Archives For October 2014

Hubert Selby Jr’s American Dream

The American Dream is the unifying theme across the work of the Beat Generation. Jack Kerouac wrote wondrous love letters while William Burroughs explored its often nightmarish landscape. However, Hubert Selby Jr. was the only writer to identify its failure while also providing an antidote to correct it. Continue Reading…

Francis Thompson

“Francis Thompson (!)” i

“My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.”
“The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson

 
Soul chaste
First chastised by a chase
Through London laudanum haze and haste
Up and down and down and out
Stop to have another taste
Nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide ii
On this side of the great divide
The hound and words chasing fast
Will this misery ever pass?
Affliction, affliction, affliction
In desolate dereliction
Tortured life
Poverty stricken
Money not for pen or paper
Hopes dashed and end in vapor
Beating feet and voices beat
Futile to try and retreat
Heart beating in the heat
Stop those endless running feet
Angels, visions, lighted tapers
Heaven chased hare through all capers
Hound that hound chased him down
Naked, stripped, youth took flight
Majestic poem he did write
Finally stopped he sought the light

 

i  Kerouac, Jack and Ginsberg, Allen: The Letters. Ed. Bill Morgan and David Stanford. (New York: Viking) 2010.
ii “Nowhere to Run,” Songwriters: Holland, Edward, Jr., Dozier, James, Herbert Lamont, Holland, Brian, EMI Music
Publishing

War Upon War: The Second-Generation Beats and Postmemory

This essay originally appeared in Beatdom #15: the WAR issue.

 

 

 

Most of the writers and artists to whom the label “Beat” was applied did not directly experience the horrors of war. Certainly, some of the older Beats of the original Columbia University circle had been in the firing line: Jack Kerouac, for one, shipped out in the merchant marines in the minefield of the Atlantic, and then joined the Navy before quickly being discharged after a diagnosis of a “schizoid personality with angel tendencies.” But the younger Beats, the so-called “second-generation,” which encompasses most of the recognized female writers, including Diane di Prima and Joyce Johnson, were at the same geographic dissociation as most other young people in the USA. However, war’s effects were experienced belatedly through the lasting trauma of family members, many of whom were of immigrant families with links to Europe, either active or hazily distant in the past as they strove for assimilation into American life. Continue Reading…

Saint Francis

“I love St. Francis of Assisi as well as anybody in the world.” Desolation Angels

Once a sybarite youth and reveler
Dreams and visions and change of heart
Lepers and beggars fevered new start
Francis set to restore his Father’s house
He threw and flung church gold away
Bernardone beat and locked he stayed
Francis turned from father’s ways
And stood there humble, pure, and bare
He wed himself to poverty and fast as fare
To gain heaven nay palace but by hut everlasting
He preached and lived non-violence and reconciliation
Mysticism, holy vows, chasten, tonsured, unshaven
A poor and meek monk and brother
Lover of creatures, creation, and creator
Sought spiritual experiences and lofty visions
Contemplation and stigmata and the Christ in crucifixion
Compassion and forgiveness
Francis was a man of action
And taught by his deeds and sanctification