Beat Poetry and Beatniks – An anecdote

Beat Poetry and Beatniks


I grew up in the sixties. I was too young to be a Beatnik of the fifties but their energy and vitality, their perspective, their anti-establishment fervour, their craziness and sheer exuberance suffused my spirit. I may have been a child of the wild sixties but my roots were firmly in Beat.

I was repulsed by the grey pointlessness of suburban life. It seemed devoid of colour, excitement or purpose. The whole boring spectre of work, TV, mowing the grass and washing the car seeming so dull and directionless was an anathema to me. When I hit my teens I wanted something more.

I had this overwhelming urge to break out of that pattern. I did not want to wear the same clothes, do the same things or have my mind fixed into some standard way of thinking.

I craved wildness, excitement and craziness. I had to think, to fly and to experience. I had a life and I did not want it filled with money, possessions or safety; I wanted it full of laughter, friendship, love, wonder and adventure. Memories were my wealth.

I gravitated towards the crazy people. I liked the weirder things.

At seventeen I was enthralled by my Rural Science teacher who spoke wistfully of his years living in a hut on Box Hill, getting up with the sun, doing a paper round to earn a living, growing his own vegetables, living frugally and having the day to do his thing. He was building a boat and taking a navigation course to head off round the world. I came out wide-eyed. My friends thought his was a loony.

I wanted to be a loony.

I knew which life I would have preferred. I’d prefer to be in a boat heading off into danger, adventure and uncertainty than working in an office and cleaning my nice car.

Then I read Kerouac and Ginsberg and discovered there were others out there who were outsiders, who saw society as a scourge, consumerism as an evil and wanted to pierce the fabric of life with their tongues, words, poems and lust. They saw life as a mad journey, a monster to be wrestled with, a vessel to be drained, an experience to be savoured and gleefully seized. Life was monstrously brilliant. You had to live in the moment and grab the ecstasy, sample the extent, let it explode and gush it back out in unleashed words.

These were no carefully crafted poems so much as splurges of words splattering like machine gun bullets into the grey matter to explode in ecstasies of enlightening understanding. They were ripping the fabric aside and revealing the naked truth underneath.

Life was to be lived. It wasn’t supposed to be comfortable, safe and boring. It was the ecstasy of being alive in the moment, in the midst of the crescendo of the raw universe. It was a wild, drunken, sex-filled

, journey into the unknown and it sang…. It sang… it filled the blood with fire….. it sent electricity through the brain…. It opened the eyes, ears and senses. Life had to be tasted, felt, smelt, seen, heard and thought and the revealed clarity had to be expounded in symbols and those words had to express the wonder.

That was the meaning the Beats gave to me. They took away my mundane existence and gave me life in full colour.


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4 thoughts on “Beat Poetry and Beatniks – An anecdote

    1. I love Mark E Smith – not sure I’d call him a Beat Poet though. But now you mention it I suppose you are right. I think a lot of the poet singer-songwriters that followed could be included in that list. Mar E is probably one that stands out.

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