Archives For poetry

Mechanics And Poetics: William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg

William Carlos Williams played an important part in making “Howl” a well-known poem, especially in terms of communication. Indeed, William Carlos Williams wrote an introduction for the poem, in which he admitted that Allen Ginsberg “disturbed”[1] him. Allen Ginsberg wrote many times to his relatives and friends how glad he was to have a poet he admired writing him an introduction. But while Ginsberg was thrilled, writing to his brother, Eugene, in 1956 that “W.C.Williams has written another introduction”[2] or to his father that “W.C.Williams read “Howl” and liked it”,[3] Williams himself was more cautious. First of all, this introduction is “strange” because, according to Barry Miles, “it read almost as if he were confusing Allen Ginsberg with someone else”.[4] Moreover, though we learn in a 1952 letter to Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady that Williams contacted Random House about Ginsberg’s poetry,[5] he wrote about his poems that “the first look is favorable”,[6] which is less expressive than Ginsberg’s point of view. Worse, Williams also appeared to be criticizing “Howl” and Ginsberg’s writing style in an interview of 1960: Continue Reading…

Allen Ginsberg’s First Trip to Africa

On 12th September, 1947, Allen Ginsberg shipped out as a utility man on a collier, the S.S. John Blair, for the Ponchelet Marine Corporation. He departed from Freeport, seventy-five miles south of Houston, going through Galveston, passing near Cuba and Haiti, whose mountains Allen watched pass by, and headed for Dakar, capital of the federation of French West Africa, in what is now known as Senegal. Dakar, on the western coast of Africa, had a long colonial history, although like most European colonial possessions, in 1947 this one was nearing the end of its subjugation. Once a major trading port for African slaves, Dakar had a strategic location that ensured its privileged position within the French Empire. The French West African territories were placed under the control of a single governor, who was located in Dakar, and so it had become a seat of power in the region. Indeed, by the early twentieth century, it had become a major city in the empire. As rights were slowly and inconsistently handed out to “French subjects” – ie the Africans whose homelands had been annexed by the French – the people born in Dakar were first to be given the right to vote, and it was from here that the first ever black African elected to the French government was born, Blaise Diagne. A year before Allen’s visit, the French Empire had rebranded itself the French Union to give the appearance of equality, and more limited rights were being rolled out; however, more substantial change was in the horizon, with independence just over a decade away. Continue Reading…

Baraka, Transitions: The man and the poetry

Tenements absorbed the sun to brick and spread the heat like a steam iron, pressing ideas flat, airless, into our street lives.  Waiting for the number to come out, welfare wary, drinking cheap wine, whining about the sure memory of the south, gaining minute reputations, habitually wanting and needing things, observed nodding to nada with the “white lady.” Colored, and recently “Black” by most definition, coping & cropping personalities to a new South in Harlem… Continue Reading…

Turtle Island: An Eco-Critique of Capitalism

In the modern era the sustainability of both our daily lives and global systems has become an increasingly important issue. The world finds itself in sight of, and surpassing, certain “planetary boundaries” which mark the limits of a planet which will continue to be inhabitable by humans.[1] These boundaries include ocean acidification, climate change, and biodiversity loss, and they mark a complete break from planetary sustainability. Although personal choice and advancement in resource production may take some steps towards a sustainable future many critics have noted that the blame can be placed primarily on the dominant economic system, capitalism (Foster, 18). For this reason, among others, environmental concerns have increasingly entered into the political sphere. Continue Reading…

The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg

To celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Six Gallery reading – at which Allen Ginsberg first read from his poem, “Howl” – Beatdom Books is delighted to announce the latest in its series of Beat Generation studies, The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg, by Eliot Katz. Continue Reading…

Sixty Years After the Six Gallery Reading

October 7th, 1955, was arguably one of the most important dates in American literature. On that date, in a “run down second rate experimental art gallery” (a former auto repair shop) in San Francisco, in a room crowded with a hundred young men and women, Allen Ginsberg read for the first time an early draft of his poem, “Howl.” Among the bohemian audience was the poem’s future publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who immediately recognized its potential, and requested the manuscript. “Howl” would go on to become the most important poem of the late-twentieth century and, alongside T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” perhaps the most important of the entire century. It would challenge America’s censorship laws, inspire unprecedented cultural and social change, and give the country its most recognizable and influential poet since Walt Whitman. Continue Reading…

Review: Paul Bunyan, by Larry Beckett

Larry Beckett is generally best-known as a songwriter, yet probably better known to Beatdom readers as the author of Beat Poetry – the first book entirely devoted to the poetry of the Beat Generation. Yet he has devoted much of his life to writing poetry, and earlier this year he released an impressive book called Paul Bunyan through Smokestack Books in the UK.

Paul Bunyan is part of Beckett’s American Cycle series of “long poems” concerning junctures in American history. In an interview with Shindig! Magazine, he explained:

When I started reading American literature, I looked around for its great narrative epic poem, and didn’t find it. So American Cycle is a sequence of long poems out of the American past: US Rivers: Highway 1, Old California, Paul Bunyan, Chief Joseph, Wyatt Earp, PT Barnum, Amelia Earhart, Blue Ridge, US Rivers: Route 66. I’ve been working on it for 45 years; I’m now doing research for the last section, John Henry. Each section is written in a form appropriate to its subject. Its themes are love, local mythology, history, justice, memory, accomplishment, time.

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

The Kid from Red Bank

“Count Basie’s swing arrangements are not blaring, but they contain more drive, more power, and more
thrill than the loudest gang of corn artists can acquire by blowing their horns apart.” i
Jack Kerouac

Count, bink-bink!
The Kid from Red Bank
On the River Navesink
Red Bank Boogie
One O’Clock Jump
Stomp and stamp and stump the band
Give the man a mighty hand
Tinkling keys
Fats Waller knees
William Basie’s simple swing
Keep your flashy bling-bling-bling
Count will swing and swing and ring
Timing
Elegant and clean
Flowing rhythm
Jumping beat
Meet you on Mechanic Street
Lobster twitching up a leg ii
Mobsters in old Kaycee days
Billie,
Lester,
and Jo Jones,
Thad and Mr. Quincy Jones,
Frank (The Kid from Hoboken) once but skin and bones

i McNally, Dennis. Desolate Angel: A Biography, Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America. (New York:
Random House. 1979). p. 38.
ii Horricks, Raymond. Count Basie and His Orchestra: Its Music and Its Musicians. (New York: The Citadel Press.
1957). p. 23.

The Beat Generation at War

 

From Beatdom #15 – Available now on Amazon as a print and Kindle publication:

Beat Generation War Quotes

The Beat Generation is often viewed as apolitical, apathetic, selfish, and borne out of the post-WWII era of prosperity. They are viewed as rich kids who chose a bohemian lifestyle as a matter of fashion, as part of a teenage rebellion that went on too long, and inspired too many imitators, and eventually morphing into the beatniks and hippies of the fifties and sixties. Getting to the heart of the Beat ethos isn’t easy, as this is a literary grouping of rather different individuals, over a long period of time, with entirely different philosophies and styles relating to their art. That “post-WWII era” label, then, is important in defining them. If we must group them together, we can define them by opposition to the oppressive society in which they lived. They supported sexual freedom, opposed big government, and pondered to what extent madness was a path to genius. Continue Reading…