Archives For beat generation

CUT UP! An Anthology Inspired by the Cut-Up Method of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin

Joe Ambrose Cut upIn Paris in the late Fifties the Beat Generation writer William Burroughs developed the Cut-Up Method. It involved taking a piece of finished text and cutting it into pieces – then rearranging those pieces to create a new text or work of art. Burroughs wrote that: “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.” His creative partner and pal Brion Gysin prophetically declared that: “All words are taped.”

This anthology comes out on the occasion of Burroughs’ 100th birthday.

The cut-up had a profound effect on all media. Devotees of cut-up include David Bowie, Radiohead, and Kathy Acker. Says CUT UP! co-editor Joe Ambrose: “I guess it’s Bowie that really popularized the cut-up, leading to thousands of 70s and 80s youths taking the scissors to their Dad’s Sunday paper. I tried to reach out to Bowie to contribute to the book, via his guitarist Gerry Leonard who is a friend. Gerry put me right in touch with Bowie’s PA but warned me, correctly, that Bowie rarely responded to such requests these days.”Burroughs cut up head

In addition to bringing together new work by new people who’ve emerged from the social media jungle, CUT UP! salutes some better known 20th Century voices who kept the spirit of Burroughs alive. Contributors include Kenji Siratori, Nina Antonia the New York Dolls and Johnny Thunders biographer, Claude Pelieu, Billy Chainsaw, Cabell McLean who was Burroughs’ partner and collaborator, and Nathan Penlington, star of the contemporary London live poetry scene, and Allen Ginsberg.

Says A.D. Hitchin: “We went looking for mostly new and emergent voices. Kenji Siratori, whom I greatly admire, is probably the leading artist working with cut-up right now. Bowie and Denis Cooper both admire him a great deal… And the book reaches right back to the creation of cut-up in the Paris Beat Hotel via the inclusion of Sinclair Beiles – who was in the first cut-up manifesto – Minutes to Go – along with Burroughs, Gysin, and Gregory Corso.”

A.D. Hitchin is an Editor at Oneiros Books and the author of several books including Messages to Central Control. He is a leading contemporary purveyor of the cut-up.

Joe Ambrose has worked with Anita Pallenberg, William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, and Lydia Lunch. He is the author of 14 books including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and Moshpit Culture.
CUT UP! is available from Oneiros Books at:

Publication Date: 12 April 2014. Further information, images, Kindle review copies etc. contact:

Beatdom #7 on Kindle

One of our most successful issues of Beatdom was the 7th, released way back in 2010. This was the music-themed issue, and contained some wonderful essays about the influence of music on the Beats, and the influence of the Beats on music. (You can read more in our archives.)

Beatdom #7 has long been out of print, but fear not – it’s back to life on Kindle! That’s right, since Beatdom #10 we have been using Kindle to digitally distribute our magazine, and very slowly we’ve released Beatdom #9 and Beatdom #8 on the same format.

Now Beatdom #7 has joined the list. Take a look:


Dostoyevsky’s Heavenly Christmas Tree

For “electronic laser TV generations that don’t read Dostoyevsky” quoth Allen Ginsberg

Fyodor, Fedor, Feodor
Dostoevski, Dostoievsky, Dostoevskii, Dostoevsky, Dostoyevsky was a psychologist, pardon, novelist
His Christmas story is about a six-year-old boy, perhaps younger than six
The boy is in a great city
Alone with a sick motherangel closeup
In a cold damp cellar
He touches his mother
So cold is she
Dead cold
It’s dark in the cellar
And the boy is haunted by barking from a ferocious dog
He ventures up to the unknown street

He recalls thousands of barking howling packs of dogs in his home town
In this unknown place, stone streets are frozen with snow
Steam hangs from the mouths of horses
A policeman turns to avoid him

Another street
This one lit by lights
And a glass window with a marvelous tree
Decorated with toys and apples and many lights
Pretty children dressed in best clothes play
And on a table yellow, red, and almond cakes
A lady hands him a kopek
But it rolls away
And he cries, poor wretched little, little boy
Another glass window
With dolls dressed in green and red
So real he laughs
A big wicked boy knocks him down
So he hides behind a wood stack
He warms up
And hears his mother sing

A soft voice calls, “Come to my Christmas tree”
A bright light!
Another tree, like he’s never seen
With boys and girls flying
They kiss him
His joy-filled mother laughs

This is the Christmas tree of Christ
For children frozen
Died of bad air
Angels and crying mothers
Flying, kissing, and happy children

“The Heavenly Christmas Tree” was written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1876.

New ‘Festival of the Beats’ for Ipswich

A new literary, art and music festival celebrating the Beat Generation is being launched in Ipswich next month.

The month-long “Festival of the Beats” will feature a series of fringe events at various locations in the build-up to the main festival weekend – from January 31 to February 2.

Poetry, spoken word, film, live music and art exhibitions will be held at the Town Hall to pay tribute to a literary movement which took off in 1950s America.

The Beat Generation quickly became a cultural phenomenon, in large part thanks to Allen Ginsberg, who wrote the epic poem “Howl”, Jack Kerouac, author of “On The Road” and William Burroughs, who stormed to fame with the novel “Naked Lunch”.

Festival organiser Paul Fisk, a local poet and artist, said: “This is a unique opportunity for the people of Ipswich and beyond to experience a taste of one of the most influential cultural eras of the past 60 years.

“People can also witness the influence it had on a group of young Ipswich writers and poets in the late 1960s,” he said. “From their hangouts such as The Orwell book shop, the Vaults, the Gondolier club to them following in true spirit of the original beats and taking to the road and writing, some of these guys will be returning for the festival to talk about their adventures on the road and their memories of a bohemian Ipswich.”

Festival of the Beats will bring together the words, music and art of the period through second-generation beat performers such as Michael Horovitz and new contemporary performers from the area such as Joe Runnacles.Other confirmed acts include Attila the stockbroker, Luke Wright, Henry Lawrence, Silbury Hill and the Horn Factory quartet.

Councillor Bryony Rudkin, Culture portfolio-holder at Ipswich Borough Council, added: “This is a unique festival and a great achievement by Paul. It will rekindle many memories oflocal people and open a fascinating world of alternative culture to new audiences.”

Paul is also calling for volunteers and sponsors to support the event: “We would appreciate any support to make this the best festival possible. We would love the people of Ipswich to embrace the different art forms and a sense of community.”

Anthony Wooding, managing partner with Kerseys Solicitors, which is supporting the festival, said: “This is an innovative and exciting art project, which we are proud to be involved in. It has been a rewarding experience and we would encourage other businesses to take part, too.”

 For more information on the festival or getting involved, contact Paul at or 07858 738080 or visitwww.festivalofthebeats.comNew ‘Festival of the Beats’ for Ipswich

Marlon Brando Not a Beatnik


Back in 1959, the year that the Beats moved into the world of film with Pull Your Daisy, and MGM decided that the group made excellent Hollywood fodder, starting with The Beat Generation and moving on with The Subterraneans, Marlon Brando was busy denying any relationship with Kerouac and co.

brando(Click on image for larger view.)

The next issue of Beatdom will center around the relationship between the Beats and film, and includes an article by GK Stritch on Kerouac’s efforts to persuade Brando to play him in the proposed movie version of his classic On the Road.


Alt Lit as the New Beat Generation

Tao Lin and Jack Kerouac

“Do you think in five years the national media will create a stupid term like blogniks to describe us?”


As a scholar of the Beat Generation, the recent public attention focused on the current phenomenon known as Alt Lit has inspired in me some observations of similarities between the two literary movements. Indeed, one could provide comparisons to other movements or “generations,” but for me the similarities between these two sets of urban hipsters, sixty years apart, seems interesting.

The above quote, from Tao Lin’s novel, Shoplifting From American Apparel, shows an apparent awareness that the group of people he describes will become subject to, in the near future, the same sort of media scrutiny that was foisted upon the Beat Generation, who were derided in the press as “beatniks.”[1] Indeed, Noah Cicero, another key member of the Alt Lit community, described as central to the Alt Lit movement “the idea of the return to the literary life.” He goes on:

The literary life is about ‘living,’ like Rimbaud, Whitman, Celine, Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, traveling, doing drugs, partying, standing on street corners in cities and thinking crazy thoughts, taking shits in gas stations in Nebraska at 4 in the morning, going to Asia to teach English, flying over from New Zealand or England just to get drunk with people who’ve met online. Staying up till 5 in the morning talking about philosophy and politics. Making a ten-minute long YouTube video about something you can’t get off your mind. It’s that kid walking down the street with headphones playing Ladytron, carrying a laptop, and a copy of The Stranger, who just feels like this is fucked.

In referencing Rimbaud, Whitman, and Celine he is acknowledging key influences on the Beats, and in mentioning Bukowski and Thompson he is talking about writers who’ve later been categorized as “Beat” or at least in the Beat vein. His language in the description, too, is Kerouacian and Ginsbergian. He is channeling On the Road and listing like Howl, yet applying these techniques to his own generation.[2] In a word, he is placing Alt Lit as the next step.

Like the Beats, there is no real unifying style in Alt Lit. There is certainly an influence taken from Lin’s own unique voice, but Alt Lit is as diverse as the massively varying approaches taken in the Beat classics. However, there are of course elements that unite these groups, not just into social networks but also a literary framework. The Beats were categorized by their confessional prose, their drug use, and their challenging of social and sexual norms. There is, in their work, the notion that nothing is too personal or sordid to tell the world. Likewise, in Alt Lit writers like Marie Calloway and Megan Boyle document the most intimate details of their own lives, treating sexuality in a manner that would not seem out of place in a poem by Ginsberg, while Lin depicts his own drug use as matter-of-factly as William S. Burroughs.

Moreover, there is also the breaking of grammatical rules and attempts to move away from literary convention. From Kerouac’s “automatic writing” and “spontaneous prose” it is hardly a great leap to the treatment of Twitter feeds as literature, and the inclusion of Gmail chats in novels. Where the Beats took liberties with run-on sentences and attempted to imbue their narratives with the jargon of their times, so too are Alt Lit writers willing to forgo capitalization, punctuation, and embrace internet vernacular into their own prose and poetry. Rather than look back and embrace their literary forbearers, both groups sought to immortalize their own generations. The Beats and Alt Lit are united by the documentation of their own times and their almost insular literature. The Beats wrote about each other, like the Alt Lit writers, and their works stand as a biography to their times. People like Neal Cassady have become virtually household names through their depictions as characters like Dean Moriarty, and in the future we will surely remember some of the less prolific Alt Lit writers as their published alter egos.

What readers of Beat Generation literature often failed to observe is that although the Beats became known as a literary force in the mid-fifties with the publication of On the Road and the Six Gallery reading, the Beat group that is described in these works existed ten years earlier. By the time the Beats were a cultural phenomenon, the Times Square hipsters and Columbia group that made up the core of the Beat legacy had largely disbanded, and were leading lives far apart from one another. Perhaps, had Kerouac had access to Createspace and Lulu, or even a Blogger or Tumblr account, it might not have taken so long. Ginsberg, certainly, would’ve enjoyed promoting his friends’ work via Twitter and Facebook.[3]

If this essay is descending into increasingly random observations, then I apologize for what is coming next: a far-fetched comparison of various Beat and Alt Lit figures.


Tao Lin = Jack Kerouac.


Kerouac was famously the “King of the Beats,” the man whose style and philosophies were adopted and mimicked by millions of young fans. His stories documented the lifestyle of his contemporaries, and his work influenced other writers and artists.

Lin is the father of Alt Lit, and writers considered “Alt Lit”, whether by their own admission or labeled by others, are either involved with Lin on a social level, or draw heavily from his stylistic and thematic innovations.

Both men have chronicled the lives of their fellow young hipsters and the times in which they lived, and utilized the patterns of speech of their generation in order to create the definitive novels of their day. Their work has garnered the most attention to their movements, and been viewed as inspirational to their followers and contemporaries


Noah Cicero = William S. Burroughs

Although his place in literature is as part of the Beat Generation, Burroughs was only briefly part of the Beat group, and largely took off on his own. He was older than the other Beats, and following a few arrests in New York City, he went off on a decades-long journey around the world. His style deviated tremendously from those of the other Beats, and he rejected the idea that he was a part of the movement, or indeed that it ever really existed.

Cicero, while only three years older than Lin, is also like an elder to his so-called generation. Like Burroughs, is prose bears little resemblance to that of his peers, and while they seem to have maintained a relatively tight social group, Cicero wanders off to far-flung locations.[4] In many regards, these men appear set apart from their literary labels, yet their associations appear cemented.


Megan Boyle = Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was one of the most important members of the Beat Generation, promoting the work of his contemporaries tirelessly, and later ensuring the continuation of certain Beat ideas in the cultural shift to the Hippies. His poetry was intensely open and confessional, and he sometimes appeared naked on stage.

Megan Boyle wrote an essay called “Everyone I’ve Ever Had Sex With,” and is in the process of liveblogging her life. These alone make her a unique and Ginsbergian genius. Her writing is as revolutionary as her better-recognized peers, but it is only a matter of time before she is considered one of the more important poets of her era.


Steve Roggenbuck = Peter Orlovsky

Peter Orlovsky was Allen Ginsberg’s long-time lover/boyfriend/husband/partner, and his fame was largely accredited to his association with Ginsberg. However, Orlovsky was a poet himself, yet even in that capacity he was derided for his inability to spell.

Roggenbuck has become a key member of the Alt Lit community, too, in spite of his apparently lacking literary credentials. Like Orlovsky, Roggenbuck can’t or won’t spell correctly, and his editors appear content with that, allowing spelling mistakes in the titles of his books, as did Orvlosky’s. Roggenbuck is better known for his YouTube videos, wherein he often appears manic, and also his status as an Alt Lit social butterfly. These traits also place him surprisingly close in stature to Orlovsky.

[1] The term Beat has a debatable history but was popularized by John Clellon Holmes and Jack Kerouac. The suffix “-nik” was added by Herb Caen following the launch of Sputnik in order to associate the Beats with Communism.

[2] These phrasings are not arbitrary. Cicero is well-read in Beat literature, with a particular affinity for William S. Burroughs, whose work he says inspires “hope.”

[3] I’ve spoken with one of Ginsberg’s old assistants and he concurs with this notion, agreeing that Ginsberg would’ve made a thoroughly irritating Twitter-fiend.

[4] On the advice of this reporter, Cicero took a job in South Korea.

Episode One

In this first episode of the Beatdom Podcast, your host, David S. Wills, talks with Charles Cannon about his Burroughs 100 event, discusses the questions of “What is Beat?” listens to poetry by Beatdom contributor, GK Stritch, and speaks with Michael Hendrick, author of the forthcoming novels Egypt Cemetery and Whiskers in the Wind.

As this is our first ever foray into the world of podcasting, please forgive our lack of technical expertise. The sound quality will improve in future and we are exploring various hosting options. However, we do appreciate constructive criticism, so please feel free to leave your thoughts below or via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter.

The player below should be working, but if not, you can catch us on iTunes at: Don’t forget to subscribe in order to catch all future episodes.

Announcing the Beatdom Podcast

I am pleased to announce that, beginning August, 2013, Beatdom will be expanding yet again into new territory. Not content with being a literary journal and publishing company whose works sell on every continent (except those bastards in Antarctica), we are taking our first steps into the audio world with the introduction of Beatdom: The Podcast.

You might well be wondering how this will function. Beatdom’s reputation at present is forged upon sterling essays published every six months. What will be included in the podcast? Why the hell should you listen in?

Let me tell you:

We are never short of Beat topics to talk about. In fact, the literary journal format is a little restricting in that it doesn’t allow us to keep entirely up to date with the news. If there’s a new book released or a new discovery made, we have to wait several months before the next issue in order to pass comment. That’s why we use our website and social media outlets to discuss, for example, film adaptations or new editions of Beat texts. I believe that the podcast, which will be released fortnightly (that means every two weeks), will allow us to stay on top of all the news from the Beat realm.

So, every fortnight we will start with a roundup of Beat news, before moving into tackling a question. For the first episode, we will be asking a deceptively difficult question: “What does ‘Beat’ mean?” It’s something that everyone has a different opinion about, and I want to hear from our readers prior to the show. On air, I will read out various tweets and comments from Facebook and the website, as well as adding my own thoughts, and I will discuss the topic with another Beatdom editor, Michael Hendrick.

It is important for us to interact with our readers, and so in addition to reading your comments on air, we will also be seeking to answer your questions. If there’s something you want to know about the Beat Generation, or about Beatdom, or anything within reason, please get in touch via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or this website’s comment boards. We will try our best to answer your question.

In addition to this, we will be adding an extra dimension to our poetry publication by having poets read out their work. As we know, poetry is not intended solely for the page. It is also performance art, and this podcast will allow Beatdom to better showcase its talent. We are also looking for musicians to accompany these poets. For the first episode, we will be featuring the poetry of G.K. Stritch, whose work has previously appeared on our website.

Finally, we will conduct interviews for each episode. The interviewee will contribute by discussing the question du jour as well as contributing their thoughts on the breaking Beat news, and of course we will talk to them about their own projects. For our first episode, we will be speaking with Charles Cannon, the sci-fi writer and collage artist who’s in charge of organizing the Burroughs 100 celebration – a year long catalogue of events to mark the centenary of William S. Burroughs’ birth.

Drinking from the Beat Menu

 Jack Kerouac

Gin, whiskey, beer, cognac, and wine


According to his biographer, Michael Dittman, as a young construction worker (working on the Pentagon), Jack Kerouac would bring a pint of “gin or whiskey” to work every day. His early years appear mostly dominated by beer, which he would continue to drink – often as a chaser – for the rest of his life. However, through most of Beat history – from the early “libertine circle” days in New York, through the publication of the most important Beat texts and the subsequent “beatnik” fad – Kerouac’s drink of choice was red wine, and it is this with which he is most often associated. It was, after all, wine that he drank during the famous 6 Gallery reading, while travelling America, and hiking in the wilderness. However, in the late fifties or early sixties, Kerouac switched from wine back to whiskey, according to Paul Maher Jnr, because “the excessive intake of wine had turned his tongue white.” Maher adds that Kerouac was also drinking rum at this point, but whiskey was to remain his drink of choice (and that of his mother) for the rest of his life. In Tristessa, he had said that he was drinking “Juarez Bourbon whiskey” and that he mixed it with Canadian Dry, while most biographers and friends have recounted his fondness for Johnny Walker Red. During a trip to France, Kerouac began drinking Cognac, and once told Philip Whalen that “Cognac [is] the only drink in the world, with soda and ice, that won’t actually kill you.”

Allen Ginsberg

Red wine


Not being a big drinker, Ginsberg didn’t have many preferred drinks. He mostly drank wine, which was often on offer at poetry readings and other art events.

William S. Burroughs

Tequila, vodka and coke


Due to his time in Mexico and Texas, Burroughs was known to have consumed a lot of tequila. His wife, Joan, when she was not busy drinking Benzedrine coffee, was a heavy tequila drinker in those years, too. In his later days, though, Burroughs preferred vodka. When it struck six o’clock, he would begin mixing vodka with Coke. Shortly before his death, Burroughs spoke with the Absolut Vodka company about the possibility of doing an advert featuring his artwork, called “Absolut Burroughs.”

Gregory Corso

Wine, beer, whiskey


While Corso was a wild drunk, he appears to have had no real preference for any one kind of drink. His letters are full of references to blurry nights on the town, mentioning wine, whiskey, and beer in equal measure. In her memoir, Huerfano, Roberta Price observes – as many have – that Corso was usually drunk when reading his poetry in public. She says: “he drank a lot of wine and whatever hard liquor was offered,” and usually shouted insults at the audience. Corso seems to imply, however, that in each case it was the influence of other people – and sometimes of boredom – that made him drink.



This article is from the forthcoming Beatdom#13.

Review: This Ain’t No Holiday Inn

This Ain’t No Holiday Inn: Down and Out at the Chelsea Hotel 1980-1995

By James Lough


New York’s Chelsea Hotel has a special place in American culture. It has surely been a home, or a home-away-from-home, to more influential artists than any other building in the nation. To list the famous names in American art and literature that have stayed there would require more words than can be devoted to one book review, and would serve as an encyclopedia of the last hundred plus years of U.S. history.

While these names have included veritable superstars, the hotel did tend to attract the more Bohemian elements of the culture. As such, it has played home to numerous characters associated with the Beat Generation and subsequent counterculture movements. Jack Kerouac is rumored to have written part of On the Road there, and Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs also stayed at the Chelsea when visiting Manhattan in the fifties.

The focus of Lough’s book is not a general overview of the hotel’s colorful history; consequently, he passes over many of the famous names in favor of those who resided there in its final decades, and avoids recounting stories – such as the death of Nancy Spungen  – which have been told countless times before. Instead, after many years of painstaking research, Lough has managed to piece together a wonderful picture of the lives of some of the hotel’s famous latter-day guests. Of particular interest to the Beatdom reader will be the stories involving Herbert Huncke and Gregory Corso, parts of which were excerpted in issue eight of Beatdom. (For issue twelve, Beatdom contributor and author, Spencer Kansa, conducted an interview with Huncke at the Chelsea.)This Ain't No Holiday Inn

Throughout the book, Lough provides some wonderful descriptions of the building itself, which has come to mean so much to so many people. He refers to it as a “monstrous red brick eco-system of creativity.” The stories of artists sharing ideas and work with one another attest to this poetic phrasing. In these rooms, the exchange of songs was common, as poets and musicians drank and took copious amounts of illegal substances in one another’s “houses” (the rooms, Lough informs us, were more commonly referred to as “houses” despite their diminutive size).

Lough’s attitude towards the Chelsea’s owners – the Bard family – is somewhat negative, despite their fostering of artistic talent. Seemingly showing a phenomenal awareness of future trends, Stanley Bard famously accepted artwork in lieu of rent, yet Lough is quick to observe that much of what Bard accepted was worthless; and the hotel’s famous art-decked lobby is home to some truly awful pieces of work. He calls the collection “Awkwardian.”

In 2011, the Chelsea finally succumbed to the gentrification of New York and closed its doors to artists, gangsters, and Bohemian types, instead charging extortionate rates to more sophisticated clientele. Lough is scathing of this and appears to tie its demise to that of American Bohemia, and to a wider decline in creativity and culture throughout the Western world.

Despite this lament for the death of art, and the end of an important and productive era, Lough’s writing belies a true passion for this “beautiful old whore” of a building. His research is clearly a labor of love, and the book, while informative, is incredibly readable, thanks to his wit and a liberal dose of amusing stories that have otherwise been lost to history.


Buy the book: