Beat Poetry Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Beat Poetry

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Beat Poetry is usually considered a San Francisco phenomenon. It also had a strong base, as most US counter culture movements do, in New York, and was greatly influenced by European poets and by non-Beat American poets such as William Carlos Williams, not to mention jazz musicians of the time.

The major point of Beat poetry is to break down pre-established notions about poetry that it should rhyme, have rhythm, be about the poet's personal life, should not be accompanied by a three-piece jazz band, should not be frank about homo-erotic experiences, etc. To a great extent it still does this. Lawrence Ferlenghetti, for instance, now publishes a weekly column in a San Francisco newspaper to prove his assertion that poetry is news.

Names to remember when looking up beat poetry include:

  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and owner of the very important beat bookstore/publishing house 'City Lights'.

  • Allen Ginsberg, author of Howl which Ferlinghetti published, after which the two of them stood trial because the FBI considered the poem obscene and tried to have it banned1.

  • Jack Kerouac, poet and prose author who wrote On the Road.

There are women you should know about, too. Lots of them. So many that there's a whole book about them, entitled Women of the Beat Generation.

1 This is one raunchy poem: those who object to graphic images of homosexuality are encouraged to read it and have their brains fried.

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