Archives For female beats

‘The Personal is Political’[1]

The moves of Beat women to reclaim bodily freedom and space through performative poetry

‘The woman’s body is the terrain on which patriarchy is erected.’ (Rich, Of 55)


In 1950s post-war America, women’s opportunities were largely confined to the domestic realm. Western society was ‘a culture of containment, with women and black people its objects’ (Breines 10). Omnipotent sexism ensured that ‘all women – shall remain under male control’ (Rich, Of 13), and ‘in the most fundamental and bewildering of contradictions’ society has ultimately alienated women from their bodies by ‘incarcerating us in them’ (13). Women’s bodies are misunderstood and repressed in patriarchal society, but the Beat women fought against these misconceptions through choosing to live outside of society’s ideals and exploring pre-patriarchal femininity in their poetry. In exploring the ‘authentic’ self, they could re-establish new modes of being female outside of cultural rules. They negotiated the body and the spirit in Diane di Prima’s sense of materialising the spirit so that it ‘fills everything’ (Calonne 44). In this way, the personal becomes political as their self is embodied and extended to public space through their performance of poetry. Although not all Beat women were able to publicise their poetry as the more well known Beats Anne Waldman and di Prima were, it is important to examine how they re-imagined their bodily potential and their given space through a creation of a female-identified poetic voice. For, ‘the only war that matters is the war against the imagination / All other wars are subsumed in it’ (di Prima, ‘Revolutionary…’, 34-35). Continue Reading…

“A Fleeting Moment in a Floating World”: The Women of the Beat Generation Through Allen Ginsberg’s Eyes

“The whole Beat scene had very little to do with the participation of women as artists themselves.

The real communication was going on between the men,

and the women were there as onlookers…

You kept you mouth shut,

and if you were intelligent and interested in

things you might pick up what you could.

It was a very masculine aesthetic.”[1]

-Joyce Johnson



Inception: Recognizing Absence

“The poignancy of the photograph comes from looking back to a fleeting moment in a floating world.”[2] Upon Allen Ginsberg’s reflection on nearly a lifetime of capturing photographs, his remark seems most fitting when considering those less visible, but equally significant writers of the Beat Generation. Gazing through Ginsberg’s lens of cultural history exposes complex narratives, both fleeting and lasting, of nonconformity, rebellion, and artistic spirit. Though it also reveals a powerful void; an absence of silence and omission. At a time when women’s independence was either limited or non-existent, such spaces enveloped female artists striving for personal freedom amid male dominated society. The women of the Beat Generation were active counterparts within this subculture, yet their lack of visual representation exposes a fissure in Ginsberg’s photography. Continue Reading…

A Negative Score on the Happiness List: The Economics of Hustling in Bonnie Bremser’s For Love of Ray

Bonnie Bremser’s road book For Love of Ray gives a harrowing account of the effects of poverty on travellers. Poverty seems a necessary part of the authentic road experience, since it involves exile from mundane existence and steady income. Like Jack Kerouac’s mythic progenitors Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, the duo around which the story revolves are penniless drifters on the road in Mexico. But Ray and Bonnie Bremser were newly married with a child, and so the text allows insight into their bohemian marriage. This article focuses on how the Beat path runs for the woman in the relationship, with differences becoming apparent when Bonnie begins to work as a prostitute in order to remedy their poverty. Continue Reading…