"America"

I’m referring to the poem by Allen Ginsberg. It is such an honest, heartfelt critique of the U.S. What is some of your favourite Beat literature and poetry?

Yikes – I googled it, read it, and all I have to say is there’s 20 min of my life that I’ll never get back. Honest and heartfelt? Stoned, depressed, and detached from reality would be my first choice of words for the poem and author. NEA – yet more federal tax dollars hard at work! The war on terror threads have some lively debate over the current situation – but not too much discussion of Beat literature if you want to use such a lofty term for that. There are plenty of honest critiques of the current war and domestic issues, but I didn’t see too many well reasoned arguments presented logically in that poem.

Not so much into Ginsberg, but I’m a huge Burroughs fan.

And TS, that poem isn’t about logical presentation of reasoned arguments. It’s just sad and angry and beautiful.

It was also written just over half a century ago. This is not a ‘current events’ thing.

Ginsburg? Maybe when I was 17 years old. Now?:yawn:

What about “Howl”? Seriously, I’m surprised by some of these responses. Tiber Squid, I thank you for taking the time to read the poem, but how can you say that you wasted 20 minutes (?) reading this fine American work? Perhaps it seems scrambled because you did not care to analyze any of the parts or make them your own. Thanks, Mirdath, for correcting the information about the poem . Burroughs was another great one of the group. Kerouac is also amongst of my favorites. Have you read any of his works? On the Road and The Dharma Bums are both excellent.

I don’t know much about Beat literature, but I do like Ferlinghetti’s poem "Dog"
writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/dog.html

Don’t like Beat literature at all - sorry. I think Ginsburgh was one of the worst men ever - I read his biography once and felt as though I was in the presence of evil. I am fascinated by the life of Jack Kerouac though. He spent his life searching for meaning and never really found it. He died at 47 by bleeding to death from esophageal varicosities brought on by alcoholism.

Kerouac is one of those guys I keep meaning to get to but haven’t yet.

I’ve attempted the Beats. The problem is I’m a snob against most of what America puts out, and a snob against people who set themselves apart from society with no other goal but to “not be society” (which is what the Beats seem to me to have been), so even if Ginsberg and Burroughs have literary merit, I won’t see it.

Why the bias against American culture? Sure, the pop stuff can suck and suck a lot, but that doesn’t mean everything an American has ever put out is worthless. I used to think that way about music, until I found out that we really can rock.

The Beat movement didn’t set itself apart from society merely for the sake of being different – they were about being themselves, and that incidentally meant they didn’t fit in at all. Intentional nonconformists are just annoying.

As for their literary and cultural merit, I think you underestimate just how influential they’ve been – not just in literature, but visual art, music, everything. They’re all over. Guess what inspired Joy Division’s song ‘Interzone’? :wink:

The Beats revolutionized American culture, and while they may catch a lot of flak from certain people for doing so, one cannot deny just how much influence they had on our everyday lives. You may not like them (and could quite possibly get an aneurysm reading Naked Lunch), but the doctor is in, and his name is Benway. And he’s not going anywhere.

Mirdath, you have sense. From what I’ve seen so far, I like you.

The beats had the advantage of being in a period where there was still enough innocence around to see them as grand and tragic. Write similar stuff today and anyone with a microgram of grey matter in their skulls will see you as a narcissistic twerp.

:thumbsup: Yep – my sentiments exactly. I must be too young to get it – I’ve heard of them and dismissed as more **** to ignore from the middle of the 20th century like the hippies. My read of America is that its cynical non-sense with little connection to the reality of life in this country.

  1. Note my location: I’m American, and have been surrounded by this **** all my life. (Aren’t you Australian? I thought you were.) I like American art when it is mostly taken from old-school America - there might be some cross-contamination, and I’m stuck with it, but you can at least tell. The American post-war culture of advertising and mass media, and anything done as a “nonconformist” response to that (and the Beats strike me as responding to American post-war culture), mostly either bores me or sickens me. I have a sympathy for hippies, because they in general just weren’t going to play the game at all - they weren’t going to fight the system, they were just going to leave it. The idiots that wanted to fight the system were what ruined it.

  2. I honestly think that most "nonconformists that aren’t doing it for reasons of transcendence are doing it on purpose to fight the system, at least as part of their reasoning. Poster I’m responding to has made it clear she isn’t, but it seems like most people in nonconformist systems enjoy “sticking it to the Man” far too much.

  3. I only like Joy Division for “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. :wink: And as blasphemy to any rock historian: I also hate the Beatles. I LOATHE the Beatles. Novelty doesn’t necessarily mean genius, and the Beatles took off so much primarily because they were a novelty in America, I think.

I would have dropped On The Road in the trash if I didn’t know that it was mostly true. I would have said that it is too hard to believe…nobody is that selfish. While reading it I couldn’t get over how little regard the characters had for anyone. They just use, lie, cheat, steal, repeat all throughout the book. That was enough of “Beat” lit for me.

On another note, Kerouac said that he coined the term ‘Beat’ as meaning that they live out the Beatitudes. Never figured out how he came to that conclusion.

M

I’m American – well-traveled, but quite definitely American :slight_smile:

The American post-war culture of advertising and mass media, and anything done as a “nonconformist” response to that (and the Beats strike me as responding to American post-war culture), mostly either bores me or sickens me. I have a sympathy for hippies, because they in general just weren’t going to play the game at all - they weren’t going to fight the system, they were just going to leave it.

Uh, you do know that there’s a lot of overlap between the Beats and the hippies – as in, the Beats inspired and laid the foundation for the hippies? And sure, the Beats responded to mainstream culture – so did the hippies! What did you think all those Vietnam protests and civil rights demonstrations were about? If anything, the hippies were far more ‘against the system’ than their predecessors, who generally simply ignored it.

I honestly think that most "nonconformists that aren’t doing it for reasons of transcendence are doing it on purpose to fight the system, at least as part of their reasoning. Poster I’m responding to has made it clear she isn’t, but it seems like most people in nonconformist systems enjoy “sticking it to the Man” far too much.

Oh come on, like you never put on black lipstick for the hell of it :wink:

I only like Joy Division for “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. :wink: And as blasphemy to any rock historian: I also hate the Beatles. I LOATHE the Beatles. Novelty doesn’t necessarily mean genius, and the Beatles took off so much primarily because they were a novelty in America, I think.

JD’s general attitude is quite Burroughsian; ‘Interzone’ is just a direct reference.

I actually kinda agree with you on the Beatles, though. Culturally important bad music.

I’m quoting the whole thing b/c I’m lazy - yes, I realize that the Beats were, as I’ve sometimes lazily referred to them, “50s hippies”, but the real “tune in, turn on, and drop out” hippies seem more to have been dropping out rather than fighting like Beats seemed. I have some odd ex-hippie relatives, and it seems to have been way more about “dropping out”/transcendence via odd religions or music or drugs or nature worship. The protestors aren’t what I think of - they’re the ones that ruin what seems to me to be the real deal, like how the trustafarians in V for Vendetta masks ruin anarchism today.

Fighting is for the punks, thanks :wink: As for transcendence and mysticism, well, I think the fact that Burroughs himself spent months running around South America in search of a mythical drug, Yage, speaks to that. There’s even a published collection of the correspondence between him and Ginsberg on the subject.

The protestors aren’t what I think of - they’re the ones that ruin what seems to me to be the real deal, like how the trustafarians in V for Vendetta masks ruin anarchism today.

The protesters were the real hippies (or at least a lot of them); that movement inherited the cultural dissent directly from the Beats. There is no parallel at all between the peace protesters and the anarcho-poseurs – trust-fund hippies existed too.

Or at least, I know I’m not going to be the one to walk up to the graves of Jerry Rubin or Abbie Hoffmann and say ‘oh, you weren’t real hippies’.

I thought the reason they came up with the Yippie identity was to distinguish activists from the drop-outs.

The Yippies were actually an activist political party (the Youth International Party) that happened to be pretty much entirely hippies.

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