The beat movement

Literature of century XX. Generation. Kerouac. Ginsberg. Burroughs. Poetry

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  • País: España España
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2. THE BEAT MOVEMENT

2.1 THE BEAT GENERATION

"It's a kind of furtiveness... Like we were a generation of furtives. You know, with an inner knowledge...a kind of beatness... and a weariness with all the forms, all the conventions of the world... So I guess you might say we're a 'Beat Generation'.

Jack kerouac

The phrase Beat Generation was invented by Jack Kerouac in 1948. He gave this name because “beat” means rhythm, and it refers to the jazz drums. In the drug world, "beat" means "robbed" or "cheated". The phrase was introduced to the general public in 1952 when one of Kerouac's friend wrote the article “This is the Beat Generation” for the New York Times Magazine.

The Beat writers were a small group of close young friends very interested in poetry since the high school. They wanted to demonstrate a carefree, often irresponsible and unquestionably fresh approach to literature as well as a demonstrative social stance towards what sometimes was referred to as "The Establishment". The original group consisted on Jack Kerouak, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, Ken Kesey and William Burroughs, the oldest of them. They met in the neighbourhood surrounding Columbia University in the middle 40's. They moved to San Francisco and expanded their group to other men, they were Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Lew Welch and Neal Cassady's wife Carolyn Cassady.

Their moment of fame began with a legendary poetry reading at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. After that, a crowd of people were added in the beat group. Some time later the arrivals at the group included Diane DiPrima, Anne Waldman, Brown, Bob Kaufman, Ed Sanders and Ted Joans. The “latter day beats” added cultural diversity, new ideas and talent to the original group of white male “classic beats”.

2.2 AUTHORS OF THE BEAT GENERATION

"Try to be possessed by an ingenuous holiness of spirit."

Jack Kerouac

JACK KEROUAC: He was born on March 12, 1922 in Lowel, Massachusetts. He spoke no english until he was six years old, his family spoke a french dialect calles “joual”. His parents were descendants of french canadians immigrants who settled in New England.

Jack's childhood was not easy in Lowell. He had a brother and a sister. His brother, Gerard, suffered an illness that cause him the death. These situation affect directly Keroauc and produced him a shock with the early age of four years old.

From very early age, Jack was very creative and artistic. When he learnt english, he began to read everything he could get his hands on, form conventional novel to pulp mysteries. Kerouac finished high school and after he started working as a sport reporter for the Lowell Sun where he work for a several months, but he decided that this job was not for him. He was looking for the ideal job; he tried to be a salior, a footballer and more, but he failured in his tried.

When he returned to England he met some friends that influenced in Jack's life. Those friends were Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Neal Cassady. These circle along with a few other friends became known as the center of the Beat Movement.

Jack married Edie in 1944. The marriage was just for a year, until 1945. On the same year Jack's father, Leo, died of a stomach cancer, and he began work on his first and most conventional novel The Town and the City which was published in 1950.

During some years later Jack took a road trip from the east coast to San Francisco with his friend Neal Cassady. These cross-country trip originated the majority of the content for Jack's most famous novel On the road. In 1951 Jack married his second wife, Joan Harvety. The couple separate the next year. Jack wrote the original version of On the road in 1951. The next few years were the most productive. The much-awaited years of fame were no happy for him. He had battle a problem with alcoholism, which had worsened with increasing fame.

Jack moved to California in 1961 and wrote his final novel The Dark. In the last years of his life he lived with his mother. In October 20, 1969 he died from internal bleeding by cirrhosis. He was only 47 years old. He was laid to rest in the Sampas family plot in Lowell's Edson Cementery.

...I want to introduce you to this universe which unfortunately doesn't quite exist

Allen Ginsberg

ALLEN GINSBERG: He was born in New Jersey in June 3, 1926. Llen's home life was dominated by his mother's strange and frightening episodes of tragicall insane. As the sensitive boy tried to understand what was happening around him, he also had struggle to understand what was happening inside him, because he was consumed by lust for other boys of his age.

He discovered the poetry in high school, but despite his interest in poetry he followed his father's advice and began a career as a labor lawyer. He did that and began to study at Columbia University, but he fell in with a crowd of wild souls friends: william Burroughs and Neal Cassady. Those young philosophers and writers were obsessed with drugs, crime, sex and literature. Ginsberg was the youngest and most innocent member of the circle. His new friends didn't encourage him in his studies. He began going to Time Square junkies and cruising gay bars. Allen and Kerouac began to worked with soome kind of uncertain great poetic vision, that they called the “new vision”.

He began a passionate sexual affair with Neal Cassady. One day in his house, Allen was reading William Blake in 1948, and he had a tremendous mad vision which Blake came to him in perosn. He told his family and friends that he had found God.

He met a kindred spirit, Carl Solomon, in the waiting room of a psychiatric hospital. He introduced himself to the important New Jersey poet William Carlos Williams, whose epic visionary poem about the town of Paterson had impressed Ginsberg greatly. At the age of 29, Ginsberg had written much poetry but published almost none. He worked hard to promote the works of Kerouac and Burroughs to publishers. He was the first Beat writer to gain popular notice when he delivered a brilliant performance of his new poem Howl at the legendary Six Gallery poetry reading in October 1955. This great poem, conveniently publicized that made Allen a worldwide symbol of sexual obscenity was the great expression of Beat defiance, just as Kerouac's On The Road published two years later, would be the great expression of Beat years. Ginsberg followed Howl with several other important new poems, such as Sunflower Sutra. Ginsberg during this period, after travelling the world, discovering Buddhism and falling in love with Peter Orlovsky, who would remain a constant companion for thirty years. Perhaps most importantly, he exorcised some internal demons by writing Kaddish a brilliant and surprising poem about his mother's insanity and death. He and Timothy Leary worked together to publicize Leary's new discovery, the psychedelic drug LSD, and Ginsberg attempted to turn on every famous cultural figure in his address book. He was a familiar figure at protests against the Vietnam War, and to state his controversial views in public was an important factor in the development of the revolutionary state of mind that America developed during the 1960's. The list of 60's events that Ginsberg played an important part in were huge. He participated in Ken Kesey's Acid Test Festivals in San Francisco. Allen was a friendship with Bob Dylan.

In 1970 Ginsberg met the controversial Tibetan guru Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Ginsberg would soon accept Trungpa as his personal guru. Ginsberg carried on an active social events until his death on April 5, 1997

NEAL CASSADY: He was born in February 8, 1926 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Neal grow uo with his alcoholic father at hotels in Denver, Colorado. Before he was 21 years old he claimed to have stolen around 500 cards to go with girlfriends. He stayed fifteen months in reform schools for those actions.

Neal joined Jack Kerouac on several road trips across the United States and Mexico writing about their experiences. Those adventures were wrotten in the pages of On the road of Jack Kerouac, where Neal has the character Dean Moriarty, he was an inspiration for Jack.

In the 60's Cassady joined young novelist Ken Kesey and met an interesting group of intellectual hippies (Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs…) For Neal and Allen it was the beginning of an intense friendship and later a love affair that would ast for twenty years. But before he had been married two times, and he had three children with Cathleen. In 1968 Neal was taking a trip to Mexico when he collapsed by a railroad and died. Cassady's unfinished autobiography was published after as The First Third. His second wife wrote about their marriage in the acclaimed autobiographical book Off the road.

KEN KESEY: He was born in 1935 in Colorado. He grow up on farms in Colorado and Oregon. He studied at the University of Oregon, he participated in wrestling and theater. In 1959 he experimented a dramatic change when he volunteered to be a subject in experiments with hallucinogenic drugs. Near the end of the experiments he began working at night shift in a mental ward. He began to felt that the patiens weren't really crazy after all, just more individualized than society was willing to accept. Parts of his novel One flew over the Cuckoo's nest were written while he was working in this hospital and under the influences os LSD and marihuana.

He and a group of friends called Merry Pranksters painted a school bus with a psychedelic style and crossed the United States from California to New York to see Jack Kerouac. Down the road they distributed acid and LSD. He had marihuana and he gave himself up to authorities and was arrested for five months .

He moved to live in a farm of Oregon in 1970. He died there.

"The ecstacy is to see the things through a special angle"

William Burroughs

WILLIAM BURROUGHS: He was born in Saint Louis in 1914. Life in the Burroughs family was life like a bussines man. His family invented the machine fortune. He was a Harvard-educated. At the age of eight, he usds his first gun and wrote his first story The Autobiography of a Wolf . In 1930's he began the greatest experiment of his life when he moved to New York and entered in the dark world of the heroin addict. It was in New York that he was introduced to the vital group of young hippies and that would eventually associate him with the Beat Movement.

Though he was older than his idealistic friends he was influenced by them to begin writing his first novel Junky that came out in 1953. His drug habit kept him on the run from law. He stayed in Texas, Mexico, South America and Tangier. In 1959 he wrote his most fmaous novel Naked Lunch a twisted odyssey through a mindscape of desilusions and perversions. Te novel was banned in USA until 1962. Burroughs also was a photographer and had done drawing, painting and sculpture.

He was openly homosexual and spent years as a drug addict and accidentally killed his wife with a gunshot to the head, In 1983 he entered in the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He appeared in various music videos, recording, campaing... In1997 he died of a heart attack in August 2 in Kansas at the age of 83.

  • THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS

  • TITLE DATE AUTHOR

    The Town and the City 1950 Jack Kerouac

    On the road 1951-57 Jack Kerouac

    Naked Lunch 1954-57 William Burroughs

    Howl 1955 Allen Ginsberg

    Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness 1956 Bob Kaufman

    A Coney island of the mind 1958 Lawrence

    Ferlinghetti

    One flew over the cuckoo's nest 1962 Ken Kesey

    Junky 1953 William Burroughs

    Love Lion Book 1966 Michael McCLure

    Life against death 1985 Brown

    ON THE ROAD (JACK KEROUAC)

    Jack Kerouac's great Beat novel, a charming, honest and poignant story of a friendship and four trips across America, is for a lot of people the best piece of writing to come out of the Beat Generation.The narrator is Sal Paradise, a young novelist-to-be living with his aunt in Paterson, New Jersey. Sal has got a major Travelin' Jones. Most of his friends happen to be out west already. A college friend has invited Sal to live with him in San Francisco, and Sal also wants to visit Denver, the home of his crazy friend Dean Moriarty. Dean Moriarty is a fast-talking, womanizing product of Denver reform schools who came to New York, improbably enough, to learn to be a writer. Sal idolizes Dean for his cowboy style, his ease with women and his exuberant joy in living. (Dean Moriarty is Jack Kerouac's real-life crazy friend Neal Cassady, and almost everything in this book, as in all Kerouac's books)

    HOWL (ALLEN GINSBERG)

    Allen Ginsberg's monumental poem was first heard in a series of famous readings that signalled the arrival of the Beat Generation of writers. The first of these readings took place in October 1955 at the Six Gallery in San Francisco.

    In this poem he used rhythms of the rolling and crashing words. Ginsberg is describing his fellow travellers, the crazy, lonely members of his community of misunderstood poet artists, unpublished novelists, psychotics, radicals, pranksters, sexual deviants and junkies. At the time that he wrote this he had seen several of his promising young friends broken or killed. Each of these part of the poem describe real-life events by people that Ginsberg knew, but the poem is especially dedicated to Carl Solomon, a Ginsberg's crazy-insane hyper-intellectual friend who he had met in a mental hospital years before.