If you’re anywhere near New York next weekend, you should be thinking about going to the Beat & Beyond Festival. From Friday, June 3rd to Wednesday 6th the Howl! Happening Gallery is hosting a “Six-Day Celebration Honoring the Poets, Musicians, Bookstores, and Significant Individuals Whose Voices and Energy Transformed America Forever.” The line-up for this series of events is an impressive who’s who of Beat knowledge, including two Beatdom Books authors – Eliot Katz and John Tytell. Continue Reading…
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Beat news from the Beatdom blog.
Almost two years ago the world of Beat studies was rocked by the discovery of a seemingly lost piece of history: the fabled Joan Anderson Letter. Written by Neal Cassady and sent to Jack Kerouac, the letter played a pivotal role in American literary history, only to supposedly be lost overboard into the cold Pacific Ocean. Continue Reading…
July 6, 2016 marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of master American poet Harold Norse. Known for his association with Beat literature and gay liberation, Norse’s work retains its pertinence in today’s fractured world of politics and despair. This has been reflected by increased attention to Norse’s legacy from The New York Times to the International Times. Continue Reading…
On March 22nd, 2016, six of Jack Kerouac’s books will be available as ebooks for the first time. These include his debut novel, The Town and the City. The aptly named Open Road Media has acquired the rights to digitally publish this and other books by the author, whose books were not previously available for ebook users. The Town and the City was originally published in 1950 by Harcourt Brace. The author was listed as “John Kerouac” and the story followed the life of young Peter Martin, based on Kerouac himself. Seven years later, Kerouac became a household name after his second novel, On the Road, was published. Continue Reading…
We at Beatdom would like to congratulate the people of the United States on an event of monumental importance. Today, the Supreme Court voted to make same-sex marriage a right across all states. It is truly a time for celebration. The Beat Generation was, of course, a movement concerned with love and acceptance, and as such I’m sure our readers will be delighted at this news.
Many of you will know that Allen Ginsberg, who campaigned hard to bring gay rights to public attention, was “married” to Peter Orlovsky – his lover of about forty years. Of course, back 1955 gay marriage was not only illegal, but almost unimaginable in the public consciousness. Yet in February, 1955, at Forster’s Cafeteria in San Francisco, they took an informal set of marriage vows and considered themselves married until Ginsberg’s death in 1997.
The key thing was when we decided on the terms of our marriage—I think it was in Foster’s cafeteria downtown about three in the morning. We were sitting and talking about each other, with each other, trying to figure out what we were going to do, who we were to each other, and what we wanted out of each other, how much I loved him, and how much did he love me. We arrived at what we both really desired. Continue Reading…
“The News from Poems” the Sixth Biennial Conference of the William Carlos Williams Society at William Paterson University ended on a majestic note with a stunning video featuring the music of Frederick Adler, M.D., black-and-white images by the architect and visual artist Jonathan Sinagub, and the words of William Carlos Williams from his epic poem “Paterson,” in a combined work titled “Paterson Project.” www.patersonproject.com
The Road begins in Paterson, as in Sal Paradise’s Paterson, as in WCW’s Paterson, as in Ginsberg’s hometown P-town, New Jersey, as in George Washington’s “coat of Crow-black homespun woven in Paterson,” Alexander Hamilton, yes, that Paterson . . . Paterson of the great Peruvian restaurants and immigrant experience – yes, that Paterson.
Scholars from as far away as Melbourne and Kyoto attended the event.
“It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves.”
– Jack Kerouac
In 1950, Jack Kerouac read a 16,000 word letter written by his friend and muse, Neal Cassady, that was so revolutionary it caused him to abandon previous attempts at the project that would eventually become On the Road. His new style – later to be dubbed “bop spontaneous prose” – would radically alter literature and culture in the latter half of the twentieth century. Kerouac’s innovation – directly taken from Cassady’s letter – would make his novel, On the Road, one of the most important pieces of literature of the century, going on to influence writers, artists, film-makers, and musicians for decades.
According to Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg – to whom Kerouac loaned the letter – lent it to a friend, Gerd Stern, who dropped it in the ocean and it was lost forever. “It was my property, a letter to me, so Allen shouldn’t have been so careless with it, nor the guy [who dropped it],” a typically belligerent late-60s Kerouac told the Paris Review. Kerouac reportedly wanted the letter to published so that his friend would gain even more counterculture fame than he already had.
However, the disappearance of the letter would appear to have been Ginsberg’s attempt to publish it, rather than a careless mishandling by the sea. It was sent to the offices of Golden Goose Press, who also published Kenneth Rexroth and Robert Creeley, but this publishing company soon shut its doors and the contents of the business were boxed and forgotten. While the intention was to throw everything in the trash, many files were rescued by the operator of a music label who shared the building, and – according to his daughter, who found the letter – couldn’t fathom throwing away someone’s words.
It was a performance artist called Jean Spinosa who found the letter two years ago. It will go on sale December 17th, with most Beat fans hoping that the buyer will make it available to the public. It has become legend in the annals of Beat history and this event is for all Beat enthusiasts truly monumental.
For a great write-up, please visit The Beat Museum website.
Joyce Johnson is best-known for her 1983 memoir, Minor Characters, which focuses on the years 1957-58, and concerns the role of the marginalized woman in the Beat sphere. It is ironic, then, that she is often written off as Kerouac’s girlfriend and the woman who wrote about being Kerouac’s girlfriend. Indeed, Johnson is an accomplished novelist in her own right, and an important figure in Beat studies beyond being merely one of the “minor characters.” Her most recent book, The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac, is proof of that.
In 1962, Johnson published her first novel, Come and Join the Dance. She began writing the book a year before meeting Kerouac, and it is considered the first Beat novel written by a woman. Set in 1955, it details the life of a young college graduate in whom Johnson instills the sort of values people thought only the Beat men possessed – a wanderlust, yearning for freedom, sex, and adventure. She said:
“I wanted to write the real way that the girls I knew were living. And it was at a time that there was all this incredible anxiety about having sex, that was the great breakthrough and adventure for a girl – if you could dare to have sex outside your marriage. And so it was about a girl who was in her last week in college and feels that nothing real has ever happened to her, and she decides to lose her virginity. In the 1950s, young women did not write those books.”
Even readers of the Beat Generation may be slightly shocked and surprised, as they are more accustomed to reading about the female participants of the movement as being more reserved in the eyes of their male counterparts. But Johnson’s contributions to Beat studies and, as evidenced in her novels, to the Beat movement itself, have demonstrated that these people were no mere “minor characters,” and were instead sidelined by the history books. Perhaps most recognizable to the Beat enthusiast will be the character Kay, who is based upon the tragic figure of Elise Cowen.
Johnson’s next two novels, Bad Connections (1978) and In the Night Café (1987), are set in the bohemian culture of the 1960s and, like Come and Join the Dance, are located in her native New York City. Written in a crisp, fast-paced prose that exhibits the sort of liberating exuberance that Beat writing was known for, her novels are also tinged with a sadness that is more palpable even than in Kerouac’s or Ginsberg’s writing. Her characters face greater obstacles in their lives and as such are even more beat than their male counterparts, and certainly lack the optimism and hope that existed for the men.
Although these are all fine works of fiction, Johnson has come to be known for her work in non-fiction, and particularly her work in the Beat field. Additionally, her first novel was released only in a run of 1,000 copies. As such, they have previously been hard to come by. Fortunately, Open Road Media has obtained and released these three novels in digital format, with a view to doing “a small paper edition” of Come and Join the Dance. These books are wonderful examples of Beat writing that Beatdom highly recommends. See www.openroadmedia.com for more information.
Today would’ve been Allen Ginsberg’s 88th birthday. This is how he celebrated in 1965:
“…took off all my clothes at 39th birthday party drunk singing and dancing naked, the Beatles came at midnight and got scared and ran away…”
There is a longer explanation, largely culled from Barry Miles’ retelling, here.
In a brilliant turn of near-poetic irony, Facebook has deleted the above photo. Yes, it violates their terms of service. It was to be expected. But, you have to admire the irony of censoring a man who is most famous for fighting censorship.
Ginsberg once said, “The poet always stands naked before the world,” and he lived by those words. Mark Zuckerberg and his ilk are simply trying to keep Facebook as low-brow as possible, to ensure the idiotic masses are kept rapt by pictures of what their friends had for dinner, or “10 reasons why Kim Kardashian is like so totally fucking important right now.”
Racism is fine.
Sexism is fine.
Homophobia is fine.
The human body? Nope. It’s an outrage!