Allen Ginsberg – the reawakening of poetry.

Allen Ginsberg – the reawakening of poetry.

Poetry – Allen Ginsberg and seeing the light

Poetry was destroyed for me by school.

Firstly in Primary school there was the emphasis on memorising great chunks of turgid verse.

Each week we would be given a long poem by Wordsworth or Tennyson to learn by heart. You were called to stand and recite a verse. If you had not learnt it you had to stay in and miss your Physical Exercise. Now PE was something I really looked forward to and although I had a good memory I could not always be bothered to memorise the meaningless drivel. Many was the afternoon I spent watching morosely out of the window while the rest of the class were outside.

It did not get much better in Secondary school. We analysed the metre, rhyme and metaphor until the whole process was just a bore. I did not want it any more. The only highlight was the whole class excitedly chanting the Jumblies.

Poetry was moribund. It was the stuff of the old and dreary. It had no connection with my life or the world I inhabited. This was the sixties. There was loud music, parties, girls, motorbikes and excitement. Who cared about daffodils? I was young, wild and drinking in life. All that stuff pertained to a boring old world.

Then a friend gave me a copy of Howl. I was seventeen and the words leapt out at me. We were up against the establishment; a mouldering old set of values, a dreary, grey bunch of old foggies who were shoving careers and exams down our throats, who wanted us to settle down in suburbia, mow our grass, wash our cars and have two babies just like them. We were screaming for colour!!

We were alive and wanted to live, to burn and to run free. We didn’t want shackles, restraints and cages.

They hounded us from all sides and we laughed in their face.

Suddenly there was a poem for us. I saw the best minds of my generation trying to smash out of the cage, trying to piss in their petrol tanks, put sand in their gear-boxes. We didn’t not want in to that mortuary. We wanted to live.

Here was a guy I could understand.

I’d been bopping through those negro nights high on life, talking my head off, shouting up at the stars, drunk on being.

I devoured it like it was ambrosia from the gods.

I had discovered Allen Ginsberg. Poetry had come alive. We were all angel-headed hipsters looking for a mystical connection to the universe; wanting to make sense of it all.

Life was a wild journey and we had to wring every last drop out of it.

No more lawns to mow, cars to wash or careers to follow – this was a mad saxophone wail into the torment of the cosmos and I wanted my soul to be in that wail. I wanted to live.

There was a mind to explore, limits to transgress and all possibility to challenge.

I knew I had people to meet, places to go and minds to explore. There was ecstasy out there. There was truth, Zen and a whole teeming inferno to explore!

I had discovered Allen Ginsberg and he had opened my eyes.

Poetry was communication on a level that made sense at last!

Poetry could be about real life!!

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Jack Kerouac – What he meant to writing, life and the sixties.

Jack Kerouac – What he meant to writing, life and the sixties.

Jack opened a door and let a new stream of light come flooding in. It swept the old dull formula away.
Before Jack there was a structure and form. Everything had its place. There were rules, procedures, format and sequence. It was staid. It was dull. It was controlled.
Jack opened a valve in his head and the steam of ideas, words and stories gushed forth in one long screaming roar.
Jack put his words into life as if he was playing a never-ending saxophone line. They wailed, parped and spouted out in uncontrolled frenzy. They streamed along in a great torrent that gathered you up and bore you along with it.
There were no rules. There was no formula. It was a raging waterfall that cascaded along with a madness, exuberance and all the spontaneity of now. It wasn’t so much telling a story as relating the moment, describing now.
And what a now!
It was a now teeming with desires, madness and a thirst for life that could not be contained, had no limits, and was bursting to explode out of the confines of the shackles society puts on us.
Jack was too alive to sit still, too wired. He had to let loose. He sought fellow freaks to travel, open up new horizons and explore possibilities; rapping endlessly as they delved the depths of possibility – ecstatic on discovery. Discovery of self, of possibility, for awe and wonder, to wrestle the demons, open up the senses, to let go; to give rein to all the sensations possible and experience life. There was sex, drugs, fast cars, laughs, kicks, craziness and exaggerated, heightened possibility. There was meaning, purpose and kicks to be screwed out of the drabness.
Jack was in awe of the emancipated black culture and its propensity to let its hair down; its sensuous sexuality, unloosed vitality and wondrous creativity. The black culture was rich and thriving where white culture was constrained and uptight. He wanted to be as loud, as natural and as in touch with his inner self and let all that bottled up energy out. In the black clubs with the black music it was GO GO GO GO GO – crazy man. There were no limits. You went for it.
Despite all the racism and poverty the black American culture had style, had class and knew how to let it hang out. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. They burned. They grasped every second and knew how to extract the kicks out of it. It was wild. It was real.
After Jack how could one go back to living an ordinary life? To writing manufactured stories? – To following an ordained pathway into a career, a home and a life of tedium. This was a plastic culture of concrete and control. It was as dead as the dodo.
Jack had defied the cosmos and sought satori in the majesty of being.
How could you mow the grass and catch the eight thirty to the office?
Without Jack could we have had that sweeping liberalism of the sixties that swept the dowdy conformism away? Or would we be living in our little boxes, locked up inside as repressed as the society that spawned us?
Jack was the great liberator. Once the door was open then was no holding back the current. The dam gave way. The sixties was the flood that Jack unleashed.
I was swept along in that tide. Who could deny the energy and excitement? The freedom?
Allen Ginsberg howled and Jack roared down the highways of life. They both opened minds.

Howl – Allen Ginsberg and the birth of the Beat Generation!

Howl – Allen Ginsberg and the birth of the Beat Generation!

Allen Ginsberg single-handedly rescued poetry for me.  I had it destroyed for me in Primary School. The teacher’s view of poetry was to get us (nine and ten year olds) to learn a poem by rote each week. We had the delights of Tennyson and Wordsworth to memorise. We would have to stand in turn and recite a verse on request. She would point to you and you would have to comply. If you did not know it then you had to miss PE (Physical Exercise), which we all loved, to stay in and learn it. I spent a number of afternoons peering longingly at the rest of the class outside. It instilled hatred. There was no attempt to look at meaning or appreciation. Poetry was merely a task, a pain, a punishment. In Secondary School all I can remember is the class reciting ‘The Jumblies’. Great though it was it did not fill me with joy. It was only when I read Howl that I really felt I had found something that related to me personally. I felt like that outsider stumbling through the starry night looking for some kindred spirits and a real connection to the universe. I was only fifteen and I felt like an outsider in this conforming society. I wanted reality. I craved reality. I wanted honesty, connection and passion. I hadn’t found it anywhere else. Ginsberg led me to Kerouac and I was away. The Beat Generation rekindled a love of poetry. They were honest!

By Allen Ginsberg 1926–1997 Allen Ginsberg

For Carl Solomon

I
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark’s bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman’s loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver—joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses’ rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung-over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steam-heat and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime blur floodlight of the moon & their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other’s hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other’s salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,
Pilgrim State’s Rockland’s and Greystone’s foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time—
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipsis catalogue a variable measure and the vibrating plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America’s naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.
II
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years’ animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!
III
Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Rockland
   where you’re madder than I am
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you must feel very strange
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you imitate the shade of my mother
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you’ve murdered your twelve secretaries
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you laugh at this invisible humor
I’m with you in Rockland
   where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter
I’m with you in Rockland
   where your condition has become serious and is reported on the radio
I’m with you in Rockland
   where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you drink the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the harpies of the Bronx
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you scream in a straightjacket that you’re losing the game of the actual pingpong of the abyss
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse
I’m with you in Rockland
   where fifty more shocks will never return your soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you accuse your doctors of insanity and plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you will split the heavens of Long Island and resurrect your living human Jesus from the superhuman tomb
I’m with you in Rockland
   where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale
I’m with you in Rockland
   where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won’t let us sleep
I’m with you in Rockland
   where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls’ airplanes roaring over the roof they’ve come to drop angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself    imaginary walls collapse    O skinny legions run outside    O starry-spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here    O victory forget your underwear we’re free
I’m with you in Rockland
   in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night
San Francisco, 1955—1956
For Carl Solomon

Jack Kerouac – Catholicism and his mother – a strange guilt-ridden relationship?

Jack Kerouac – Catholicism and his mother – a strange guilt-ridden relationship?

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Jack Kerouac – Catholicism and his mother – a strange guilt-ridden relationship?

Jack Kerouac is a hero of mine. Reading his books back in my formative years had a big impact on me. He invigorated me and altered my view of life. He revealed an alternative.

I was always intrigued with his relationship with his mother and his life as a Roman Catholic. It seemed to me that he was pulled in all directions and lived in two worlds. I always felt that it was this struggle between two opposing ideologies that drove him to drink and led to his early death.

Jack was brought up in a Roman Catholic background and lived with his mother. It was here, at his mother’s house, that he wrote most of his books. I can just picture him there in that homely environment, tap-tapping away on his old type-write while his mother sat in the other room and cooked him meals, ironed his shirts and looked after him. Not quite the image of the crazed rebel. Yet then he would go wild. He would go off for mad escapades with the characters that featured in his books – Ginsberg, Burroughs, Cassady and Corso. He was drawn to the crazier outsiders, those with the energy and lust for being on the edge. Like iron filing to the magnet of Cassady he was helpless. He saw the excitement and wanted it.

Jack went off to New York and hitched and drove across country To San Francisco, Denver and Mexico on mad adventures full of craziness, promiscuity, drugs, poetry, jazz and madness.

He was turned on by Cassady’s wildness and complete irresponsibility, by Ginsberg’s intensity and passion and Corso’s seeking. On car journeys, sometimes in stolen cars, across the States or to Mexico, dicing with death, driving like lunatics, high on pot or amphetamine, delving into wild Mexican brothels or black Jazz dives, always living life at speed, rapping through the night, pouring out poems, seeking nirvana on mountain tops, sartori in the dynamo of the celestial night and love in the eyes of a Mexican beauty, Jack found he was alive like never before.

But then, when the cheque (from his military service) ran out or the odd jobs dried up he endured the cold and hunger and then returned to his mother. I think he had had his fill.

Unlike the others he had a refuge. After the debauched days of crazy poetry, sex and jazz, there was the repentance and confessions.

I’m not sure what his Mum made of it?

Jack was a Buddhist Catholic with a guilt complex and an alcohol habit.

Jack was not so much a main character in what was going on in the mid fifties so much as a chronicler. Without him there wouldn’t have been a narrative. His stream of consciousness writing captured the rhythm of the poetry and jazz. It was as if he went along as an observer and watched the antics from afar, noting everything and meticulously recording it. His books were not so much novels as memoirs of the mad exploits of his outsider friends on their journeys of exploration and adventure as they reamed the seam of life and sought the answers in the void outside of society. He did partake but mainly he watched so that he could splurge it all back out in one great mammoth regurgitation.

When the sixties arrived it was interesting to see how it panned out. Ginsberg and Cassady embraced it whole-heartedly. Ginsberg teamed up with Dylan and got into the scene, Cassady became the driver for Ken Kesey and hung around with the Grateful Dead. Even Burroughs got into the Rock scene doing spoken word outpourings with the likes of Kurt Cobain from Nirvana. It was Kerouac who remained aloof.

I remember the TV programme of William Buckley’s with a drunken Kerouac being set up by Buckley and ridiculed, and Kerouac rejecting any association with the sixties counter-culture despite Ed Sanders (of the Fugs), another participant, obviously idolising him, all he had done and his contribution to American culture. Jack was distraught at the very idea that he might have been in any way responsible for that sixties rebellion. Yet he was. By chronicling it so well and embracing the craziness he had unleashed an alternative vision.

I see Jack in the same way I see many of the Old Rock ‘n’ Rollers from the Deep South. They too were brought up in a highly religious environment. They were attracted to the Blues and R&B with its hard drinking, womanising and gambling. They were torn. Their upbringing and religious indoctrination pulled them one way and their desire for the wild life pulled them the other. You see it with Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. They would vacillate between wild excess and pious sobriety. It was this dichotomy that pushed them to excess. It was as if it became so pent up inside that when it came out they pushed it to the extreme. They thought that they were doing the devil’s work, they were damned, so it didn’t matter any more. They might as well be hung for a whole hog as a slice of bacon. Then they’d pull up short, repent and go to the other extreme.

For me American culture is like that; it’s extremes. There’s no going down the middle. If you’re bad you’re the meanest mother on the planet; if you’re good you’re apple pie and sweet as candy.

I think that vacillation in Kerouac was obvious and led to his alcohol problem. He was torn apart by it.

I would like to investigate his relationships with his mother and Catholicism more thoroughly. I think there was a lot going on there.

Jack Kerouac – What he meant to writing, life and the sixties.

Jack Kerouac – What he meant to writing, life and the sixties.

 

Jack opened a door and let a new stream of light come flooding in. It swept the old dull formula away.

Before Jack there was a structure and form. Everything had its place. There were rules, procedures, format and sequence. It was staid. It was dull. It was controlled.

Jack opened a valve in his head and the steam of ideas, words and stories gushed forth in one long screaming roar.

Jack put his words into life as if he was playing a never-ending saxophone line. They wailed, parped and spouted out in uncontrolled frenzy. They streamed along in a great torrent that gathered you up and bore you along with it.

There were no rules. There was no formula. It was a raging waterfall that cascaded along with a madness, exuberance and all the spontaneity of now. It wasn’t so much telling a story as relating the moment, describing now.

And what a now!

It was a now teeming with desires, madness and a thirst for life that could not be contained, had no limits, and was bursting to explode out of the confines of the shackles society puts on us.

Jack was too alive to sit still, too wired. He had to let loose. He sought fellow freaks to travel, open up new horizons and explore possibilities; rapping endlessly as they delved the depths of possibility – ecstatic on discovery. Discovery of self, of possibility, for awe and wonder, to wrestle the demons, open up the senses, to let go; to give rein to all the sensations possible and experience life. There was sex, drugs, fast cars, laughs, kicks, craziness and exaggerated, heightened possibility. There was meaning, purpose and kicks to be screwed out of the drabness.

Jack was in awe of the emancipated black culture and its propensity to let its hair down; its sensuous sexuality, unloosed vitality and wondrous creativity. The black culture was rich and thriving where white culture was constrained and uptight. He wanted to be as loud, as natural and as in touch with his inner self and let all that bottled up energy out. In the black clubs with the black music it was GO GO GO GO GO – crazy man. There were no limits. You went for it.

Despite all the racism and poverty the black American culture had style, had class and knew how to let it hang out. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. They burned. They grasped every second and knew how to extract the kicks out of it. It was wild. It was real.

After Jack how could one go back to living an ordinary life? To writing manufactured stories? – To following an ordained pathway into a career, a home and a life of tedium. This was a plastic culture of concrete and control. It was as dead as the dodo.

Jack had defied the cosmos and sought satori in the majesty of being.

How could you mow the grass and catch the eight thirty to the office?

Without Jack could we have had that sweeping liberalism of the sixties that swept the dowdy conformism away? Or would we be living in our little boxes, locked up inside as repressed as the society that spawned us?

Jack was the great liberator. Once the door was open then was no holding back the current. The dam gave way. The sixties was the flood that Jack unleashed.

I was swept along in that tide. Who could deny the energy and excitement? The freedom?

Allen Ginsberg howled and Jack roared down the highways of life. They both opened minds.

Book Recommendation – A Beat Novel – Opher Goodwin – Goofin’ with the Cosmic Freaks

This was my attempt to write a kind of sixties On The Road. I think of it as my Beat novel.

Some of you might recognise the character I based the book on. It has all the craziness of the times an is a good read:

In the UK:

In the USA:

Thank you for supporting me and my writing!

The Beats and Hippies – some thoughts.

The Beats and the Hippies did not want to be part of any warmongering, elite-driven war such as the Vietnam war. They did not want the hypocrisy of a conservative society that espoused one thing and did another. They rejected the austerity, elitism, racism, destructiveness and false patriotism. They wanted something simpler, less damaging, more inclusive, more sincere and more meaningful. They saw the heart of America and the UK, with its lip-service to religion, its greed and selfishness, as an empty lie. It was rotten at heart, uptight and conformist and based on hierarchy and power. It was corrupt.
Corporate America sent its youth to war for economic gain. They made money out of blood.
The elite did not fight and most avoided sending their own sons into battle. They disproportionately sent the poor and coloured.
Church was a club. If Jesus had come back they would have murdered him.
The laws were flouted. Money talked. If you were rich you could get away with murder. If you were poor or black you got electrocuted.
There was no heart or substance. It was all cash and power.
The Hippies and Beats saw a better way of living. They were, and are, right.
Their legacy is in spiritualism, environmentalism and civil rights.
BTW – Jack Kerouac was an early leader of substance but was undermined by Catholic guilt and alcoholism and became a sad character who was confused, increasingly right-wing and ended up a drunken bum.

Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan.

I’ve just finished reading Trout Fishing In America by Richard Brautigan.

A surreal journey if ever there was one. He is the unheralded writer of the Beat Generation who went on into the 60s counterculture but never quite fitted anywhere. I find his quirky books a breath of fresh air.

This book is a series of vignettes that form pictures in the mind. They are elusive and unsettling, possessing an unreality quality and yet grounded in the everyday. Some of his metaphors were so strange they were somehow disturbing.

I enjoyed it. It leaves me wondering.

Richard Brautigan – Unsung Hero of the Beat Generation

Richard Brautigan was a giant among Beat writers. His delicate prose, full of strange ethereal humour and a delicate child-like touch was completely unique.

In the 50s he released poetry and did stand up poetry reading in San Francisco. Then when the 60s came around he extended his work into novels and worked with the Diggers.

But Richard was an unpredictable loner. He was never completely part of either scene.

He is most remembered for Trout Fishing in America but In Watermelon Sugar haunts me most.

He committed suicide in 1984.

A writer who deserves to be remembered and read.

https://www.amazon.com/Watermelon-Brautigan-Estate-Richard-Paperback/dp/B00NPOKX3C?keywords=Richard+Brautigan&qid=1540729163&s=Books&sr=1-57&ref=sr_1_57

Mez Mezzrow and Henry Miller – the precursors to the Beat Generation.

Jack Kerouac

The first time I read Jack Kerouac, when I was seventeen, I was completely blown away. He had created a whole new way of writing – this spontaneous, stream of consciousness flow of ideas, thoughts and observations written in a mad Bebop flow. I’d never read anything quite like it. It did not seem to have a plot. It just recorded life as it happened. And what a life. It was a life of the underground world, the sex, drugs and Jazz – the antithesis of the suburban life. It described the young kids wild for life, wild for truth, searching for meaning, for Sartori, in among the Jazz cellars of the Black city clubs and out on the road under those big skies. It burned with the passion of youth and its idealism; it’s lust for life.

On The Road created the Beat Generation with its poets like Ginsberg and its writers like Burroughs.

But the Beat Generation was in fact just an incarnation of the fifties. Back in the thirties other writers had done similar things.

I discovered:

Mez Mezzrow

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Really-Blues-Flamingo-modern-classic/dp/0006546919/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1540286229&sr=1-1&keywords=mez+Mezzrow

Really The Blues – described the life of a white Jazz player who lived the life back in the thirties in the same black clubs. It was full of the same ingredients as Jack Kerouac.

Henry Miller

https://www.amazon.co.uk/TROPIC-CAPRICORN-Capricorn-Paperback-13-Jan-1994/dp/B0058PXQJY/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1540287085&sr=1-5&keywords=Henry+Miller+tropic

Henry got a reputation as a pornographer but he wasn’t. He was writing about his life in Paris back in the thirties. There was so much more than sex in that book. I remember thinking that one page in Capricorn was the best bit of writing I had ever read.

Henry wrote with that same zest about life. It had that flow and autobiographical honesty.