen, Texas.
crush on him; however, according to Burroughs, James Grauerholz has compared Elvins’s rela-
their relationship was never a physical one over the tionship with Burroughs to Neal Cassady’s relation-
years. ship with Jack Kerouac: like Cassady, Elvins was a


charismatic, larger-than-life character (“the alco- In Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island (1974), environ-
holic ‘Playboy of the Western World,’” according to mental activism stands out clearly. In “Facts,” Sny-
his son Peter), and Burroughs followed him around der converts a context that calls for a poem into an
to be in on the action and to see what would hap- opportunity to present a numbered list of environ-
pen next. Elvins thus played a key role in Bur- mental considerations. For example, only six of
roughs’s development as a writer. In fact, Kells sug- every one hundred people in the world live in the
gested to Burroughs that he write down a “factual” United States, but these people use thirty percent
account of his days as a drug addict in New York, of the energy (31). Snyder further predicts that the
leading to the publication of Junkie (1953), Bur- list of basic materials is short, but by the start of the
roughs’s first book. Kells was probably Burroughs’s twenty-first century the United States will rely on
closest friend, and Burroughs was reportedly able imports for all of the raw materials except phospho-
to be himself around Elvins in a way he couldn’t rous (31). “Facts” takes a political turn when Snyder
with anyone else. Burroughs continued to write identifies big oil companies as the enemy (31).
about Elvins up to the end of his life, in the dream In “Mother Earth: Her Whales,” which is also in
book My Education as well as in Last Words. Turtle Island, Snyder indicts nations that fail to
Elvins’s letters to Burroughs are currently unpub- protect the world’s ecology. Japan, for example, ra-
lished, as is a collection of short stories that Elvins tionalizes continued whale hunting and violates its
wrote during the 1950s. Buddhist traditions by polluting the sea with heavy
—Rob Johnson metals (47); China, in its quest for progress, for-
sakes its wildlife to create parking areas for thou-
sands of trucks (48).
Bibliographical References
See Ted Morgan, Literary Outlaw: The Life and Snyder’s integration of world cultures and ecolog-
Times of William S. Burroughs, 1988; Rob ical history helps the reader to reach into cultural
Johnson, “William S. Burroughs: South Texas memories and long lovingly for a better, purer time.
Farmer, Junky, and Queer,” in Southwestern The environment has been damaged, but not ir-
American Literature (Spring 2001); Rob Johnson recoverably. Those who love the world can redeem
and Juan Ochoa, “The South Texas Beats” in Beat
Scene (Spring 2003).
At the end of Turtle Island, Snyder includes
See also Burroughs, William Seward “Plain Talk,” and the environmental message is
made directly. The first issue is population, and as
a caretaker of the earth, each human must aim to
cut the population of the world in half (91). The ac-
Environmentalism tions to bring about this end include abortions, va-
With Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David sectomies, and sterilizations. If the Catholic
Thoreau as forefathers, and Eastern philosophies Church opposes these actions, then it must be op-
and Native American and multiple mythologies in posed for its thoughtlessness about its role in the
their backgrounds, several of the Beat writers car- world (92). A second issue is pollution, which in-
ried forth an abiding concern for the environment cludes chemical poisons in the air and water, nu-
and ecological well-being through their writings. clear waste, and food additives. Snyder insists that
Nature, to the Beat writers, should be appreciated society must dedicate itself to efficiency (95). Soci-
and protected; human beings should not destroy it ety cannot forge ahead with nuclear power and fos-
and should learn to live with it, according to the vi- sil fuels because no system is in place to deal effec-
sions of Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Allen Gins- tively with the consequences.
berg, and Michael McClure. These writers are ad- Snyder adds humor to his environmental mes-
vocates for the natural world, celebrate it, express sage in “Smokey the Bear Sutra,” which is included
an understanding of it, and feel compassion for it. in The Portable Beat Reader, edited by Ann Char-


ters (1992). The poem, the author declares, may be vironment is clearest in “Wales Visitation,” also in-
redistributed for free forever. The figure from the cluded in Collected Poems (480–482), a poem he
announcements of the U.S. Forest Service is given composed in London in 1967 while on LSD. Gins-
voice in the poem, and the individual characteris- berg’s description of clouds, mist, grass, ferns, and
tics of the Buddha are humorously aligned with the flowers reveals enchantment and delight.
characteristics of Smokey the Bear. Smokey has a Like Ginsberg and Snyder, Michael McClure
worldview of ecology and knowledge of ecological has a profound concern for ecology, and this con-
history. The great geological features, such as the cern is evident in “For the Death of 100 Whales,”
Grand Canyon and the Columbia River, are named a poem he read at the 6 Gallery reading on 7 Oc-
for reverence and protection. If opponents to the tober 1955. According to a report in Time in April
plan of preservation and conservation come for- 1954, soldiers stationed at a NATO base in Iceland
ward, then the advocates of the environment must rounded up a pod of killer whales and extermi-
“CRUSH THEIR BUTTS” (571). nated them with rifle fire. McClure’s poem is a
Like Snyder, Allen Ginsberg recognizes the tribute to the natural wolf-like spirit of the whales
threat to the world’s environment and uses his writ- and an indictment of those who participated in a
ing as a means to end the threat. In “Birdbrain!” shameful execution.
(1980), which appears in Collected Poems McClure’s writings express closeness to nature
1947–1980, Ginsberg creates an inventory of social, and its underlying spirit. In “Point Lobos: Ani-
political, and ecological abuses; the abuses to natu- mism,” which McClure also read at the 6 Gallery,
ral resources are especially clear when Ginsberg be- McClure describes an intense communion with the
moans the construction of the World Trade Center environment and indicates that the spirit of the for-
without consideration for the effects of the sewage est and wildlife is more important than human dis-
it will generate and when he notes the destruction ease and death. In “Ghost Tantras,” McClure de-
of the Amazon Rainforest so that wood pulp can be velops “Beast language,” an idiom of growls, roars,
manufactured on the banks of the river. In “Ballad and moans, and on several occasions McClure
of Poisons” (1978), which also appears in Collected voiced this language to animals in zoos—eliciting
Poems, Ginsberg’s catalog of ecological shameful- responses! In Scratching the Beat Surface, Mc-
ness is more extensive. He mentions nuclear waste, Clure includes “A Mammal Gallery,” which sets
pesticides, contamination of foods, heavy metals in forth McClure’s vision of the interconnectedness of
plants, and raw sewage in the seas (692). In “Gar- all creatures in Nature, especially mammals. He
den State” (1979), Ginsberg contrasts New Jersey’s hears the words of a man and wife arguing over a
trash deposited in wetlands with the flowering trivial detail, and closing his eyes, McClure hears
bushes and trees of a previous generation (718). He the words only as sounds—as an example of a mam-
sees a proliferation of television antennas and re- malian rite.
calls rustic cemeteries adjacent to churches (718). Like Snyder, Ginsberg, and McClure, Lawrence
These complaints about the deterioration of the Ferlinghetti is a staunch defender of the environ-
environment are counterbalanced by other poems. ment. “In Goya’s Greatest Scenes,” a poem included
Ginsberg in “Homework,” which is included in in A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), Ferlinghetti
Collected Poems (731), adopts an apparently hap- describes the horrors and atrocities Goya reveals in
pier tone as he makes the act of doing laundry a his paintings, but Ferlinghetti then turns to the mis-
metaphor for the renewal of the environment. If ery of the twentieth century, referring to the uncon-
Ginsberg could clean up the world in the way a trolled development of highways and the visual pol-
person does a load of wash, Ginsberg would lution created by mindless billboards. In his
cleanse the Amazon, restore wildlife to natural newspaper column, Ferlinghetti refers to the com-
habitats, and rid the world of nuclear contamina- ing apocalypse caused by multiplying automobiles,
tion. The ecstasy that Ginsberg discovers in the en- which pollute the air, kill millions, and inspire mad-

Europe, Bohemian Movements Related to the Beat Movement in

ness behind the wheel. In Ferlinghetti’s view, the Europe, Bohemian Movements
key factor threatening the environment is overpop- Related to the Beat Movement in
ulation. Runaway development and exploitation of Concurrent with the emergence of the Beat Gen-
resources can be traced to demands created by the eration in the United States, after the Second
growing population, and to save the world, people World War in Europe and other parts of the world,
must bring population growth under control. literary movements appeared whose members to
For many members of the Beat Generation, the varying degrees lived a bohemian life and shared
question of defending the environment is a long- other characteristics with the Beats. Most of these
standing concern. Publications such as Journal for movements do not actually owe their existence to
the Protection of All Beings, edited by Ferlinghetti, the Beats, but in several cases the poetry and fic-
David Meltzer, Snyder, and McClure, and City tion they produced reveal affinity with the Beat
Lights Review, edited by Nancy Peters, provide movement and at times showed the influence of its
discussion of ecological issues and present creative writers.
writing with environmental themes. That affinity and influence are hardly to be
—Maura Gage found in the work of a group of British writers who
were briefly seen as the English equivalent of the
Beats, the Angry Young Men. On the whole writers
Bibliographical References like John Braine, Kingsley Amis, and John Wain
Among many other works, Snyder’s Earth House were primarily concerned with Britain’s political
Hold: Technical Notes & Queries to Fellow
and social reality, while the interests of the Beats
Dharma Revolutionaries, 1969; and Turtle Island,
1974; are keys to his ecological outlook. “Smokey focussed on the transcendental and the art of writ-
the Bear Sutra” can be found in The Portable ing. Only in the 1960s, under the influence of the
Beat Reader, ed. Ann Charters, 1992, or The Beats, a more poetical and also more bohemian lit-
Gary Snyder Reader, 1999. For analysis, see erary movement emerged in England, including
Patrick Murphy, ed., Critical Essays on Gary poets like Adrian Henri and Roger McGough.
Snyder, 1991; and Rod Phillips, “Forest Beatniks”
In post–World War II France the major bo-
and “Urban Thoreaus”: Gary Snyder, Jack
Kerouac, Lew Welch, and Michael McClure, hemian movement was that of the Existentialists.
2001; Nick Selby discusses Snyder’s ecological Although the rather grim notions of their spiritual
awareness in “Poem as Work-place: Gary Snyder’s leader, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, clash with
Ecological Poetics,” Sycamore 14 (Winter 1997). the inherent optimism of the Beat Generation, the
Allen Ginsberg’s Collected Poems 1947–1980, antiauthoritarian stance of the Existentialists, as
1984, contains most of the poems in which
well as their interest in jazz and colorful writing,
Ginsberg comments on the environment. Michael
McClure’s “For the Death of 100 Whales” suggest some striking similarities with the Beats.
appeared originally in Hymn to St. Geryon, 1959; Other bohemians in Europe that are reminiscent
and additional commentary by McClure can be of the Beats are the Dutch “Fiftiers” and the so-
found in Scratching the Beat Surface, 1982. called Wiener Gruppe in Austria. The Fiftiers had
Ferlinghetti’s “In Goya’s Greatest Scenes” is the their origins in the art world of postwar Amsterdam,
first poem in A Coney Island of the Mind, 1958.
among the painters who became part of the interna-
Ferlinghetti continues his commentary on
automobiles and other threats to the environment tionally known Cobra movement. Reacting against
in his newspaper columns, one of which is the conformity and restraints of both postwar Dutch
“Poetry and Autogeddon,” San Francisco society and literature, the Fiftiers used open forms
Chronicle, 13 August 2000. and spontaneous writing to explore “the space of
See also Snyder, Gary; Ginsberg, Allen; Ferlinghetti, complete living,” as poet Lucebert put it. Through
Lawrence; McClure, Michael Fiftier poet and novelist Simon Vinkenoog, Allen
Ginsberg’s Dutch translator, the Beats also exerted

Everson, William (Brother Antoninus) (1912–1994)

some influence on the Provo movement of the put together Die Wiener Gruppe/The Vienna
1960s. Group: A Moment of Modernity 1954–1960,
In post-1945 Austria, the Wiener Gruppe re- 1997, a huge overview, also available on the
internet, which focuses on the Vienna Group’s
belled against their country’s conservatism and ma-
visual works and actions but also pays attention to
terialism. This group of writers (H. C. Artmann, its writings.
Gerhard Rühm, Konrad Bayer, Oswald Wiener,
See also Bohemian Movements: Predecessors of the
and Friedrich Achleitner) largely lacked the Beats’
interest in religion but shared their obsession with
language. To liberate language and man, the
Wiener Gruppe looked back to Expressionism,
Dadaism, and Surrealism, but a later publication, Everson, William (Brother
Wiener’s novel Die Verbesserung von Mitteleuropa, Antoninus) (1912–1994)
also refers to Kerouac and Burroughs. Poet, professor, monk, Jeffers scholar, William
In Germany and Italy, individual writers such as Everson is a key representative and defender of the
Rolf Dieter Brinkmann and Pier Vittorio Tondelli spiritual, mystical, religious, and intellectually revo-
helped to spread the influence of the Beat Gener- lutionary elements of the Beats and the San Fran-
ation. Elsewhere in the world various literary cisco Renaissance. Everson began his poetic work
movements show affinity with the Beats. Postwar early in his life and remained an active author until
Japan spawned a new Lost Generation with Beat his death. Everson provided a crucial and necessary
characteristics, which included novelist Osamu defense of the Beats through a series of letters and
Dazai and the young Yukio Mishima. An even through his scholarly work, demonstrating their
closer tie exists between the Beats and India’s connection to the Dionysian elements in literature
Hungry Generation, introduced to the West by and their subsequent place within an intellectual
Allen Ginsberg. In the end, however, the Beats left and literary tradition of rebellion. Everson also dis-
their mark on individuals rather than groups. played the Beats’ awareness of their similarities and
—Jaap van der Bent differences with moderns through his scholarly
work on Robinson Jeffers, whom Everson credits
for his poetic awakening at the age of twenty-three.
Bibliographical References Everson was born in Sacramento, California, on
Gene Feldman and Max Gartenberg edited The
12 September 1912 at home. His father was a Nor-
Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men, 1958,
a classic anthology whose introduction and texts wegian immigrant, and his mother was from a Ger-
collate Beat and Beat-related writing with that of man-Irish farming family. His mother was raised as
the Angry Young Men. A substantial anthology of a Catholic but converted to Christian Science when
antiacademic British poetry is Children of Albion: she married. He finished high school in Selma, Cal-
Poetry of the Underground in Britain, 1969, ed. ifornia, and began attending Fresno State in 1931,
Michael Horovitz, who added a long, informative
but he dropped out of college the following year. In
afterword. James Campbell wrote a lively account
of post–World War II artistic activity in Paris, 1934, Everson returned to Fresno and began study-
which also pays attention to the contribution of ing Robinson Jeffers. As a consequence of Jeffers’s
the Beats and other expatriates: Exiled in Paris: influence on Everson’s intellectual life, Everson
Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, began working on his own poetry and published his
and Others on the Left Bank, 1995. Peter first book of poems These Are the Ravens in 1934.
Glassgold edited Living Space: Poems of the
In 1946 in San Francisco, Everson began his affilia-
Dutch “Fiftiers,” 1979, an anthology of poetry by
a revolutionary group of Dutch poets, whose work tion with other Bay writers, including Kenneth
is compared with that of the Beats and poets like Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Philip Whalen, and Philip
Charles Olson and Robert Duncan. Peter Weiber Lamantia. By the 1950s, Everson had written a

Everson, William (Brother Antoninus) (1912–1994)

dozen books of poetry, was awarded a Guggenheim articulated in a series of letters to Lee Bartlett that
Fellowship, had served as the director of the Fine were first published in Fresco in 1959, later in
Arts Project at Waldport, and had helped to estab- Earth Poetry in 1980, and most recently in Beat
lish the Untide Press. In 1948, Everson converted Down to Your Soul in 2001. These letters explain
to Catholicism at Christmas mass at St. Mary’s the reemergence of a Dionysian sensibility in the
Cathedral in San Francisco. Everson was accepted twentieth century that Everson claims as the basis
as a lay brother in the Dominican Order at St. Al- of Beat literature. Everson displays a keen schol-
bert’s in Oakland and received the name Brother arly insight and convincing prose that emphasizes
Antoninus. In 1969 at a poetry reading at the Uni- the ecstatic, spontaneous, and subconscious ele-
versity of California, Davis, Everson publicly an- ments that many Beat writers claimed as goals
nounced his decision to leave the brotherhood after within their works and as methods of production.
reading “Tendril in the Mesh” and declared his in- Everson also explains the importance of Rexroth as
tention to marry Susanna Rickson. a guiding light for the early Beats, and he outlines
Everson’s poetry can be regarded in three distinct the writers before the Beats who could also be re-
phases that also correspond to collected versions garded as part of a Dionysian tradition.
published by Black Sparrow Press: The Residual —Pat Connelly
Years: Poems 1934–1948, The Veritable Years:
Poems 1949–1966, and The Integral Years: Poems
Principal Works
1966–1994. These are the definitive collections and The Residual Years: Poems 1934–1948: Volume I of
offer excellent introductions and notes, including an the Collected Poems; The Veritable Years: Poems
introduction by Kenneth Rexroth in The Residual 1949–1966: Volume II of the Collected Poems;
Years. The phases correspond to his preconversion The Integral Years: Poems 1966–1994: Volume III
years, his Catholic years, and his post-Catholic years. of the Collected Poems. These collections
encompass all of his publications during these
Although these periods coincide with Everson’s con-
years and include excellent introductions and
nection to or estrangement from Catholicism, his notes.
poetry retains certain thematic qualities throughout
all of these phases. Everson was predominantly in-
Bibliographical References
terested in the Beats’ fascination with mysticism and Lee Bartlett, Benchmark & Blaze: The Emergence of
spiritual questing. The poems that garner the most William Everson, 1979; Lee Bartlett, On Writing
attention include “Year’s End” and “The Raid” from the Waterbirds and Other Presentations:
his early period, which describes the malaise of a Collected Forewords and Afterwords 1935–1981,
post-WWII world; “The Poet Is Dead,” which is a 1983; Robert Duncan, Single Source: The Early
Poems of William Everson, 1934–1940, 1966;
tribute to Robinson Jeffers; “Tendril in the Mesh,”
Kenneth Rexroth, “Introduction,” in William
which describes his passionate break from the Everson, The Residual Years: Poems 1934–1948:
brotherhood; “The Man Fate,” which describes his The Pre-Catholic Poetry of Brother Antoninus,
post-brotherhood life; and “Runoff,” which reveals 1968; William E. Stafford, ed., The Achievement
his later interest in ecological concerns. of Brother Antoninus: A Comprehensive Selection
Arguably as important as his poetry was his de- of His Poems with a Critical Introduction, 2001.
fense of the Beats as part of a Dionysian tradition, See also Religion, The Beats and

Fariña, Richard (1937–1966) which he matriculated to Cornell on a scholarship as
The novelist, poet, and songwriter who linked the an engineering major in 1955. Having switched his
Beats and the Age of Aquarius, Richard Fariña died major to English in his sophomore year, Fariña won
at the age of twenty-nine, two days after the publi- Cornell’s undergraduate short story writing compe-
cation of his novel Been Down So Long It Looks tition in early 1958. “With a Copy of Dylan under
Like Up to Me (1966). The accidental death cur- My Arm” recounts the experience of a young Amer-
tailed the development of an ambitious and eclectic ican in Belfast and displays evidence of Fariña’s
body of journalism, short fiction, poetry, and song. debt to both Dylan Thomas and Ernest Heming-
David Hadju’s Positively Fourth Street (2001) ar- way. The story is among the earliest work of Fariña
gues the significance of Fariña’s role in the urban reprinted in Long Time Coming. Fariña, who had
folk music revival of the early to mid-1960s. Less traveled to Ireland in the summer of 1955, asserted
clearly defined is Fariña’s literary legacy. The body in later accounts that relatives there were members
of his literary work is slender—aside from his novel, of the IRA and alluded to participation in an IRA
his work is represented only by the collection Long bombing that resulted in the death of five members
Time Coming and a Long Time Gone (1969) and a of the Royal Navy. While the veracity of this story is
number of uncollected poems, stories, essays, and undetermined, one of Fariña’s stronger stories, “An
an unpublished play, The Shelter. Despite the End to a Young Man” (Long Time Coming) recounts
brevity of his career, Fariña’s work identifies him as a similar incident. Fariña traveled to Cuba twice in
a young writer whose depiction of bohemian cul- the first half of 1958, reconnecting his ethnic ties
ture of the late 1950s in Been Down So Long au- and allegedly pursuing connections with Fidel Cas-
gured cultural upheaval in the 1960s in much the tro. These episodes play out in climactic chapters of
same manner as the better known and earlier work Been Down So Long and precipitated the story “The
of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. With Kesey, Passing of Various Lives” (Long Time Coming).
Brautigan, and others, Fariña stands as a link be- Fariña left Cornell in 1959 without receiving his
tween Beat literature of the 1950s and the counter- degree, having established a strong friendship with
culture of the 1960s. fellow undergraduate Thomas Pynchon, who later
Born 8 March 1937 in Brooklyn to an Irish dedicated Gravity’s Rainbow to Fariña. Fariña took
mother and a Cuban father, Fariña cultivated a a position in Manhattan with the advertising agency
strong identity with both his Celtic and Caribbean J. Walter Thompson in spring 1959. In 1960, Fariña
roots and traveled to Ireland and Cuba in his youth. married popular folksinger Carolyn Hester, whom
He attended Catholic elementary school and the he had met at the White Horse Tavern earlier that
competitive Brooklyn Technical High School, from year. Through engagement in Hester’s career, Fariña


took up the dulcimer and began to write songs. His Fariña’s novel. Fariña’s frank treatment of sexual
poetry meanwhile reached a national audience in episodes in the novel caused some concern, and ac-
1961 with publications in the Atlantic Monthly and cording to Hadju, some of the more ribald episodes
the Transatlantic Review, and a story, “The Vision of were struck from the narrative (271).
Brother Francis,” was later published in 1962 in On 30 April 1966, Fariña attended a book-sign-
Prairie Schooner. Fariña spent much of 1962 on the ing party in Carmel Valley for his just-released
road in Europe with and without Hester. According novel. Later that evening, in the midst of a surprise
to Hester, he began seriously to draft Been Down So twenty-first birthday party that he had arranged for
Long in London that year (Unterberger 241). He Mimi, he departed on the back of an acquain-
later recorded an album of traditional folk songs with tance’s motorcycle for a brief ride. Returning to the
Eric Von Schmidt in London in early 1963, accom- party shortly thereafter, driver Willie Hinds failed
panied by Bob Dylan. Fariña separated from Hester to negotiate a turn, and he and Fariña were thrown
in 1962 and married Mimi Baez, whom he had met from the bike. Hinds escaped with minor scrapes.
in Paris, the following year. Fariña died instantly of a blow to the head.
Publishing the poem “The Field Near the Cathe- Mimi Fariña was to release one more LP of prior
dral at Chartres” and several essays in Mademoiselle recorded songs (Memories), which included Far-
from 1963 to 1964, Fariña’s engagement with the iña’s send up of Bob Dylan, “Morgan the Pirate.”
burgeoning folk music movement intensified, at Aside from the posthumous collection Long Time
least partially due to his relationship with Bob Dylan, Coming and a Long Time Gone, Fariña’s “Ringing
and much of his productive effort focused on song- Out the Old Year in Havana” ran in Esquire (Sep-
writing. On the basis of a five-song demo recorded tember 1969). An underdistributed film of Fariña’s
by sister-in-law Joan Baez in November 1963, Fariña novel followed, as did a 1970s New York musical
was signed to a publishing contract with Vanguard production Richard Fariña: Long Time Coming and
Records shortly thereafter. Richard and Mimi Fariña a Long Time Gone, starring Richard Gere. Been
debuted as a duo at the Big Sur Folk Festival in June Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, reprinted in
1964, mixing guitar and dulcimer instrumentals with 1983 with an introduction by Thomas Pynchon, re-
allegorical ballads (“The Falcon”) and topical songs mains in print in the Penguin Twentieth Century
of social protest (“Birmingham Sunday”). Their first Classics series.
album Celebrations for a Grey Day was recorded in —Tracy Santa
Manhattan in autumn 1964 and was followed with
the late 1965 release of a second LP, Reflections in a Bibliographical References
Crystal Wind, which was noted by the New York Douglas Cooke, “The Richard & Mimi Fariña Web-
Times as one of ten best folk albums of the year. site” at http://www.richardandmimi.com; David
Hajdu, Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times
Richard and Mimi’s year was highlighted by a mem-
of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and
orable performance in a drenching downpour at the Richard Fariña, 2001; Thomas Pynchon, “Intro-
Newport Folk Festival. duction” to Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up
In between recordings and performances with to Me, 1983 (rpt.1996); Richie Unterberger,
Mimi, Fariña had by early 1965 finished Been “Richard and Mimi Fariña” in Urban Spacemen
Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me in the cabin and Wayfaring Strangers: Overlooked Innovators
and Eccentric Visionaries of ’60s Rock, 2000.
the couple shared in Carmel, California. Fariña’s
bildungsroman, featuring his alter ego Gnossos See also Music
Pappadopoulis and set in a college town much like
Cornell’s Ithaca in the late 1950s, was scheduled
for an early 1966 publishing by Random House. Fellaheen
Pynchon had preceded Fariña in publication with Fellaheen, or fellahin, is the term Jack Kerouac
his own novel V. and promised endorsement of uses to describe the world’s poor. Kerouac admires

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence (1919–)

the fellaheen because their poverty reduces them His industry as a writer, his inventiveness in com-
to the basic essentials of life, giving them unfailing bining poetry and jazz, his success in establishing
insight about life and death. the first bookstore to sell only paperbacks, and his
The Oxford English Dictionary explains that uncompromising efforts in publishing works that
“fellah” refers to a peasant in a nation where Ara- tested the limits of law and social acceptance make
bic is spoken, particularly Egypt. The plural can be him not only an important figure in the bohemian
fellahs, fellahin, or fellaheen. The OED notes that struggle, but also a major figure in his own right.
the word may be used figuratively, and perhaps Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York, on
Kerouac intends a figurative association when he 24 March 1919. His childhood was a disrupted one:
capitalizes the word. his father died before he was born, and shortly af-
In On the Road (1957), Sal and Dean travel to terward his mother entered a state hospital, leaving
Mexico, and when Dean finally sleeps, Sal takes her five sons in desperate circumstances. His
over the wheel (279–280). Sal contemplates the In- mother’s aunt, Emily Mendes-Monsanto, took
dians and thinks of the Fellahin, whom he de- Lawrence to France for five years, but on their re-
scribes as the poor people who inhabit the equato- turn to New York, her marital problems forced her
rial regions of the world. These people are the to place Ferlinghetti briefly in an orphanage. Seven
source of life and know life with silent wisdom. Sal
insists that when the world reaches the next apoca-
lyptic moment, all people will view the world with
the knowing eyes of the Fellahin.
In Lonesome Traveler (1960), Kerouac includes
“Mexico Fellaheen” (21–36), and this travel essay
refers to the outlook of the fellaheen—a happiness
that arises when people do not preoccupy them-
selves with broad considerations of culture and so-
ciety. Kerouac believes this outlook is noticeable in
Latin America, Morocco, and Dakar.
—William Lawlor

Bibliographical References
Jack Kerouac, On the Road, 1957; Jack Kerouac,
Lonesome Traveler, 1960.
See also Mexico City

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence (1919–)

Writer, founder of the City Lights Bookstore in San
Francisco, promoter of the Beats, and publisher of
some of their key books, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a
central figure in the Beat literary movement of the
fifties. Not usually associated with the beginnings
of the Beat Generation in New York City following
World War II, he nevertheless added great force,
energy, spirit, and determination to the movement
as it arrived on the West Coast, and is the pivotal Lawrence Ferlinghetti reads his poetry. (Time Life Pictures/
figure in the San Francisco Literary Renaissance. Getty Images)

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence (1919–)

months later, he was reclaimed, and with the sup- numerous recognized artists and literary authorities
port of two affluent families, his upbringing and to testify to the poem’s merit and worth. “It is not
education were finally arranged. the poet but what he observes which is revealed as
In 1933, Ferlinghetti began high school at obscene,” Ferlinghetti said in the poem’s defense.
Mount Hermon, a private school in Massachusetts, “The great obscene wastes of Howl are the sad
where he developed an early interest in Thomas wastes of the mechanized world, lost among atom
Wolfe. In 1937, probably deliberately following the bombs and insane nationalisms” (quoted in Silesky,
path of Wolfe, who had made the same choice of 70, from a column by Ferlinghetti published in the
university, he began college at Chapel Hill, North San Francisco Chronicle on 19 May 1956). The
Carolina, where the program made it possible for court’s decision vindicated Ferlinghetti: Howl and
Ferlinghetti to meet major artists, including Carl Other Poems became a best seller, and the Beat
Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, and Vachel Lindsay. movement became associated with freedom of ex-
After a four-year tour in the navy, Ferlinghetti set- pression, with Ferlinghetti acknowledged as a key
tled in New York City, where he studied for a mas- player in the making of that freedom.
ter’s degree at Columbia and mixed with intellec- A Coney Island of the Mind (1958) is Fer-
tuals in Greenwich Village. In 1947, he went to linghetti’s most perennially popular book. The vol-
Paris, completing his doctoral degree at the Sor- ume includes poems selected from Pictures of the
bonne two years later. It was after this, in the early Gone World and a special series of poems intended
1950s, that he made the crucial move to San Fran- for oral presentation with jazz accompaniment.
cisco, where, initially, he struggled to find artistic The title of the selection represents what Fer-
direction. Soon, however, his friendships with Ken- linghetti calls “a kind of circus of the soul” (8). The
neth Rexroth and Peter Martin spurred the devel- voice in these poems is personal and richly allusive,
opment of his writing and encouraged him to take yet the poems also reveal surrealism and social
up his pivotal role in bookselling and publishing. commentary.
Shortly after founding the City Lights publishing Although A Coney Island of the Mind is Fer-
company, Ferlinghetti launched the Pocket Poets linghetti’s most enduring work, his novels, plays,
Series with a volume of his own, Pictures of the poetry, travel journals, and other writings demon-
Gone World (1955). The poems reveal international strate his continuing productivity. These Are My
sophistication and surreal sensuality, but, in con- Rivers: New and Selected Poems 1955–1993 (1994)
trast, a common theme is the quiet struggle of ordi- reveals his characteristic combination of old and
nary people. The unusual distribution of lines on new work in successive publications.
the page, and the inventiveness with word play and After being named the first Poet Laureate of San
rhyme, show Ferlinghetti’s sense of freedom, itself Francisco in 1998, Ferlinghetti compiled San Fran-
a key notion in his work. The Pocket Poets Series cisco Poems (1998), which gathers from his career
continued with works by Rexroth and Kenneth the poems that take San Francisco as their subject.
Patchen, but the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s A painter as well as a poet, Ferlinghetti has dis-
Howl and Other Poems (1956), following the fa- played his paintings at various galleries in Europe
mous reading at the 6 Gallery (1955), brought Fer- and the United States. He creates an interdiscipli-
linghetti’s publishing house to national attention. nary effect in his works because his paintings often
Ginsberg’s book faced problems with U.S. Customs incorporate words and phrases and his poems make
when an edition printed in England arrived in San references to the act of painting. How to Paint Sun-
Francisco in 1957, and the problems continued light (2001) refers frequently with a painter’s eye to
when the San Francisco Police arrested Fer- the effect of light falling on the city, and Life Stud-
linghetti and his partner, charging that they had ies, Life Stories (2003) presents many of Fer-
sold an obscene book. The American Civil Liberties linghetti’s drawings, some in color, some in black
Union defended Howl and Other Poems, bringing and white.


In Americus, Book I (2004), Ferlinghetti renews day in the life of the poet and publisher; in Golden
his discussion of America and the nation’s politics. Gate: Interviews with Five San Francisco Poets,
In characteristic style, he modifies and weaves 1971, David Meltzer presents an extended
interview with Ferlinghetti; in Gregory
strands of language from the history of culture and
Stephenson, The Daybreak Boys: Essays on the
literature, generating humor, satire, and sensitive Literature of the Beat Generation (1990), a
reflection. chapter, “The ‘Spiritual Optics’ of Lawrence
With a career of more than a half-century behind Ferlinghetti,” presents a general view of
him, Ferlinghetti is the recipient of numerous hon- Ferlinghetti’s writings; in A Casebook on the Beat,
ors. In San Francisco, an alley was officially desig- 1961, Thomas Parkinson includes his essay titled
“Phenomenon or Generation”; Crale D. Hopkins,
nated as Via Ferlinghetti in 1994. As Poet Laureate
“The Poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A
he began to write columns for the San Francisco Reconsideration,” Italian Americana (1974):
Chronicle, commenting on art, literature, politics, 59–76; and L. A. Ianni, “Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s
and life. In 2003, he received the Robert Frost Fourth Person Singular and the Theory of
Memorial Medal, was presented the Authors Guild Relativity,” Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary
Lifetime Achievement Award, and was made a mem- Literature 8 (1967): 392–406 are valuable studies.
ber of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. See also Censorship; Publishers; San Francisco;
—William Lawlor Atomic Era; Big Sur; Sea, Beats at

Principal Works
Poetry: Pictures of the Gone World, 1955; A Coney Film
Island of the Mind, 1958; Starting from San During the Beat era, independent filmmakers found
Francisco, 1961; The Secret Meaning of Things, outlets for their creativity and expression, producing
1969; Open Eye, Open Heart, 1973; Who Are We
films with innovative techniques, spontaneous de-
Now?, 1976; Landscapes of Living and Dying,
1979; Endless Life: Selected Poems, 1981; These sign, and social commentary. Although the Beats
Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems, 1994; themselves played roles in several of these indepen-
Pictures of the Gone World (revised with eighteen dent films, the clearest view of the Beats emerges in
new poems), 1995; San Francisco Poems, 1998; numerous documentaries. Biographical and histori-
How to Paint Sunlight, 2001; Americus, Book I, cal in their approaches, these documentaries pres-
ent the Beats in performance and offer commen-
Prose: Her, 1966; Tyranus Nix?, 1969; The Mexican
Night, 1970; Back Roads to Far Places, 1971; taries from artists and family members. Because of
Literary San Francisco: A Pictorial History from the notoriety of the Beats, Hollywood film produc-
Its Beginnings to the Present Day, 1980; A Trip to ers pursued the Beats as a point of focus, but with
Italy and France, 1980; Love in the Days of Rage, few exceptions, the Hollywood films reinforced
1988. stereotypes, suffered from abominable scripts and
Drama: Unfair Arguments with Existence, 1963;
poor acting, and distorted the literature and person-
Routines, 1964.
Art: Life Studies, Life Stories, 2003. alities in question.
The film movement that most intersects with the
Bibliographical References Beat movement in literature is called the New York
The most recent biography is Barry Silesky, Underground Cinema movement. Although inde-
Ferlinghetti: The Artist in His Time, 1990; another pendent films were being shown in New York be-
biography is Neeli Cherkovski, Ferlinghetti: A ginning in the 1930s, New York Underground Cin-
Biography, 1979; a general review of Ferlinghetti’s ema usually refers to the independent film
writings may be found in Larry Smith, Lawrence
movement of the late 1940s through the 1960s. The
Ferlinghetti: Poet-at-Large, 1983; and in Michael
Skau, Constantly Risking Absurdity, 1989; in Six Underground Cinema began to develop with the
San Francisco Poets, David Kherdian presents a opening of Cinema 16 by Amos and Marcia Vogel in
chapter “Lawrence Ferlinghetti” that describes a 1947. This film society exhibited experimental films


and presented annual Creative Cinema Awards for dance, minimalism, rock-and-roll music, comic
documentaries and avant-garde films. Then, Maya books, and Beat literature itself.
Deren, herself an experimental filmmaker, orga- Jonas Mekas (b. 1922) was a significant figure in
nized the Film Artists Society, which became the In- the New York Underground culture. Born in
dependent Film Makers Association, in 1953. This Lithuania, he came to New York City as a refugee
organization met monthly to discuss the develop- in 1949. He began watching screenings at Cinema
ments of the Underground Cinema movement. 16 and making his own films. By serving on the ed-
Deren also founded the Creative Film Foundation, itorial board of Film Culture and writing a weekly
which wrote grants for independent filmmakers. An column for the Village Voice, Mekas became a cru-
important periodical of the New York Underground, cial voice for and promoter of the movement. As a
Film Culture: America’s Independent Motion Pic- critic, Mekas sustained the Beat notions of spon-
ture Magazine, was founded in 1955. The Village taneity and originality as standards of authenticity.
Voice also commented on the movement in a weekly In addition, he was instrumental to the formation of
column beginning in 1958. The most notorious or- the Film-Makers’ Cooperative. He directed and
ganization of the New York Underground Cinema, produced his own film, Guns of the Trees, in 1961.
the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, was founded in 1962 Guns of the Trees is the story of two young New
and, unlike the previous organizations, accepted any York couples living under the threat of an atomic
films submitted for screening and distribution. This bombing. Allen Ginsberg wrote and recited poetry
film association cemented the Underground Cin- as part of the soundtrack for this film. Guns of the
ema movement by showing independent films regu- Trees won the first prize at the Second International
larly at local theaters and by making independent Free Cinema Festival in Italy in 1962. Mekas went
films more widely available for rental. on to create other films and also to cofound the An-
The filmmakers of the New York Underground thology Film Archives, a film museum devoted to
Cinema operated independently of Hollywood art films, in 1970. He has continued to work for the
probably because Hollywood studios would have Anthology up until the present day.
refused to produce or distribute their films. These Robert Frank (b. 1924), another immigrant to
filmmakers utilized both formal innovation and the United States, was first a photographer and
controversial subject matter, and the filmmakers then a filmmaker during the New York Under-
valued originality and novelty over narrative plot ground Cinema movement. After emigrating from
and standard film conventions. Many works of this Switzerland, he was given a Guggenheim Fellow-
movement are more accurately described as film ship to travel cross-country by car and photograph
poems than movies. Stan Brakhage, for instance, American life and geography in 1955. With the pho-
worked directly with the film stock, scratching it, tographs that he acquired on this journey, he pub-
dying it, painting it, even gluing moth wings to it, to lished a picture book titled The Americans. Jack
create unusual images. New York Underground Kerouac wrote the introduction to this book and
films are frequently similar in style to the European later asked Frank to collaborate on a film with him.
avant-garde films of the 1920s, exhibiting elements Their film, produced in 1959, became Pull My
of impressionism, surrealism, and expressionism. Daisy. Kerouac narrated; Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky,
Filmmakers, most famously Andy Warhol, often in- Larry Rivers, David Amram, Gregory Corso, and
teracted with and borrowed images from pop cul- others acted; and Frank and Alfred Leslie codi-
ture, simultaneously parodying and paying homage rected this film. Pull My Daisy is based on the last
to popular icons and mass culture. The films cre- act of an unpublished three-act play written by Ker-
ated as a result of the Underground Cinema move- ouac. It was filmed in an improvisational style, al-
ment represented protest about social, political, though it was completely scripted. The film is based
and sexual issues. The primary influences of this on an encounter between a group of Beats and a
film movement were Pop Art, performance and bishop that occurred at Neal Cassady’s home. It


won the Independent Film Award presented by (1968), A Woman under the Influence (1974), The
Film Culture in 1960. After Pull My Daisy, Frank Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), and Opening
returned to his career as a photographer. Night (1977).
Today Pull My Daisy is an enduring artifact of Documentaries about the Beat Generation are
the Beat Generation. One sees Ginsberg, Corso, numerous and offer a rich background for the
Orlovsky, Amram, and Rivers in their playful youth, study of Beat art. Perhaps the single most impor-
and the extended narration of Jack Kerouac may be tant documentary is John Antonelli’s Kerouac
the best surviving example of sustained expressive (1984), which has been released under various ti-
reading by Kerouac. Music composed by David tles, including On the Road with Jack Kerouac
Amram enlivens the film with its title song and the (1990). Now the film is also available as a DVD.
soundtrack as a whole. Antonelli’s film dramatizes Kerouac’s upbringing in
The codirector of Pull My Daisy was Alfred Lowell, Massachusetts, and recreates scenes from
Leslie (b. 1927). He collaborated with Frank and Kerouac’s writings with selected passages as part of
Kerouac for this project and later went on to make the soundtrack. Antonelli provides commentaries
other films as well. Leslie’s primary works, how- from the people who surrounded Kerouac, includ-
ever, are paintings, drawings, and prints. He had ing William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, John
his first art exhibition in New York in 1951. His first Clellon Holmes, Joyce Johnson, and Stanley Twar-
work is considered Abstract Expressionism, but in dowicz. Especially significant are scenes from Jack
the late 1950s, he turned to Realism. He is most Kerouac’s appearances on The Steve Allen Show
well known for his stark representations of both fe- (1959) and William F. Buckley’s Firing Line in
male and male nudes. 1968. Although brief, Kerouac’s reading of the clos-
Another experimental filmmaker is Anthony ing lines from On the Road with Steve Allen on
Balch, whose work is done in collaboration with piano may be the quintessential artifact of the Beat
William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Ghosts at Generation. The film’s musical soundtrack includes
No. 9 (1962) features a soundtrack by Burroughs selections from key jazz artists.
and, according to the video package, is “from the Scenes from Kerouac’s appearance on The Steve
archives of Psychic TV.” A collection of other ex- Allen Show and Firing Line are also available on
perimental works by Balch is Towers Open Fire, What Happened to Kerouac? (1985). This film in-
The Cut-Ups, Bill and Tony, and William Buys a cludes commentaries from Beat Generation per-
Parrot (1962–1972). These works abandon conven- sonalities, especially Gregory Corso. The film em-
tional narratives to present experimental loops and phasizes Kerouac’s problem with fame and decline
sequences. into alcoholism.
Another New York Underground Cinema film- A third documentary on Kerouac is Jack Ker-
maker was John Cassavetes (1929–1989). Cas- ouac’s Road: A Franco-American Odyssey (1987).
savetes began his film career in 1959 by starring in This film, produced by the National Film Board of
the television program Johnny Staccato. In this se- Canada, emphasizes the Franco-American back-
ries, he played an average urban character with ground of Kerouac and features an interview of
vague Beat culture connections. In 1957, Cas- Kerouac conducted in French and presented with
savetes filmed Shadows on the streets of New York. subtitles in English.
He did not utilize a script, and the film falls some- Special coverage of the 1982 conference on the
where between the categories of documentary and twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of On
improvisation. Shadows has three plot lines, with the Road is available in the third portion of Go
each revealing issues of race and identity. Shadows Moan for Man (2000). The first two parts system-
received the first Independent Film Award in atically cover the life and career of Kerouac and
1959. Cassavetes went on to work as a filmmaker provide scenes from locations where Kerouac lived
for the rest of his life, directing such films as Faces and traveled.


To get a strong background about Kerouac’s ex- the latter of these two works, a feminist perspective
perience in the mountains, one may turn to a pro- supplements the examination of male artists. In
gram originally produced by the BBC but subse- Gang of Souls (1988) and Fried Shoes Cooked Di-
quently shown on the Bravo television channel as a amonds (1989), one sees the Beats at Naropa Insti-
Bravo Profile. John Suiter and Tom Clark com- tute. The social and cultural context for the Beat
ment on Kerouac’s experience on Desolation Peak, Generation is well shown in The Beat Generation:
and the film reveals the hardships and solitude of An American Dream (1986). The Atomic Café
Kerouac during his time as a fire lookout. Upon his (1982) does not focus specifically on the Beats but
descent from Desolation Peak, Kerouac soon be- does show the cultural context with respect to the
came famous, and in this Bravo Profile Joyce John- rise and acceptance of nuclear weaponry.
son comments on the tragic changes in his life. Chuck Workman’s The Source (1999) presents
Ginsberg’s life is unfolded in a decade-by-decade the Beats as the inspiration for the countercultural
fashion in The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg movements of the 1960s and subsequent alterna-
(1993). The film provides generous samples of tive outlooks. The Source features film highlights of
readings by Ginsberg; comments from his brother the Beats themselves, but also features appear-
and stepmother enrich the viewer’s understanding ances by Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper, and John
of the family background and the significance of Turturro, who do dramatic readings of important
Allen’s mother, Naomi. selections from Beat writings.
Allen Ginsberg: Literary Video ((1989), a produc- In contrast to the documentaries are the Holly-
tion of the Lannan Foundation, combines Lewis wood productions; these offer some flavor from the
MacAdams’s interview of Ginsberg with readings by Beat era, but most are virtually unwatchable be-
Ginsberg. Beat Legends: Allen Ginsberg (1994) of- cause of wretched acting and dumb scripts. Never-
fers readings of poems other than “Howl” and “Kad- theless, in The Wild One (1954) and Rebel without
dish” and presents Ginsberg before a live audience. a Cause (1955), one does see Marlon Brando and
To learn more about William S. Burroughs, one James Dean suggest the hero disconnected from
may view Burroughs: The Movie (1983). The film society. In The Connection, director Shirley Clarke
provides biographical background, as well as inter- presents Jack Gelber’s play as performed by the
views and performances. Commissioner of Sewers Living Theater. Drug-dependent jazz musicians
(1995) does not systematically cover the life of Bur- await the arrival of their connection, and a film-
roughs, but readings and interviews reveal his per- maker compiles a documentary of their existence
sonality and style of performance. in the Beat apartment. The musicians address the
Other major figures in the Beat Generation are camera tauntingly, and Shirley Clarke allows the
also viewable in documentaries. The Coney Island camera to swerve and creates abrupt transitions
of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1996) reveals Ferlin- between scenes.
ghetti’s biography, literary career, interest in paint- Other films engage in mere exploitation of the
ing, and political activism. Gregory Corso is the news coverage afforded to the Beats in the late
subject of Beat Legends: Gregory Corso (1994). In 1950s. A Bucket of Blood (1959) and The Beat Gen-
this film, Corso reads at New York University. Gary eration (1959) absurdly reflect the stereotypes of
Snyder: Literary Video (1989) presents readings by Beat culture and now serve only as laughable se-
Snyder and an interview conducted by Lewis lections. The Subterraneans (1960) supposedly is
MacAdams. based on Kerouac’s novel of the same title, but the
Other documentaries, instead of selecting indi- interracial love theme is dropped and the movie
vidual personalities, treat the Beat Generation as a plods on miserably.
movement. The rise of the Beats on the West Coast Heart Beat (1979), based on the memoir by Car-
is the focus of West Coast Beat and Beyond (1984) olyn Cassady, promises to be an excellent Hollywood
and The Beats: An Existential Comedy (n.d.). In interpretation of the Beats, especially because of the

First Poetry-Jazz Concert

cast, which includes John Hurt, Nick Nolte, and Hanhardt, “A Movement Toward the Real: Pull
Sissy Spacek, but the movie is a bomb. Subsequent My Daisy and the American Independent Film
Hollywood films, such as Peggy Sue Got Married 1950–1965.” David E. James, ed., To Free the
Cinema: Jonas Mekas and the New York
(1986), Barfly (1987), Hairspray (1988), and Drug-
Underground, 1992, gives background on
store Cowboy (1990) recreate to some degree the independent filmmakers. David Sterritt’s Mad to
Beat scene, the social context, or a Beat character. In Be Saved, 1998, analyzes the Beats’ position in
Hairspray, the heroine mistakenly enters a Beat pad history and connects the Beats to film
and encounters a mad Beat painter and a “stoned productions. Jack Sargeant, Naked Lens, Vol. 1,
chick” who reads from “Howl.” In Drugstore Cow- 2002, is an updated edition of a previous work by
the same title; this updated edition discusses Pull
boy, William Burroughs plays Tom Murphy, a drug
My Daisy and includes interviews with Allen
addict–priest who describes the rise of the interna- Ginsberg and Jonas Mekas. The liner notes for
tional police because of hysteria about drugs. the audio recordings The Beat Generation, 1992,
Naked Lunch (1991) succeeds in rendering the include a review and listing of Hollywood
bizarre mood and environment of Burroughs’s interpretations of the Beats.
novel; the film ultimately is not based on the novel See also Kerouac, Jack; Ginsberg, Allen; Burroughs,
itself, however, but on the life of the author during William Seward; Corso, Gregory; Ferlinghetti,
the time of the composition of the novel. Bur- Lawrence; Mekas, Jonas; Theater
roughs and Joan Vollmer are the focus of attention
in Beat (2000), but weak acting by Kiefer Suther-
land and Courtney Love make the film tedious. First Poetry-Jazz Concert
The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997) is based A collaborative jazz-poetry performance by
on a letter by Neal Cassady, but as a biography of Howard Hart, Philip Lamantia, Jack Kerouac, and
Cassady, the movie has little interest. David Amram at the Brata Gallery on East 10th
The biggest of all the Hollywood issues for the Street in Manhattan in early October 1957.
Beats and their followers is the question of the pro- Amram, a musician, and Kerouac, a poet and
duction of On the Road. Francis Ford Coppola has prose writer, enjoyed and frequently took part in
the rights to produce the film. Over the years vari- spontaneous combinations of their art. Hart and
ous stories have emerged about selections for the Lamantia added their poetry to the work of Amram
cast. However, the film has never gone into pro- and Kerouac.
duction, and the difficulties of transforming Ker- Originally the performance was intended for the
ouac’s novel into a viable film script are significant. Museum of Modern Art. Frank O’Hara tried to es-
With so many film treatments of the Beats already tablish a connection with the events coordinator at
in existence, perhaps a stubborn insistence on the museum, but when the coordinator balked,
quality for On the Road will make the wait for the O’Hara helped schedule the performance at the
film worthwhile. Brata Gallery. Promotion was limited to flyers dis-
—Andrea Powell tributed at the Cedar Tavern, the Five Spot, the
William Lawlor Kettle of Fish, the White Horse Tavern, and the San
Remo; nevertheless, a full house greeted the per-
Bibliographical References formers, whose communal prayer before the show
Ray Carney, The Films of John Cassavetes: was answered when the show successfully combined
Pragmatism, Modernism, and the Movies (1994) jazz and three styles of poetry.
thoroughly discusses Cassavetes’s work; in Beat —William Lawlor
Culture and the New America, ed. Lisa Phillips,
1995, Carney is the author of “Escape Velocity:
Notes on Beat Film,” and a thorough listing of Bibliographical Reference
films associated with the Beat movement follows See David Amram, Offbeat: Collaborating with
the article. In Beat Culture one also finds John G. Kerouac, 2002: 8–15.

Florida House of Kerouac

See also Amram, David; Lamantia, Philip; 6 Gallery York Times and Harper’s Bazaar. After gathering
Reading; Kerouac, Jack materials for the 1953 Museum of Modern Art ex-
hibition Post-War European Photographers, he re-
ceived a fellowship from the Guggenheim Founda-
Florida House of Kerouac tion in 1955.
A home in the College Park area northwest of Frank traveled across the United States with
downtown Orlando, Florida, where Jack Kerouac Jack Kerouac and compiled The Americans (1959),
and his mother lived together in 1957 around the a collection of black-and-white photographs in-
time of the publication of On the Road (1957); now sightfully revealing citizens in their daily lives. Ker-
a location for the Jack Kerouac Writers in Resi- ouac wrote the introduction.
dence Project, which sponsors stays at the house In 1958, Frank and Alfred Leslie produced Pull
for writers. My Daisy, the experimental film that became a
Shaded by a large oak tree, the home is located Beat classic because of Kerouac’s narration and the
at 1418 Clouser Avenue, where Kerouac and his acting of Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory
mother shared the back-porch apartment. In the Corso, Larry Rivers, and David Amram.
late summer of 1957, Kerouac left the residence —William Lawlor
for New York to be in the city at the time of the
publication of On the Road.
With the success of On the Road, Kerouac soon
had the opportunity to sell another book. In the
Clouser Avenue apartment, he wrote The Dharma
Bums (1958), working mostly late at night when
the Florida heat abated.
Cofounded by Bob Kealing, the Jack Kerouac
Writers in Residence Project is dedicated to the
development of Kerouac’s literary legacy in Or-
lando. The full house, not just the back apartment,
is now offered, rent-free and with utilities paid, to
successful applicants for residencies in writing.
—William Lawlor

Bibliographical References
Thomas Swick, “Beat City,” South Florida
Sunsentinel, 22 February 2004: 1G, gives details
about the house, its connection to Kerouac, and
the opportunity for residencies for writers. Bob
Kealing, Kerouac in Florida: Where the Road
Ends, 2004, is an informative book by the
cofounder of the Jack Kerouac Writers in
Residence Project.
See also Kerouac, Jack; On the Road, New York Times
Review of

Frank, Robert
Swiss photographer and filmmaker who came to Artist Robert Frank in his studio, New York City, 1986.
the United States in 1947 and worked for the New (Christopher Felver/Corbis)


Principal Works from Beat culture to the more heavily drug-infused

Pull My Daisy, 1959, is available on video; Story hippie culture and the LSD-laced psychedelic cul-
Lines, 2004, is Frank’s most recent volume of ture, with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, the Merry
collected photos; The Americans, 1959, includes
Pranksters, and the Grateful Dead—all alumni of
the introduction by Jack Kerouac; other volumes
include Frank Films: The Film and Video Work of the Acid Tests—as ambassadors and guides on that
Robert Frank, 2004; Robert Frank: cognitive and conceptual journey.
London/Wales, 2003; a broad survey is Robert The bus, which at one time was sought after by
Frank: Moving Out, 1994. the Smithsonian Institution, rests in a grove of trees
on property owned by Kesey, where it has faded
Bibliographical References and rusted. A reincarnation of the bus has emerged
See John G. Hanhardt, “A Movement toward the
in recent years, and the surviving members of the
Real: Pull My Daisy and the American
Independent Film, 1950–65” in Beat Culture and Merry Pranksters display the latest edition of the
the New America: 1950–1965, ed. Lisa Phillips, bus at their public appearances. Although the orig-
1995: 215–233; Terence Diggory, “What Abstract inal destination read “Furthur,” the spelling was
Art Means in Pull My Daisy” in Reconstructing later changed to “Further,” and the latest version of
the Beats, ed. Jennie Skerl, 2004: 135–149. the bus bears the destination “Further.”
See also Film; Photography The cultural iconography of “Furthur” led to the
“Furthur Festival,” a series of post–Jerry Garcia
tours of the remaining members of the Grateful
Furthur/Further Dead, and the establishment of the Furthur Foun-
“Furthur” was the inscription written on the desti- dation, a San Francisco–based charitable founda-
nation placard of the 1939 International Harvester tion composed of many members of the Grateful
school bus that novelist Ken Kesey (One Flew Over Dead’s extended family.
the Cuckoo’s Nest, Sometimes a Great Notion) and —Timothy D. Ray
the Merry Pranksters drove across the country in
1964 to attend the New York World’s Fair and the Bibliographical References
Ken Kesey, The Further Inquiry, 1990; Paul Perry
release party for Kesey’s second novel. By associa-
and Ken Babbs, On the Bus: The Complete Guide
tion, “Furthur” was also the name given to the mul- to the Legendary Trip of Ken Kesey and the
ticolored bus. Merry Pranksters and the Birth of the
In many ways, the “Furthur” destination on the Counterculture, 1990; Tom Wolfe, The Electric
bus—piloted by Neal Cassady, inspiration for the Kool-Aid Acid Test, 1968.
character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s On the See also Kesey, Ken Elton; Cassady, Neal; Merry
Road—represented the mind-set of the transition Pranksters

Gaddis, William (1922–1998) 1984; and in Moore’s William Gaddis, 1989.
Before William Gaddis published his first novel, Moore (and other contributors) expanded this
The Recognitions (1955), he was acquainted with account on a “Gaddis in Fiction” website, http://
Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Chandler Brossard,
(cited October 23, 2003)
Alan Ansen, and William Burroughs. The middle
third of The Recognitions dramatizes scenes from
Greenwich Village parties where they mixed, and
he seems to have provided the template for char- Gaillard, Slim (1916–1991)
acters in several Beat works, notably Harold Sand Jive-talking, tap-dancing, guitar-playing showman
in Kerouac’s The Subterraneans, and Harry Lees in known for 1930s hits such as “Flat Foot Floogie”
Brossard’s Who Walk in Darkness, and he is also and “Cement Mixer,” which he recorded anew with
the focus of part of Ansen’s “Epistle to Chester Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s.
Kallman.” Born Bulee Gaillard in Detroit, Michigan (or Santa
Gaddis was born in Manhattan on 29 Decem- Clara, Cuba, Slim sometimes said), Slim Gaillard
ber 1922. He published four innovative novels in invented Vout, a variety of jive talking with many
forty years. He died before two final works were words ending in “orooni, “oreeni,” or “vout.” Gail-
published. lard spoke and sang this language with masterful
—Stephen J. Burn fluency and combined his verbal dynamics with
clever jazz.
Principal Works In On the Road, Jack Kerouac describes the per-
The Recognitions, 1955; JR, 1975; Carpenter’s formance of Slim Gaillard in a San Francisco night
Gothic, 1985; A Frolic of His Own, 1994; Agapë club (176–177). Slim hypnotizes the audience with
Agape, 2002; The Rush for Second Place: Essays his jive talk and especially impresses Dean Mori-
and Occasional Writings, 2002. arty, who views Slim as a divinity.
—William Lawlor
Bibliographical References
There are brief references to Gaddis’s connection
with Kerouac in biographies like Gerald Nicosia’s Principal Works
Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Available on the set of CDs (Laughing in Rhythm,
Kerouac, 1983; but more useful are the accounts 2003) are 103 selections from the career of Slim
included in the introduction to John Kuehl and Gaillard; “Yip Roc Heresy” is included on a set of
Steven Moore’s In Recognition of William Gaddis, CDs or tapes called The Beat Generation, 1992.

Genet, Jean (1910–1986)

Genet, Jean (1910–1986) thorough recent biography by novelist White and

Originally a thief and pimp, Genet became an im- is strong on Genet from a gay perspective.
portant figure in French letters as a novelist and See also Influences
playwright, beatified by Sartre as an existentialist
saint. Genet was rescued from a life sentence in
prison through the advocacy of Jean Cocteau and Gillespie, John Brinks (Dizzy)
Sartre. His early novels, especially Our Lady of the (1917–1993)
Flowers (1942), with its lyrical treatment of the Virtuoso trumpet player whose beard, beret, and
marginalized, entered the Beat circle through horn-rimmed shades gave him a distinctive cool
William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, becoming an appearance. The bell of his horn was turned up-
important statement. His early plays, Death Watch ward at a right angle, and his cheeks puffed out as
(1949) and The Maids (1947), show the themes and he played.
neoclassical economy of Sartre. His later plays The Dizzy Gillespie’s father was a bandleader and
Balcony (1956), The Blacks (1958), and The amateur musician and made a variety of instru-
Screens (1961) are significant contributions to the ments available to his son, who eventually attended
Theater of the Absurd. Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina on a music
—Thomas L. Cooksey scholarship. Throughout the latter half of the thir-
ties, Dizzy Gillespie worked with band leaders
Principal Works such as Mercer “Duke” Ellington and Cab Cal-
Major Prose: Le Condamné à mort, 1942 (in English loway and began developing his own style, which
The Man Sentenced to Death, 1981); Notre-Dame
later came to be known as bebop. A fistfight on-
des Fleurs, 1942 (in English Our Lady of the
Flowers, 1949); Chants secrets, 1945; Miracle de
la rose, 1946 (Miracle of the Rose, 1949); Pompes
funèbres, 1947, revised 1948 (in English Funeral
Rites); Querelle de Brest, 1947, revised 1953 (in
English Querelle of Brest, 1966); La Galère, 1947;
Journal du voleur, 1949 (in English The Thief’s
Journal, 1954); Un Captif amoureux, 1986.
Drama: Haute Surveillance, 1949, revised 1965 (in
English The Death Watch, 1954); Les Bonnes,
1954 (in English, The Maids, 1954); Le Balcon,
1956, revised 1962 (in English The Balcony, 1957,
1960); Les Nègres, clownerie, 1958 (in English
The Blacks, 1960); Les Paravents, 1961 (in
English, The Screens, 1962).

Bibliographic References
Joseph McMahon, The Imagination of Jean Genet,
1963, is an important study; Jean-Paul Sartre,
Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr, trans. Bernard
Frechtman, 1963, is an existentialist classic that
helped to gain Genet’s pardon and to define him
as an existential hero; Philip Thody, Jean Genet: A
Study of His Novels and Plays, 1968, is a standard
general study of Genet’s work; see also Richard C.
Webb and Suzanne A. Webb, Jean Genet and His
Critics: An Annotated Bibliography, 1982; In both his musical style and cool attire, Dizzy Gillespie ap-
Edmund White, Genet: A Biography, 1993, is a pealed to the Beats. (Library of Congress)

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

stage led to his departure from Calloway’s band, publishing his work in newspapers and small po-
and throughout the forties he played in New York etry journals. Allen and his older brother Eugene
clubs with musicians such as Thelonious Monk, always remembered the way Louis walked about
Charlie Parker, and Earl Hines. Gillespie’s improv- the house, doing chores and reciting poetry the
isational style and innovative harmonies had a pro- way some people sang the songs of the day while
found influence on Beat writers such as Jack Ker- they worked. Naomi Ginsberg, Allen’s mother, was
ouac, who, according to Allen Ginsberg in an a strong-willed woman who, like her husband,
interview originally published in Composed on the taught school until mental illness forced her into
Tongue (1980), but reprinted in Spontaneous Mind retirement in her early twenties. A Russian immi-
(2001), “learned his line” listening to early bebop. grant, Naomi Ginsberg identified strongly with
—David Arnold communism, and her love of the working class and
oppressed masses was passed on, often not so sub-
Bibliographical References tly, to Allen.
Alyn Shipton, Groovin’ High: The Life of Dizzy By all appearances, Allen Ginsberg’s youth was
Gillespie, 1999; Allen Ginsberg, Spontaneous typical. He enjoyed swimming and running, made
Mind: Selected Interviews 1958–1996, ed. David
friends easily, and excelled in school. As he later
Carter, 2001.
confessed, however, he also experienced great psy-
See also Music chological stress. His parents quarreled often, usu-
ally over politics or money, and his mother was
often away, confined to sanitariums for long peri-
Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997) ods of time when her paranoid schizophrenia be-
Poet, founding member of the Beat Generation, came too disruptive at home. As he entered his
controversial social and political activist—Allen adolescence, Allen Ginsberg became painfully
Ginsberg was one of the best known and most in- aware of his homosexuality, which, as the times dic-
fluential literary figures of the twentieth century. tated, he went to great lengths to keep hidden.
“Howl,” his lengthy breakthrough poem, which ap- Many of the crucial events of Ginsberg’s youth
pears in Howl and Other Poems (1956), influenced are contained in “Kaddish,” his lengthy masterwork
a generation of poets and musicians, and tri- dedicated to his mother. Brutally frank yet equally
umphed in a notorious obscenity trial that set a tender, “Kaddish,” with its accounts of Naomi Gins-
standard still held today; its opening line—“I saw berg’s descent into mental disability, is shocking in
the best minds of my generation destroyed by mad- its depiction of Naomi’s paranoid ravings (she in-
ness”—(9) remains one of the most often quoted sisted, throughout her life, that Hitler, Roosevelt,
lines in the history of American poetry. Ginsberg’s and even Louis Ginsberg’s mother, were plotting
alignment with antiwar, free-speech, and gay liber- against her) and disruptive behavior, including her
ation causes, among others, brought him additional nudism around her two young sons. The poem in-
fame, placing him at the forefront of the tumul- cludes an account of an attempted suicide and, in
tuous 1960s and making him as famous for his pol- perhaps the most striking episode, the detailing of
itics as he was for being a poet. He remained active the time when Allen, who had been kept out of
in his later years, although he devoted much of his school to watch over his mother, grew alarmed at
time to teaching, photography, and affirming the her public behavior and, after a series of harrowing
legacy of the Beat Generation. misadventures, admitted her to a rest home, only to
Born on 3 June 1926, Irwin Allen Ginsberg was be admonished by his father when he returned
the product of parents who were enormously influ- home later that evening.
ential throughout his life. Louis Ginsberg, Allen’s Ginsberg’s ambivalent feelings toward his
father, enjoyed a modest reputation as a lyric poet, mother, along with the sense of guilt that he felt

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

later, as an adult, when he authorized Naomi’s lo-

botomy, haunted him throughout his life, provok-
ing countless nightmares and inspiring some of his
finest work. The conflicting emotions also evolved
into an enormous empathy for the disenfranchised,
the suffering, and the downtrodden of the world—
an empathy that fueled his poetry and political
After graduating from high school, Ginsberg en-
rolled at Columbia University, where he intended to
study to become a labor lawyer. These ambitions
were quickly cast aside. Shortly after beginning his
studies at Columbia, Ginsberg met Lucien Carr, an
aspiring writer two years his senior. Ginsberg was
immediately attracted to the strikingly handsome,
fiercely intellectual St. Louis native, and the two
spent many hours discussing what they called a
“New Vision” for American literature. Through Carr,
Ginsberg met Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs,
two men who, in the decades to come, became Gins-
berg’s two primary confidants and influences.
Burroughs and Kerouac could not have been
more unalike. Burroughs came from a wealthy St.
Louis background, Kerouac from a blue-collar fam-
ily in Lowell, Massachusetts. Burroughs, who had
studied anthropology at Harvard, exuded a world- Allen Ginsberg, shown in this photo from 1958, was the au-
weary cynicism, while Kerouac, who had briefly at- thor of “Howl,” a central work of the Beat Generation.
tended Columbia on a football scholarship, was an
American romantic in the Thomas Wolfe tradition.
The two older men had an immediate impact on
Ginsberg, Burroughs as an elder and mentor, Ker- mond Weaver, and with Naomi Ginsberg replaced
ouac as a literary influence. Kerouac had written a by Allen’s new circle of friends. Ginsberg was as
prodigious amount of work by the time he met Gins- dependent on his educators and new friends as he
berg in 1944, and he encouraged Allen to follow his had been on his parents, and his behavior at Co-
interests in writing poetry. Burroughs, a student of lumbia reflected that dependency. He wrote imita-
abnormal, rebellious, and even criminal behavior, tions of his father’s (and teachers’) favorite poets,
introduced Ginsberg to a menagerie of unusual ac- excelled in his studies, and openly sought his teach-
quaintances, including petty thieves and drug ad- ers’ approval; conversely, he also earned a reputa-
dicts, Times Square hustlers and small-time mob- tion for nonconformist behavior, from his class-
sters. Burroughs and Kerouac wound up being as room discussions to his physical appearance, which
important to Ginsberg’s intellectual development as was more bohemian than Ivy League
any of Allen’s teachers at Columbia. Few questioned his talent. Throughout his time at
The conflict between Ginsberg’s formal and in- Columbia, Ginsberg contributed highly polished,
formal education mirrored the conflicts between rhymed poems to the university’s literary journal. He
his parents, with Louis Ginsberg replaced by the showed his works-in-progress to his father, who cri-
likes of Lionel Trilling, Mark Van Doren, and Ray- tiqued the work and offered encouragement.

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

Ginsberg and his friends met regularly, often at informed that the subject matter was unaccept-
Burroughs’s apartment or at the West End Bar on able. Later, when Kerouac, already persona non
Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The group members, grata on the Columbia campus, stayed overnight in
including Kerouac’s girlfriend, Edie Parker, and Ginsberg’s dormitory room, Ginsberg was sus-
Burroughs’s friend, Joan Vollmer, discussed litera- pended from the university for harboring an unau-
ture and the social issues of the day, their ideas de- thorized guest and for scribbling obscene slogans
cisively unorthodox. Burroughs, in particular, urged and drawings in the grime on his dorm windows. If
his friends to think outside the margins. Ginsberg not for the support from his influential professors,
was impressed, and he continually sought Bur- Ginsberg might have been permanently banished
roughs’s advice on the books he should be reading. from the school.
The circle was broken in August 1944, as a result Not that Ginsberg would have protested too ve-
of a bizarre event that became part of Beat Gener- hemently: he had long abandoned his labor-lawyer
ation legend. Back in St. Louis, Lucien Carr had aspirations, and with encouragement from Ker-
met an older man, David Kammerer, who had ouac, he was devoting extensive time to his poetry.
been so taken with Carr’s physical beauty that he Ginsberg and Kerouac had grown very close, and
stalked Carr across the country, first to the Univer- Ginsberg had revealed his homosexuality to Ker-
sity of Chicago and, eventually, to Columbia. Kam- ouac during one particularly intense conversation.
merer had also known Burroughs in St. Louis, and Kerouac, who had bisexual tendencies of his own,
while Kammerer was never part of the inner circle was sympathetic.
of friends, he was tolerated. Through a mutual friend, Ginsberg and Kerouac
On August 14, 1944, Kammerer’s infatuation met Neal Cassady, a young Denver hustler who in-
with Carr reached a tragic ending. After an evening fluenced their lives. Cassady was a smooth, good-
of excessive drinking at the West End, Carr and looking, fast-talking young man of incredible en-
Kammerer walked to a nearby park. They argued ergy, and his boasts about his sexual escapades
vehemently over Kammerer’s feelings toward Carr, intrigued Kerouac, who viewed him as a kind of
and Kammerer threatened to murder Carr and Western American hero. Ginsberg was physically
commit suicide if Carr failed to submit to his ad- attracted to Cassady, and although he was essen-
vances. A physical struggle ensued, and Carr pulled tially heterosexual, Cassady reciprocated. After a
out a pocket knife and stabbed Kammerer in the tender sexual encounter detailed in Ginsberg’s
heart. Carr weighed down Kammerer’s body with poem, “Many Loves,” Ginsberg offered to help
rocks and dropped him in the Hudson River. He Cassady with his writing in exchange for his sexual
then visited Burroughs, who encouraged him to favors. Cassady agreed.
turn himself in to the police, and Kerouac, who The relationship was doomed from the begin-
helped him dispose of Kammerer’s glasses and the ning. Because Cassady preferred women to men,
pocket knife. When Carr eventually surrendered to Ginsberg had to settle for his very limited availabil-
the authorities, Kerouac and Burroughs were ar- ity. Then there was the issue of geography: Cassady
rested as material witnesses. Burroughs’s family lived two thousand miles away, and when he was
helped him avoid a jail sentence, and Kerouac es- gone, he and Ginsberg exchanged letters that found
caped by marrying Edie Parker and moving to Ginsberg alternately happy, anxious, frustrated,
Michigan. The media portrayed the event as an jealous, warm, bitchy, and romantic. The relation-
honor slaying, and Carr eventually received a light ship was typical of the love affairs Ginsberg had
sentence for second-degree manslaughter. throughout his life. He had a tendency to fall the
The scandal set university officials on edge and hardest for heterosexual men, and this problematic
did little to dispel Ginsberg’s reputation as an ec- attraction inevitably led to great anxiety and de-
centric. When Ginsberg attempted to write an ac- pression. Later poetic works such as “Please Mas-
count of the tragedy for a class assignment, he was ter” and “C’mon Jack” reveal a sadomasochistic

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

inclination, undoubtedly cultivated in these difficult vision occurred one early evening when Ginsberg
relationships. was alone in his Harlem apartment, lying in bed
By 1947, Ginsberg reached a crossroads in his and staring out his window at the nearby rooftops.
long-distance relationship with Cassady. He was He suddenly heard a deep voice reciting Blake’s
weary of competing for Cassady’s affections—Cas- “Ah Sunflower,” a poem that seemed to address
sady was married to a teenaged girl and had a num- Ginsberg’s innermost feelings. Both shaken and ex-
ber of simultaneous flirtations with other women; uberant, Ginsberg was utterly convinced that he
and in an effort to force the issue to some kind of had arrived at a personal epiphany, that Blake, by
conclusion, Ginsberg traveled to Denver to meet speaking to him through eternity, had shown him
with Cassady. that poetry had a mystical power that transcended
The trip to Denver was a nightmare. Cassady had time. Other visions, all involving Blake’s poetry, fol-
turned back to his womanizing ways, and Ginsberg, lowed. Ginsberg vowed that he would never deny
mired in self-pity, brooded alone in his small apart- or forget the experience.
ment. His journal entries from the period bounced The Allen Ginsberg of this period was eventually
back and forth between lengthy diatribes saturated recorded—to Ginsberg’s displeasure—in Go, nov-
in self-pity and beautifully descriptive passages, in- elist John Clellon Holmes’s roman à clef about Ker-
cluding an entry describing a young laborer at work. ouac, Ginsberg, Cassady, and others in the group.
The passage eventually became “The Bricklayer’s David Stofsky, the name Holmes gave to his ficti-
Lunch Hour,” which Ginsberg later called his first tious Ginsberg character, was alternately brooding
truly successful poem. Seeing little hope for im- and hyperactive, strongly intellectual yet emotion-
provement in the future, Ginsberg decided to drop ally shattered, focused on his poetry and visions yet
out of school, take a job on a ship bound for Africa, prone to grossly exaggerated behavior. In his later
and straighten out his life when he returned. Dur- years, Ginsberg cringed at this portrayal, as well as
ing his voyage to Africa, Ginsberg wrote “Dakar at the journals and diaries from his youth and
Doldrums,” a lengthy poem more noteworthy for its young adulthood, to the extent that he refused to
expression of the poet’s state of mind than for its lit- write an introduction to a new edition of Go, issued
erary accomplishment. decades after its initial publication. Significantly,
Ginsberg continued to work on his rhymed he also refused to publish any of his early journals
poems, including a couple of epic-length works during his lifetime.
that never met his approval. The poetry, although His troubles, it turned out, were racing toward a
accomplished in its imitation of classical forms, was climax. After Ginsberg told Kerouac of Allen’s vi-
bogged down by dense, excessive symbolism and sions, Jack Kerouac feared for his friend’s sanity, as
Ginsberg’s devotion to form over content. In addi- did Louis Ginsberg, who urged his son to “exorcise
tion, Ginsberg was studying a variety of prophetic Neal,” finish his schooling, and lead a normal life.
and mystical writers, including William Blake, St. In early 1949, Ginsberg invited an acquaintance, a
John of the Cross, and Christopher Smart, and Times Square hustler named Herbert Huncke, to
Ginsberg was far too young and inexperienced to stay in his apartment. Huncke had recently been
apply what he had absorbed from those writers to released from jail and had nowhere to stay, and
his own work. after living on the street he was sickly and de-
These studies, along with Ginsberg’s fragile pressed. A sympathetic Ginsberg offered his apart-
emotional state, led to an extraordinary event that ment for as long as it took Huncke to recover.
preoccupied him for the next decade and a half. In no time, Ginsberg’s apartment was converted
During the summer of 1948, Ginsberg experienced into a warehouse for stolen goods. Huncke hooked
a series of what he called “visions,” in which he up with a couple of small-time burglars, and Gins-
heard what he perceived to be the voice of William berg watched helplessly as they went on their
Blake speaking to him through the ages. The first nightly runs and returned with everything from

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

men’s clothing to a cigarette machine. Finally, not during this period, eventually published as Empty
long after Huncke and his friends burglarized a de- Mirror, represented an important new direction for
tective’s home, Ginsberg insisted that the goods be Ginsberg’s poetry.
removed from the apartment. Unfortunately, while While Ginsberg tried to conform to the sugges-
they were in the process of doing so, with Ginsberg tions made by his psychiatrists, his friends were see-
riding in what turned out to be a stolen car, the ing major changes taking place in their lives. Neal
driver made a wrong turn on a one-way street and Cassady was now married and living in California.
came face-to-face with a police officer. The driver Jack Kerouac published his first book, The Town
of the stolen car panicked, and a wild chase en- and the City, a novel written in the style of Thomas
sued. The driver crashed the car, and although Wolfe and telling the stories of characters modeled
Ginsberg escaped before the police reached the after Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Huncke, and
scene, it was only a matter of hours before the po- others. Burroughs had run afoul of the law again,
lice arrived at his apartment. He was charged with this time in Mexico, when, according to some re-
being an accomplice in the burglary ring. ports, he accidentally shot and killed Joan Vollmer
If not for the efforts of Columbia University’s during a drunken game of William Tell, during
faculty and attorneys, Ginsberg might have re- which Vollmer had placed a glass on her head and
ceived a jail sentence. Instead, an agreement was dared Burroughs to shoot it off. Horrified by the
reached and Ginsberg was sent to a psychiatric news, Ginsberg worried about the future of his
hospital for treatment. While in the hospital, Gins- friend and mentor.
berg met Carl Solomon, an eccentric intellectual In 1951, Ginsberg met Gregory Corso, a young,
seemingly hell-bent on self-destruction. Solomon aspiring poet who became a lifelong friend. In many
had been arrested and institutionalized for stealing ways, Corso was the personification of a “Beat” poet.
a peanut-butter sandwich and showing it to the po- He had had a difficult childhood, with much time
lice, and at the time of his meeting with Ginsberg, spent fending for himself on the street, and by the
he had been undergoing shock treatments. To time he met Ginsberg, Corso had spent time in re-
Ginsberg, who spent hours discussing life and lit- formatories and jails, educated himself on the classic
erature with the troubled patient, Solomon was writers and poets, and written some excellent early
proof of a great mind being destroyed by madness, work. Like Neal Cassady or Herbert Huncke, Corso
not unlike the sorrow Allen felt when he consid- was a natural storyteller, yet he possessed a poet’s in-
ered his mother’s mental decline. stincts and sensibilities. For the next four-plus
Once released from the psychiatric institute, decades, Ginsberg acted as Corso’s biggest apologist,
Ginsberg tried to conform to what the rest of the defending him when he acted out, promoting his
world considered to be normal. He found a job, work to anyone who listened, and taking him in
lived at home with his father and new stepmother, when he had no place to live.
and even struck up a romantic relationship with a Ginsberg’s efforts to conform might have kept
woman. His poetry took a dramatic turn for the him out of harm’s way, but they also left him un-
better when he met and was befriended by William happy. By all indications, he was adrift in an ocean
Carlos Williams, New Jersey’s unofficial poet laure- of uncertainty. He was writing as much as ever, yet
ate. Williams had little use for Ginsberg’s rhymed very little was being published; he had engaged in
poetry, and he encouraged Ginsberg to use con- several heterosexual relationships, yet he knew
crete images and everyday speech in his work. they were a sham, that he was and always would be
Ginsberg complied by rewriting some of his journal homosexual at the core. His jobs earned him
entries into poetry. Happy with the results, money but took him nowhere. Even a brief fling
Williams promised to help Ginsberg find a pub- with William Burroughs—back in New York after
lisher, and although years passed before that con- years of rambling around the United States and
nection occurred, the poems written by Ginsberg Mexico—ended poorly, with Ginsberg rejecting

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

Burroughs and Burroughs leaving the country for nearly a decade earlier. During his first year on the
Tangier. West Coast, Ginsberg also met poets Gary Snyder,
Desperate for any kind of movement in his life, Philip Whalen, and Michael McClure, who all be-
Ginsberg left New York for an extended stay in came lifelong friends and, in the cases of Snyder
Mexico. He explored the Mayan ruins in the Yu- and Whalen, influences in Ginsberg’s study of Bud-
catán, pondering the fate of the great yet long-gone dhism and Eastern thought.
civilization and wondering if the same was in store Shortly after arriving in San Francisco, Ginsberg
for modern Western civilization. It was a happy pe- met Peter Orlovsky, who became Allen’s lifelong
riod, even if Ginsberg had little money and had to lover. Orlovsky, seven years younger than Ginsberg,
rely on the generosity of a female archeologist who was emotionally fragile, and, in the wake of his re-
befriended him. “Siesta in Xbalba,” one of Gins- cent affairs with Cassady and Burroughs, Ginsberg
berg’s stronger early works, details his adventures moved slowly in developing their relationship. The
and inner discoveries during his trip to Mexico. fact that Orlovsky was mainly heterosexual also
Ginsberg eventually became known for his ex- posed a potential problem, but it was an issue Gins-
tensive travels, and his trip to Mexico, taken when berg was prepared to address. In February 1955,
he was nearly twenty-eight, was his first extended the two exchanged informal marriage vows and
time away from home. This time away proved to be moved into an apartment together.
critical to Ginsberg’s personal development. Away The relationship was never easy. Ginsberg could
from friends and family, he was forced to think and be possessive and demanding, and Orlovsky could
act independently, and by all indications, Ginsberg be quite moody. In time, as Ginsberg gained inter-
had grown dramatically by the time he left Mexico national fame, Orlovsky all but disappeared into
in May 1954. His journal entries, published in the background, and, at times, he was subjected to
Journals Early Fifties Early Sixties, display a matu- brutal disapproval and criticism from Ginsberg’s
ration in his thinking and poetry. friends. Orlovsky struggled with alcohol and drug
From Mexico, Ginsberg moved up the Califor- dependency for much of his life, and he and Gins-
nia coastline to San Jose, where he hoped to ren- berg separated for great stretches of time, but the
dezvous with Neal Cassady and possibly rekindle relationship endured for more than four decades.
their affair. He was only partially successful. Cas- Orlovsky was at Ginsberg’s bedside during the final
sady was preoccupied with his job and a domestic hours of his life.
life that included a wife and children, and after a Ginsberg’s poetry reflected the dramatic changes
brief stay with the family, Ginsberg was banished in his life. He filled the pages of his journals (even-
from the household when Carolyn Cassady caught tually published as Journals Mid Fifties) with notes
him in bed with her husband. She drove Ginsberg and new poems, dream entries, drawings, and ac-
to San Francisco and ordered him to stay away counts of his day-to-day life. Some of the poems
from Neal. from his early days in California—“America,” “In
Although these events at first seemed trouble- the Baggage Room at Greyhound,” “A Supermarket
some, Ginsberg could not have written a better in California,” and “Sunflower Sutra,” a stunning
script for his life. San Francisco had a teeming arts piece of spontaneous composition, hurriedly writ-
community, and the city was tolerant of bohemian ten while Kerouac waited for Ginsberg to join him
and alternative lifestyles. Ginsberg wasted no time for a party—rank among the best works Ginsberg
in getting involved in San Francisco’s thriving po- produced.
etry community, which was essentially guided by During this productive period Ginsberg wrote
poets Kenneth Rexroth and Robert Duncan. Jack his signature work, a poem that not only gained
Kerouac was in and out of town, as was Neal Cas- him international fame but actually changed the
sady, so for Ginsberg, San Francisco represented a face of modern poetry. Ironically, “Howl” began as
reunion of the central figures in his East Coast life an artistic exercise and, by Ginsberg’s account, was

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

never intended for publication. Jack Kerouac had wrote, imitating a letter Ralph Waldo Emerson had
been experimenting in spontaneous composition sent Walt Whitman after the publication of Leaves
with his fiction, and he had been urging Ginsberg of Grass. “When do I get the manuscript?”
to try spontaneity with his poetry. One evening in Despite the poem’s length, Ginsberg felt that it
August 1955, Ginsberg sat down at his typewriter was incomplete, and over the next several months
and, remembering Kerouac’s advice and thinking he wrote two new sections for it, as well as what he
about the long sax lines played by jazz musicians, labeled a “Footnote to Howl.” Although sponta-
attempted a work that summoned forth a rush of neously composed, each section was subsequently
thoughts and sympathies for all his friends and ac- worked and reworked until Ginsberg was satisfied.
quaintances whose unorthodox thinking and be- To complete his first collection of poems, Gins-
havior had been trampled by an unsparing society. berg gathered a sampling of his best new poems,
There were lines devoted to Carl Solomon, Her- along with four short works he had completed
bert Huncke, Bill Cannastra (a friend who died in while staying with the Cassadys in San Jose.
a tragic subway accident), and others, and although William Carlos Williams provided an introduction.
Naomi Ginsberg was never specifically mentioned The booklet, Howl and Other Poems, became the
in the poem, she and her plight were a strong in- fourth installment in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s
fluence in the writing. The long lines looked to be “Pocket Poets” series.
straight out of Whitman, but there was no question Suddenly, with Ginsberg and “Howl” largely to
that “Howl” was the work of a powerful contempo- thank, San Francisco was enjoying a poetry “renais-
rary voice. sance.” Major publications ran articles and photos
At first, Ginsberg felt ambivalent about the mas- of the poets; readings enjoyed increases in atten-
sive work. As spontaneous writing, as well as emo- dance. Ginsberg, quite comfortable with all the at-
tional expression, the poem had undeniable value. tention, used his new celebrity status as a means of
Still, as Ginsberg saw it, the subject matter of promoting the works by his friends, and although
“Howl” was far too private to be published. he wasn’t always successful in convincing editors to
Ginsberg read the first part of “Howl” during a publish their books, he was able to keep their
historic reading at San Francisco’s 6 Gallery on 7 names circulating in literary circles. Throughout his
October 1955. Hosted by Kenneth Rexroth, the life, Ginsberg championed the work of unknown
reading featured new work by such younger, rela- and unpublished poets and writers, eventually es-
tively unknown poets as Philip Lamantia, Michael tablishing a nonprofit organization, Committee on
McClure, Philip Whalen, Gary Snyder, and Gins- Poetry, to help fund their works. San Francisco was
berg, but no one in the room was prepared for the just a starting point.
impact of Ginsberg’s contribution. Jack Kerouac The reaction to “Howl” was fiercely mixed, with
had declined an invitation to read, but he was very some critics praising it as a breakout poem signal-
much a presence, passing around wine jugs and ing the beginning of a new type of poetry, while
punctuating the end of each long line of “Howl” others condemned it for its profane language,
with shouts of “Go!” and “Yes!” The audience joined graphic references to homosexuality, and con-
in, and Ginsberg, a little drunk when he took the frontational, antiestablishment stance. The poem
stage and emboldened by the encouragement, re- (and Ginsberg) enjoyed a huge boost in publicity in
sponded by delivering his poem in a manner noth- 1957 when Ferlinghetti and Shig Murao, a City
ing short of astonishing. Poet Lawrence Fer- Lights Bookstore clerk, were arrested and charged
linghetti, owner of the City Lights Bookstore and with selling an obscene book. The trial garnered
publisher of small volumes and pamphlets under national attention, and by the time a “not guilty”
his City Lights Books imprint, witnessed Ginsberg’s verdict was rendered, Howl and Other Poems had
performance and sent him a telegram: “I greet you sold more than 10,000 copies. The trial set prece-
at the beginning of a great career,” Ferlinghetti dents used in future First Amendment court cases,

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

including the San Francisco obscenity trial of social Generation writers. He acted as a guest editor for
satirist Lenny Bruce. magazines clamoring for new work by these con-
Ginsberg was away from the United States dur- troversial writers, and he made a point of attending
ing the trial. He and Peter Orlovsky had left the high-visibility publishing parties and functions.
country in early 1957, first for Tangier, where they Ferlinghetti requested a new manuscript of poems,
visited William Burroughs, and Ginsberg assisted but Ginsberg felt the volume lacked a big poem to
him in the editing of a novel he was calling Naked anchor it, as “Howl” had anchored his first book.
Lunch. Then Allen and Peter were off to Europe, He had a strong inclination about what that
where Ginsberg divided his time writing poetry, poem would be. For more than two years, he had
hanging out with artists and writers, and exploring been attempting to write a long eulogy to his
the sites and museums of Spain, Italy, France, and mother, who had died shortly before the publica-
England. Much of his time was spent in Paris. tion of Howl and Other Poems. Ginsberg had been
Ginsberg, Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso resided in haunted by the fact that there had been so few peo-
a run-down, inexpensive hotel (known in Beat ple at her gravesite that a kaddish had not been
Generation lore as “The Beat Hotel”). read for her; Naomi Ginsberg’s life, difficult and
For Ginsberg, Europe was another eye-opening tormented by mental disorder, seemed to have
experience, much like his earlier excursion to Mex- been swallowed up and forgotten. Allen himself
ico. Every time he visited an art museum or cul- had missed her funeral and burial. Over the ensu-
tural landmark, Ginsberg was reminded of Eu- ing years, Ginsberg had written several false starts
rope’s rich history—a history now threatened by to his own version of a kaddish, and while in Paris,
modern world events. The Cold War had height- he had actually succeeded in writing a fragment
ened tensions between the United States and the that met his approval.
Soviet Union, and Ginsberg feared that a power “Kaddish,” the most striking and moving work
struggle, culminating with nuclear warfare, could Ginsberg ever wrote, came about as unexpectedly
bring an end to the world. His poetry, a portion of as “Howl.” In mid-November 1958, it all came to-
which was eventually published in Kaddish and gether. Ginsberg had been up all night one Friday
Other Poems, underscored his concerns. evening, sitting in a friend’s apartment and listen-
Meanwhile, back in the United States, the term ing to music, and when he returned home, he sat
“Beat Generation” was becoming a household down at his desk, pulled out a sheaf of blank typing
phrase. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was published paper, and began writing, in longhand, an account
shortly after the “Howl” obscenity trial ended, and of his mother’s life, the details striking and unspar-
the novel made a huge impression on critics and ing, complete with moments of breathtaking
readers alike. A year later, Kerouac published The beauty followed by lines of agonizingly painful
Dharma Bums, his account of his friendship with memory. The mental breakdowns, graphic descrip-
Gary Snyder, their interest in Buddhism, and the tions of Naomi Ginsberg’s nudism, the political
San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Scholarly essays rantings and ravings, the paranoid fantasies, the
and articles in general interest magazines spawned horrors of two boys watching their mother’s mental
a lively debate over the merits of the works by Ker- disintegration, Naomi’s lonely years in sanitari-
ouac, Ginsberg, and others, and the freewheeling ums—nothing was left out. Ginsberg wept as he
lifestyles in On the Road and The Dharma Bums wrote, his teardrops staining the pages and becom-
were analyzed. The naturally shy Kerouac basked ing part of the manuscript. He wrote for forty con-
briefly in the spotlight, but ultimately found it too tinuous hours, taking breaks only to go to the bath-
hot for his liking. room or eat, his flagging energy refueled by coffee
Ginsberg eventually returned to the States, set- and Dexedrine. When he finished, he had filled
tled into an apartment in New York, and resumed fifty-eight pages with some of the most affecting
his leadership role in promoting the works of Beat writing ever produced by an American poet. As

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

with “Howl,” Ginsberg wrote additional sections to their effects afterward. In the Amazon, a curan-
accompany the main body of his new poem, and dero introduced Ginsberg to ayahuasca, and the
numerous revisions of the poem preceded submis- experience shook Ginsberg to his roots. Ever since
sion for publication. his Blake visions in 1948, he had been hoping for
Not surprisingly, Louis Ginsberg was both another visionary experience; ayahuasca thrilled
deeply moved and shocked when he read “Kad- him with hallucinations of death, eternity, and all
dish” for the first time. The more personal and em- points between heaven and hell.
barrassing descriptions and events, he surmised, After returning to New York, Ginsberg con-
needed to be trimmed from the poem. Allen dis- tacted Timothy Leary, a Harvard psychology lec-
agreed. In his view, art reflected everyday life, turer conducting experiments with psilocybin, a
warts and all. It was an idea that he, Lucien Carr, synthetic of the sacred hallucinogenic mushrooms
and Jack Kerouac had discussed with all their talk used in religious ceremonies in Mexico and Central
of a “New Vision” in the mid-forties, and it was a America. Leary supervised Ginsberg’s initial expe-
practice employed by a number of American poets, rience with psilocybin, and the trip, recalled in
from Whitman to Williams. The more conservative Leary’s autobiography Flashbacks, was a memo-
or traditionally minded critics were harsh in their rable one. To Ginsberg and Leary, psilocybin of-
judgments of what they considered to be the ex- fered the possibilities for a revolution in human
cesses of the Beat Generation’s literature, but consciousness with the help of this mind-expand-
Ginsberg, Kerouac, and the others held their ing drug: behavior could be altered for the better;
ground. “My poetry is a graph of my mind—who I violence and aggression could be controlled. Al-
am and what I’m seeing and thinking,” Ginsberg though he openly endorsed the drug and encour-
explained in defense of his writing during a per- aged his friends to try it, Ginsberg correctly pre-
sonal interview with Michael Schumacher. dicted that a day would come when authorities,
This graph of Ginsberg’s mind included the sub- from the government to Harvard officials, would
conscious as well as the conscious. From his earli- find a way to thwart Leary’s work.
est journals on, Ginsberg kept a record of many of Ginsberg was at a critical juncture in his study of
his dreams, and some of his most arresting poems, consciousness. He yearned for the ultimate spiri-
including “White Shroud,” were transcriptions of tual or metaphysical experience, and he seemed to
dreams. Different levels of consciousness attained have hit a roadblock with Western philosophy and
under the influence of drugs applied as well. Gins- religion. In 1961, he turned to the East, traveling
berg had experimented with different drugs since throughout India and consulting with the subconti-
his college days, hoping to probe the depths of his nent’s gurus, holymen, poets, and even the Dalai
mind, and a number of poems had been colored by Lama. Ginsberg was surprised to hear essentially
the drugs Ginsberg had taken during their compo- the same message wherever he went: rather than
sition. “The message,” Ginsberg explained in an in- take flight from the body, one should return to it;
terview with Michael Schumacher, was “to widen one should not seek an escape, but, rather, accep-
the area of consciousness.” tance from within. “If you see something horrible,
In 1960, at the urging of William Burroughs, don’t cling to it,” Ginsberg was advised. “If you see
Ginsberg traveled to South America in search of something beautiful, don’t cling to it” (quoted in
the powerful, mind-expanding ayahuasca, or yagé. Dharma Lion, 379). Ginsberg was profoundly af-
Ginsberg had sampled LSD in a controlled envi- fected by the advice, which seemed to free him
ronment at Stanford University a year earlier, and from the trap of pursuing visionary experiences—
he had been exhilarated by its effect on his mind. an obsession since his Blake visions.
Experiments with other drugs, including nitrous Ginsberg spent two years in India and the Far
oxide, followed, with Ginsberg attempting to write East, and when he returned to the United States,
under the influence of drugs, or at least capture he brought back a wisdom he had attained from his

Ginsberg, Allen (1926–1997)

travels. The Civil Rights movement was gaining into custody. Shortly thereafter, he was thrown out
momentum, the war in Vietnam was showing signs of the country, the officials claiming that he was a
of being a conflict requiring more than cursory U.S. bad influence on Czechoslovakian youth.
effort, and the country’s baby boomers were hitting Ginsberg’s next stop—England—was much more
their stride. Unlike Kerouac and Burroughs, who pleasant. “Swinging London” was in full bloom, and
had little use for politics, Ginsberg immersed him- during his stay in the city, Ginsberg spent time with
self in social and political causes. He shed his Beat Bob Dylan, who was touring the country and mak-
Generation skin and moved ahead. He busied him- ing his film Don’t Look Back. Through Dylan, Gins-
self with First Amendment cases, continued his berg met the four members of the Beatles, and
campaign for a greater exploration of mind-expand- though their initial encounter was edgy and less
ing drugs, and, in general, moved into the front than memorable, it was still an important introduc-
ranks of what would become a countercultural tion: both John Lennon and Paul McCartney later
movement. influenced Ginsberg. On the plane from Czecho-
Ginsberg had been interested in visiting Cuba slovakia to England, Ginsberg had written “Kral
since the Fidel Castro–led revolution, and in Janu- Majales,” his account of his problems in Czechoslo-
ary 1965 he was asked to judge a poetry contest in vakia, but in England, Ginsberg was in a more con-