The Beat Generation The Beat Generation 1940s – 1950s “It involves a sort of nakedness of mind, and, ultimately, of soul; a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness. In short, it means being dramatically pushed up against the wall of oneself. A man is beat whenever he goes for broke and wagers the sum of his resources on a single number; and the young generation has done that continually from early youth.” -- John ClellonHolmes
“The Beat Generation” and it’s “beatniks”. • Term coined by Jack Kerouac, famous Beat poet and author. • Describes the down and out status of himself and his peers during the post WWII years. • Jazz musicians on the streets in New York City, in response to how they were doing, sometimes said they were “beat,” meaning they were down and out, looking for work, a place to display their creativity, and they were open to whatever opportunities or inspirations offered to them. • Evolved in the mid-1940s in the work of writers and poets Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, William S. Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes, and Anne Waldman, among others. • These friends collaborated with one another and wrote pieces that rebelled against the popular poetry of the time
In 1955 the Beat movement came to national prominence in the United States when Lawrence Ferlinghetti, publisher of Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, was charged with printing and selling an obscene book. After the charges were inevitably dropped, the book became immensely popular and the Beat movement became famous.
Non -Conformity The Goal of the Beat Generation writers was to defyconventional writing styles. They were against conformity and tradition. The generation that lived before them questioned WHY they lived, but the Beat Generation tried to figure out HOW to live. Questioned mainstream politics and culture. Questioned new technology and the way American was changing. Politically radical and anti-authoritarian.
Experimentation • I saw the best minds of my generation destroyedby madness, starving hysterical naked,dragging themselves through the negro streets atdawn looking for an angry fix,angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancientheavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night . . . • Howl by Allan Ginsburg Religion Eastern religions like Buddhism Meditation Drugs Psychedelic drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and mushrooms were taken to expand the mind and creative experiences of the poets who chose to take them Sexual Freedom They did not seek to hide their sexuality or beliefs or experimentation, some of the things that made them who they are.
The Architects of Change Writing was based on life experience, and was always raw and uncensored. They looked for truth in their writing and spoke against social evil, such as injustice and racism, war and corruption. The openness and interest in trying new things made them aware of the world around them, and brought social issues to the forefront of their writing. The Beat movement was just one of the precursors to the love, freedom, and activism of the 1960s, including the fight for Civil Rights.
Works Cited • The Academy of American Poets. “A Brief Guide to the Beat Poets.” 29 Feb. 2008. <http://www.poets.org/viewmed ia.php/prmMID5646>. • Ginsberg, Allen. Foreword. The Beat Book: Poems and Fiction of the Beat Generation. Ed. Anne Waldman. Boston: Shambhala, 1996. • Holmes, John Clellon. “This Is the Beat Generation.” New York Times Magazine. 16 Nov. 1952. 29 Feb.2008. <http://www.litkicks.co m/Texts/ThisIsBeatGen.html>. • Waldman, Anne. Editor’s Introduction. The Beat Book: Poems and Fiction of the Beat Generation. Ed. Anne Waldman. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.