Archives For allen ginsberg

New Beat Generation Books 2017

Later this month, Cambridge University Press is releasing The Cambridge Companion to the Beats, which features essays by Jonah Raskin, Regina Weinreich, Nancy Grace, Erik Mortenson, Kurt Hemmer, Oliver Harris, Brenda Knight, Hillary Holladay, Ronna Johnson, Polina MacKay, and others. From the Amazon listing:

Consummate innovators, the Beats had a profound effect not only on the direction of American literature, but also on models of socio-political critique that would become more widespread in the 1960s and beyond. Bringing together the most influential Beat scholars writing today, this Companion provides a comprehensive exploration of the Beat movement, asking critical questions about its associated figures and arguing for their importance to postwar American letters.

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When was ‘Beat’ First Written?

On this blog, we’ve previously discussed the surprisingly difficult question of what the Beat Generation was, and later, what the difference is between Beats and Beatniks. Yet actually pinning down the meaning of the word “Beat,” an adjective used by the likes Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs in the forties and fifties, is not so difficult. Its etymology is well-documented – although, as with so much Beat lore, there are numerous errors in popular sources. It originated in “hepcat” speak, most likely passed from the underground world to the Columbia world through Herbert Huncke. Continue Reading…

World Citizen: How Politics Shaped the Travels of Allen Ginsberg, and How Travel Shaped his Politics

This essay first appeared in Beatdom #17, which you can find on Amazon.

As a child, Allen Ginsberg didn’t get to travel much; however, that wasn’t particularly unusual. Although the motorcar was becoming popular with the middle classes around the time he was born, and would boom in popularity during his childhood, most travel was still conducted within a relatively short distance of the family home. Route 66 was established five months after Ginsberg’s birth, connecting Chicago with California, and making it possible for Americans to drive across the continent, but due to the Great Depression and World War II, intercity car travel actually decreased between 1930 and 1944. Great leaps in transportation were making the world a smaller place, but young Allen only travelled as far as Belmar Beach, in New Jersey during his childhood. His father, Louis, didn’t travel abroad until 1967 – 19 years after his son’s first steps on foreign soil.

How, then, did he end up becoming such a renowned traveler, visiting almost 60 countries and visiting every continent except Antarctica?[1] Continue Reading…

Review: The Best Minds of My Generation

There are so many books about the Beat Generation that focus on the writers’ roles as rebels and “literary outlaws,” who break with convention and reject all the old ways. They are portrayed as angry young men and outsiders in life and literature. This view is not entirely incorrect, but in The Best Minds of My Generation, a collection of Allen Ginsberg lectures edited into a coherent book form by Bill Morgan, we are presented with a very different view of the Beats. Continue Reading…

How the Beats Influenced Today’s Literary Hipsters

The Beat Generation as a whole inhabits a polarized yet celebrated space in American literature. Writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs pursued lives of meaning and raw authenticity, and created art that defined their generation and changed American literature and culture. They found truth in the visceral and unapologetic prose poetry that they would eventually create. It is hard to define Beat literature, yet one can observe in the work of many Beat artists an absolute openness. The Beats shocked and appalled mainstream America and stuffy critics by saying what they felt and what they did without shame. Continue Reading…

Beats or Beatniks

In late 1969, reporter Jack McClintock interviewed beat author, Jack Kerouac, at his Florida home. In the interview they discussed a wide range of topics from Ginsberg to communism conspiracies to marijuana and ultimately ended with Kerouac making his famous declaration, “I’m a Catholic, not a beatnik!” [1]  The distinction between those completely separate ideologies are obvious, but the divisions between the labels “Beats” and “Beatnik” are not so clear to the non-fanatical.  Continue Reading…

Allen Ginsberg’s Chinese Translations

Last week, I updated an old post on Chinese translations of Jack Kerouac’s novels. The article proved surprisingly popular, in fact knocking our website out temporarily after seeing 33,000 visitors in just three hours! I will try to keep it up-to-date in future, as it seems every year China gets a new translation of a Kerouac novel. Continue Reading…

New Allen Ginsberg Readings on YouTube

I heard recently that a friend of a friend, owner of a cassette recording of Allen Ginsberg reading from 1964, had converted the recording and uploaded it to YouTube. The recording is below, cut into four sections. It was recorded at Better Books in London. Included are the following poems, along with some fascinating/humorous commentary from Ginsberg.  Continue Reading…

Ginsberg and the Machinery of Capitalism: A Political Reading of Howl

In this essay, I use a Marxist lens to examine Allen Ginsberg’s controversial and groundbreaking 1956 poem, Howl. Ginsberg, I argue, was surprisingly sensitive to the politics of class in this poem, setting up a dual class system which divided those who were part of Moloch from the “angelheaded hipsters,” who I argue were analogous to Marx’s proletariat. Ginsberg imagined himself as a revolutionary leader for the class of people oppressed by Moloch, who, like Marx’s proletariat, were working together towards the goal of a political revolution. Ginsberg’s angelheaded hipsters were oppressed by Moloch, Ginsberg’s trope for the machinery of Capitalism, which I explore along two political axes: sexual conformity and psychiatry. Continue Reading…

A psychoanalytic perspective on Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish (1961)

 

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, 

      While I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich 

      Village.

downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I’ve been up

     all night, talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud

     listening to Ray Charles blues shout blind on the phono-

     graph

the rhythm the rhythm – and your memory in my head three 

     years after – And read Adonais’ last triumphant stanzas 

     aloud – wept, realizing how we suffer – Continue Reading…