Sep 15, 2008

Beat Poets

As part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I'm kicking off a week of Writing in Metaphor and Imagery here at Savvy Verse & Wit. The week will focus on poetry and writing and feature an abundance of contests as well as an interview with Jill Celeste of The Magic Lasso. All BBAW contest deadlines will be Sept. 19 at MIDNIGHT EST.

Today's post takes us back to the poetry of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s with the Beat Generation.

The Beat Generation of poets, sometimes called beatniks, emerged between the 1940s and the early 1960s. I often think of them as representative of that time period in history because of their visceral images and their emphasis on emotional topics, drug use, and sexuality. When asked about the beat poets, many cite Allen Ginsberg as the prime example of the movement because many of his poems seek to deconstruct the capitalist and conformist values present in U.S. society during the 1950s and 1960s. His most famous poem is "Howl" and it is one of the longest poems I've read.

Here's a few lines from this famed poem, I will let them speak for themselves:

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry
dynamo in the machinery of night . . ."

Check out this video of "Howl" as read by John Turturro:

Ginsberg and other Beat poets took their emotional responses to the aftermath of World War I and expressed them in unconventional poetic forms; many of these poems bucked poetic tradition of stanza lengths, rhyme, and other conventions. Much of the Beat generation hailed from San Francisco, Calif., and another poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who I will highlight later in the week, was brought up on obscenity charges one year after Ferlinghetti's City Lights Press published Ginsburg's "Howl and Other Poems" in 1956.

***"Howl and Other Poems," part of The Pocket Poets Series, is the first book I am offering as part of my first BBAW contest this week. The contest deadline is Sept. 19 at midnight EST. ***

To Enter: Leave a comment here and tell me what you remember about the Beat Generation of poets if you are old enough to remember them or what you learned about the Beat Generation of poets. Otherwise, you can leave a comment with two lines of a beat generation poem with the name of the poet. For an additional 2 ENTRIES blog about this contest.

***Don't forget to enter Diary of an Eccentric's contest for The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and The Choice by Nicholas Sparks, Deadline is Sept. 30.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to be entered. I don't know much about the Beat Generation; I just know Allen Ginsberg is the most popular beatnik. I learned a lot from your post, particularly that they focused on the aftermath of WWI, which I hadn't known. I hope that counts. ;)

I'll blog about your giveaway later and come back with the link.

Serena said...

Ok, I will enter you...and that counts. I forgot to post in my review that the beat generation members thought of the term "beatnik" as derogatory.

darbyscloset said...

What I learned from your post, is that the poems from this time period are very much like the lyrics to the music from the same period. Very clear in the picture they leave in the readers/singers mind.
Thank you for all you do!

Serena said...

Thanks for entering the contest!

Serena said...

darbyscloset: I need an email address from you so I can contact you if you win.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I blogged about it, but you already knew that. ;)

teabird said...

My first memory of the Beat poets is reading Kaddish and trying to explain to my 10th-grade friends why it wasn't trash. Then I wrote a term paper on Ginsberg. My poor teacher didn't quite know what to do about me!

teabird 17 at yahoo dot com

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I remember thinking everything they said was profound even when I didn't know what the heck they were talking about!

Thanks for hosting this contest!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Serena said...

Yeah I sometimes wonder what they are talking about. LOL Thanks for stopping by and entering.

Serena said...

That is too funny. Your teachers didn't know what to do with you because of teachers were wondering what was wrong with me and the Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.

Jill said...

I remember reading Howl (probably only a portion of it) in college. I didn't understand a lot of it, but I had an excellent professor who helped us along.

I am actually more intrigued with Jack Kerouac, especially since he was a fellow Floridian. I haven't read On The Road yet but hope to one day. It's unfortunate the Jack was such a heavy drinker, causing his liver to fail and killing him at 47. Coincidentally, he died at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. - one of the hospitals that make up the health care system who I work for.

This long-winded answer - sorry!

=) Jill

Serena said...

For some reason I never got into Kerouac. I'm not sure why. Maybe I should try again!

darbyscloset said...

My email address is darbyscloset (at) yahoo (dot) com.
Thank you for asking me for it...sorry I forgot earlier!!!!

Serena said...

Thanks for coming back and posting your email!


I grew up in Chicago and loved going to readings- I remember my dad not letting me go but a group of us still snuck out- he said they were too strange and wild of people

Sandra said...

I watched Ginsberg read Howl on television over 30 years ago and I was blown away. I really like Kerouac's books and his haiku poetry especially. I own those and go back to them every few years. The beats really changed things and made content more important than form. This was really shocking stuff in the fifties and sixties when it first started coming out. I was a child at the time and I remember the reactions.
I would love to have this book of poetry, please enter me, Thank you.

windycindy said...

Hi, Allen Ginsberg wrote a poem called "Howl." The first two lines are:
I saw the best minds of my generation
destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dodging themselves through the negro
streets at dawn looking for an angry
My favorite was Jack Kerouac!

Serena said...

Hey cindi: I quoted howl in the post as well. Jack Kerouac is someone I keep hearing about, but never could get into his books. I think maybe I should try again.

Serena said...

Sandra thanks for entering the contest. I had no idea that kerouac had haiku poems. If you have the title of a haiku book of his, i would love to go pick it up and check it out. maybe this would be the way for me to see another side of his writing.

Theresa N. said...

I should be old enough to remeber a Beat generation poem but nothing comes to mind.
Theresa N

Serena said...

Theresa, you could always look one up and post it here as you entry. or tell me what you learned from my post...that works too.

Anonymous said...

I always liked reading Ginsburg.

One more beat poet who stands out is Jack Kerouac:

The wheel of the quivering meat conception
Turns in the void expelling human beings,
Pigs, turtles, frogs, insects, nits,
Mice, lice, lizards, rats, roan
Racinghorses, poxy bubolic pigtics,
Horrible, unnameable lice of vultures,
Murderous attacking dog-armies
Of Africa, Rhinos roaming in the jungle,

Vast boars and huge gigantic bull
Elephants, rams, eagles, condors,
Pones and Porcupines and Pills-
All the endless conception of living beings
Gnashing everywhere in Consciousness
Throughout the ten directions of space
Occupying all the quarters in & out,
From super-microscopic no-bug
To huge Galaxy Lightyear Bowell
Illuminating the sky of one Mind-
Poor! I wish I was fee
of that slaving meat wheel
and safe in heaven dead

~~~Mexico City Blues


Serena said...

gautami: Thanks for entering the contest.

Rebekah (monkeygirlsmama) said...

I too would love to enter for this giveaway. Thanks!

I don't have a vast experience with beatnik poetry, or what I've read has been years ago. I do remember reading that it's generally considered a more gritty poetry/art form dealing in topic majorly with sex and drugs.

littleminx at cox dot net

Serena said...

Rebekah: You hit that description on the head. Thanks for entering the contest.

Anonymous said...

That was slightly before my time so I know very little but it seems like there was a big connection to Jack Kerouac and his 'On the Road.'