The three giants of Beat poetry are Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac, all of whom I deeply respect, love and attempt to emulate. But in addition to these legends, I’d like to include Charles Bukowski (the man who pushed me to write) and Henry Miller, at least for the purpose of this article.
Below are a number of video links featuring the five authors I’ve mentioned. As I said, Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac are obvious choices, but I included Bukowski because he reads with disgustingly raw emotion; emotion dominated by insecurity, drunken arrogance and most importantly, an absolute need to write. His unquestionable love for the printed word is always visible, and to me, that’s a large part of beat poetry; the necessary feeling of expression no matter how vulnerable it leaves you.
And then there’s Henry Miller. A man who fulfilled the same internal craving to write and relished in the opportunity to carve his name into stone with a pen. An abnormal choice for beat poetry, but a titanic force of imagination and another voice who refused to go unheard. The spirit to make a difference no matter how much work it takes is a quality that screams “beat” to me. Hopefully it does to you too.
Here’s a meaty, hour long black and white video of Buk reading at Bellevue in 1970. At this point he was 50 and had yet to write his first novel, Post Office, which would come out the following year. He had, however, written 14 collections of poetry, including the great The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills, which was released in 1969. The video is fairly low quality, but the audio is great and perfectly reflects his usual tone and pace.
At about 8:50, he begins talking about a skid row in Los Angeles and says, “Not a nice place to have a typewriter, and no place is really nice unless you have a typewriter. You can do without a woman, but you can’t do without a typewriter.” Not too many quotes sum up the beauty of Bukowski quite like that one.
Here’s a reading of “the laughing heart” by Tom Waits and “roll the dice” by Bono. I personally prefer Tom’s reading, but Bono does a decent job.
Two great poems in Buk’s familiar advice-heavy style. He may always be talking about himself, but he never forgets about his audience.
“What is your definition of love?”
Here, Buk discusses people. “Two inches is great, two miles is great, two thousands miles is beautiful.” A completely misanthropic statement, but like I said earlier, one probably stemming from insecurity. Words appeared to always be his best friend.
An amusing clip of Buk drunk on French television, one he was unable to finish.
William S. Burroughs
Here, Burroughs, and others, discuss the outrageously beautiful idea that is The Cut-Up. For any of you unaware of the method (which is very open for interpretation), I strongly encourage you to watch this, for it will squash writer’s block like nothing you’ve met before.
Here is an in-depth, almost 90 minute film on the life of Burroughs and his unforgettably raspy, monotone voice (oh yes, and maniacal style of writing/life).
Just a side note– the song which begins this film is “Another Green World” by Brian Eno, who may not be a beatnik, but is one hell of a genius.
A clip on Burroughs from a film on Allen Ginsberg entitled “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg”.
Here’s another short clip from “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg” featuring Ginsberg and Bob Dylan.
Ginsberg speaks upon offensive language on the TV show “Firing Line” hosted by William Buckley in 1968.
Another clip from “Firing Line” where Ginsberg reads a poem he wrote under the influence of LSD.
Ginsberg singing a beautifully sad piece (accompanied by a lap organ) called “Father Death Blues”, inspired by the death of his Father in 1978.
One last clip from “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg”, where he speaks inside the City Lights Bookstore in 1965.
You can purchase the movie here:
A clip of Kerouac reading an excerpt from “On the Road”, accompanied by light piano. Here he reads with calm confidence and honesty.
Drunken, loud Kerouac embarrassing himself on “Firing Line”.
Another television appearance featuring a belligerent and entertaining Kerouac.
Here’s a brief clip of Kerouac speaking over footage of him shooting pool.
“Now it’s jazz. The place is roaring. All beautiful girls in there. One mad brunette at the bar, drunk with her boys.”
A clip of Miller, later in his life, discussing death, life, dreams and the world with Anaïs Nin.
A clip on French television, featuring Miller speaking in French, discussing why he chose to leave America and what he thought about it upon return.
A nice, 7:30 clip of Miller reading from “The Tailor Shop”, a short story from the book Black Spring, published in 1936. Two years prior he wrote the genius Tropic of Cancer and three years later he’d write The Tropic of Capricorn.
14 minutes of Miller speaking in an interview, featuring candid footage.
More candid footage of Miller speaking over dinner and wine with friends. A long, casual half an hour clip unlike most other videos available.