Tag Archives: kerouac

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THE BEATS-PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED PHOTOS OF LARRY FINK

THE BEATS-PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED PHOTOS OF LARRY FINK

The Beats: Previously Unpublished Larry Fink Photos

In 1958, Larry Fink — the photographer best-known today for celebrity portraits in magazines like Vanity Fair and GQ — was an 18-year-old college dropout. He moved from his native Long Island to Greenwich Village, and decided to hitchhike across the country with the second generation of Beat artists. “It was my fate to be aligned with the Beats because of my propensity for drugs, anger, and poetry,” Fink writes in The Beats, a new book of previously unpublished photography from his 1958 and 1959 travels. “Since they were second generation, without the same sense of immortal obsession such as the like of Kerouac and Ginsberg, they had a distinct need to be documented.”

Despite confessing that his traveling companions “did not like me much,” (a fact he attributes to his Marxist upbringing), Fink traveled with artists like Amiri Baraka and Hugh Romney (Wavy Gravy) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Houston and Mexico, and back to Chicago and Cincinnati. “They desperately needed a photographer to be with them, to give them gravity, record and encode their wary but benighted existence,” he reflects. Click through the slideshow for a look at the intimate, glamorous, and gritty photographs that resulted.

Larry Fink will speak at the Strand in New York on May 21 to celebrate the book’s release.

THE BEATS-PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED PHOTOS OF LARRY FINK

DAVID AMRAM REMEMBERS JACK KEROUAC

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DAVID AMRAM REMEMBERS JACK KEROUAC

DavidAmram, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac
from left to right: Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac,
David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso (with back to camera)

 

DAVID AMRAM REMEMBERS
(Originally written for Evergreen Review in 1969, published early 1970 at the request of publisher Barney Rossett as an obituary for Kerouac)

I used to see Jack often at the old Five Spot in the beginning of 1957, when I was working there. I knew he was a writer, and all musicians knew that he loved music. You could tell by the way he sat and listened. He never tried to seem hip. He was too interested in life around him to ever think of how he appeared. Musicians understood this and were always glad to see him, because we knew that meant at least one person would be I listening. Jack was on the same wave-length as we were, so it was never necessary to talk.

A few months later, poets Howard Hart and Philip Lamantia came by my place with Jack. They had decided to read their poetry with music, and Jack said he would join in, reading, improvising, rapping with the audience and singing along. Our first performance was in December of 1957 at the Brata Art Gallery on East 10th Street. It was the first jazz-poetry reading in New York. There was no advertising and it was raining, but the place was packed. Jack had become the most important figure of the time. His name was magic. In spite of the carping, whining put-downs by the furious critics, and the jealousy of some of his contemporaries for his overnight success (he had written ten books in addition to On The Road with almost no recognition), Jack hadn’t changed. But people’s reaction to him was sometimes frightening.

He was suddenly being billed as the ‘King of The Beatniks’, and manufactured against his will, as some kind of public Guru for a movement that never existed. Jack was a private person, extremely shy, and dedicated to writing. When he drank, he became much more expansive, and this was the only part of his personality that became publicized. The people who came to the Brata Gallery weren’t taste makers; they were friends.

A few months later, we began some readings at the Circle In The Square. Everyone improvised, including the light man, who had his first chance to wail on the lighting board. The audience joined in, heckling, requesting Jack to read parts of On The Road, and asking him to expound on anything that came into his head. He also would sing while I was playing the horn, sometimes making up verses. He had a phenomenal ear. It was like playing duets with a great musician.

Jack was proud of his knowledge of music and of the musicians of his time. He used to come by and play the piano by ear for hours. He had some wonderful ideas for combining the spoken word with music. A few weeks later, jazz-poetry became ‘Official Entertainment’, and a few months later was discarded as another bit of refuse, added to the huge mound of our junk culture. It was harder to dispose of Jack. The same journalist and radio and TV personalities who had heralded him were now ripping him to shreds. Fortunately, they couldn’t rip up his manuscripts. His work was being published, more widely read, and translated.

In early 1958, all of us went to Brooklyn College, where Jack, Phillip and Howard read. Jack spent most of the time answering the student’s questions with questions of his own. He was the down-home Zen master, and the students finally realized he wasn’t putting them on. He was showing them himself. If they wanted to meet the Author Jack Kerouac, they would have to read his books.

His public appearances were never to promote his books. They were to share a state of mind and a way of being. The only journalist who picked up on this was Al Aronowitz. He saw Jack as an artist.

In the spring of 1959, the film Pull My Daisy was made. Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Larry Rivers and myself – the Third Avenue All-Stars as one wit described us – appeared in it. Alfred Leslie directed it and Robert Frank filmed it. Jack had written the scenario, and after the film had been edited, Jack saw it. Because it was a silent movie, Jack was to narrate it, and I was to write the music afterwards. He, Allen, and Neal Cassady also wrote the lyrics for the title song Pull My Daisy, for which I wrote the music and was sung in the film by Anita Ellis. Jack put on earphones and asked me to play, so that he could improvise the narration to music, the way we had done at our readings. He watched the film, and made up the narration on the spot. He did it two times through spontaneously, and that was it. He refused to do it again. He believed in spontaneity, and the narration turned out to be the very best thing about the film. We recorded it at Jerry Newman’s studio. Jerry was an old friend of Jack’s from the early forties and afterwards we had a party-jam session that lasted all night. Jack played the piano, sang, and improvised for hours.

In the early sixties I used to see Jack when he would come in from Northport to visit town. Once, he called up at one in the morning and told me I had to come over so that he could tell me a story. I brought over some music to copy, and Jack spoke non-stop until 8:30 a.m., describing a trip he had made through North Africa and Europe. It was like hearing a whole book of his being read aloud, and Jack was the best reader of his own work, with the exception of Dylan Thomas, that I ever heard.

“That’s a fantastic story.” I told him. “It sounds just like your books.”

“I try to make my writing sound just the way I talk.” he said. His ideal was not to display his literary skill, but to have a conversation with the reader.

I told Jack about an idea I had for a cantata about the four seasons in America, using the works of American authors. He launched into a travelogue of his voyages around the country, and referred to writers I might look into. I took notes, and ended up reading nearly fifty books, to find the texts. I included a passage from his book Lonesome Traveler. The concert was at Town Hall [in New York City], and Jack wrote that he couldn’t come. It was the Spring of 1965, and he didn’t like being in New York.

Sometimes he would call from different parts of the country just to talk, and we continued to write to each other. In one letter he said “Ug-g-h. Fame is such a drag.” He wanted time to work, but found that success robbed him of his freedom. At the same time, he felt that he was forgotten. I told him that all the young people I met when I toured colleges loved his books. To many, he was their favorite writer. But writer meant something different now. It was what was being said, not how it was said. It was content that counted, not style. Jacks’ message was a whole way of being, and he was becoming more an influence than ever.

Truman Capote dismissed Jack’s work as “typing.” I never heard Jack put down another writer. He went out of his way to encourage young writers. His work reflects this spirit of generosity, kindness and love. This is why his “typing” is so meaningful to young people today. Jack was ahead of his time spiritually. Like Charlie Parker, Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley, his work is constantly being rediscovered.

Through knowing Jack, I wrote some of my best music. Without knowing him, I never would have written my book. More important, young people all over the world are reading and rereading his work. His death only means the beginning of a new life for everyone who shares in the joy of knowing him through his books.

David Amram, October 24th. 1969

Video of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks

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Video of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks

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Video  of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks

If the only Beat Generation writers you can name are Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, then it’s time to educate yourself about the rest of the gang. A great place to start is Original Beats, a short documentary by Francois Bernadi that we learned about thanks to Dangerous Minds. The film, shot in the mid-’90s, follows Herbert Huncke and Gregory Corso — the oldest and youngest member, respectively, of the Beat inner circle. In fact, while Corso’s work may be more famous, Huncke was hugely influential to the movement, introducing the major players to (’50s) hipster culture and even coining the term “Beat.” (Sadly, he was also a lifelong junkie who spent his last years in poverty; Jonathan Lethem recently wrote a New Yorker piece about the time he caught Huncke shoplifting at the bookstore where he worked as a high schooler.)

The documentary offers an entertaining look at the origins of the Beat movement, as well as some readings, and a number of epic anecdotes from Huncke and Corso, from Huncke’s first glimpse of Times Square to both men’s stints in prison. One of Corso’s stories, about a time when he and Allen Ginsberg read in Chicago, ends with this wonderful moment: “One of the people in the audience said, ‘Mr. Ginsberg, why is there so much homosexuality in your poetry?’ And Allen said, ‘Because I’m queer, madam!’” Enjoy Original Beats after the jump.

A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE BEATS

THE BEAT GENERATION

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THE BEAT GENERATION

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THE LAST GATHERING OF BEATS POETS & ARTISTS

THE LAST GATHERING OF BEATS POETS & ARTISTS, CITY LIGHTS BOOKS North Beach, San Francisco 1965

Lawrence Ferlinghetti wanted to document the 1965 Beat scene in San Francisco in the spirit of the early 20th century classic photographs of the Bohemian artists & writers in Paris.The Beats, front row L to R: Robert LaVigne, Shig Murao, Larry Fagin, Leland Meyezove (lying down), Lew Welch, Peter Orlovsky.

Second row: David Meltzer, Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Daniel Langton, Steve (friend of Ginsberg), Richard Brautigan, Gary Goodrow, Nemi Frost.

Back row: Stella Levy, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Because this is a vertical image about half of the Beats attending are not shown.

Allen Ginsberg, Bob Donlon (Rob Donnelly, Kerouac’s Desolation Angels), Neal Cassady, myself in black corduroy jacket, Bay Area poets’ “Court Painter” Robert La Vigne & poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of his City Lights Books shop, Broadway & Columbus Avenue North Beach. Donlon worked seasonally as Las Vegas waiter & oft drank with Jack K., Neal looks good in tee shirt, Howl first printing hadn’t arrived from England yet (500 copies), we were just hanging around, Peter Orlovsky stepped back off curb & snapped shot, San Francisco spring 1956, 1956, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 11 1/8 x 16 3/4 in. (28.3 x 42.6 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

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“He looked by that time like his father, red-faced corpulent W.C. Fields shuddering with mortal horror…” Thus reads the inscription of a photo depicting American icon Jack Kerouac and taken by Allen Ginsberg in 1964 — just a few years before the former’s death. Far from the exuberant youth depicted in earlier photos, this portrait offers an entirely different image of Kerouac: that of the aging alcoholic, slumped dejectedly in a battered armchair.

Beat Memories presents an in-depth look at the Beat Generation  as seen through the lens of Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997). Although well known for his poetry, Ginsberg was also an avid photo- grapher, capturing the people and places around him in spontaneous, often intimate snapshots. His black-and-white photographs include portraits of William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and others, along with self-portraits. The images not only are revealing portrayals of celebrated personalities, but also convey the unique lifestyle and spirit of the Beats

The Beat movement, also called Beat Generation, American social and literary movement originating in the 1950s and centred in the bohemian artist communities of San Francisco’s North Beach, Los Angeles’ Venice West, and New York City’s Greenwich Village. Its adherents, self-styled as “beat” (originally meaning “weary,” but later also connoting a musical sense, a “beatific” spirituality, and other meanings) and derisively called “beatniks,” expressed their alienation from conventional, or “square,” society by adopting an almost uniform style of seedy dress, manners, and “hip” vocabulary borrowed from jazz musicians. Generally apolitical and indifferent to social problems, they advocated personal release, purification, and illumination through the heightened sensory awareness that might be induced by drugs, jazz, sex, or the disciplines of Zen Buddhism. Apologists for the Beats, among them Paul Goodman, found the joylessness and purposelessness of modern society sufficient justification for both withdrawal and protest.

Beat poets sought to liberate poetry from academic preciosity and bring it “back to the streets.” They read their poetry, sometimes to the accompaniment of progressive jazz, in such Beat strongholds as the Coexistence Bagel Shop and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. The verse was frequently chaotic and liberally sprinkled with obscenities but was sometimes, as in the case of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), ruggedly powerful and moving. Ginsberg and other major figures of the movement, such as the novelist Jack Kerouac, advocated a kind of free, unstructured composition in which the writer put down his thoughts and feelings without plan or revision—to convey the immediacy of experience—an approach that led to the production of much undisciplined and incoherent verbiage on the part of their imitators. By about 1960, when the faddish notoriety of the movement had begun to fade, it had produced a number of interesting and promising writers, including Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Philip Whalen, and Gary Snyder, and had paved the way for acceptance of other unorthodox and previously ignored writers, such as the Black Mountain poets and the novelist William Burroughs.

about Neal Cassady, poems and recordings

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about Neal Cassady, poems and recordings

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images (41)RARE FOOTAGE OF NEIL CASSADY DRIVING FURTHUR

The Grateful Dead used to let Neal ramble on ( usually while tripping ) between sets. You can hear the beginnings of Lovelight ..I knew I should have wore more paisley
NEAL CASSADY TALKING

Grateful Dead & Neal Cassady July 23, 1967 – Strait Theater – San

Neal Cassady biography
NAME: Neal Cassady
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: February 08, 1926
DEATH DATE: February 04, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Salt Lake City, Utah
PLACE OF DEATH: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Full Name: Neal Cassady Jr.
AKA: Neal Cassady

Best Known For
Neal Cassady was a key figure of the Beat movement. The character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is based on him.

Synopsis

Born in Utah on February 8, 1926, Neal Cassady became a key figure of the Beat movement and an inspiration to his writer friends. Cassady’s magnetic energy and wild spirit is immortalized in the character based on him, Dean Moriarty of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Later in life, Cassady joined Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and fell into drugs. He died as a result, on February 4, 1968.

Contents
Synopsis
Early Life
Meeting the Beats
On the Road
Drug Use and Death

Early Life

Neal Cassady Jr. was born on February 8, 1926, in Salt Lake City, Utah. His mother died when he was 10, and he was raised by his alcoholic father in Denver, Texas. Cassady stole cars, hitchhiked, and was in and out of reform schools. He spent a year in jail at the age of 18.

Meeting the Beats

In 1946, Cassady traveled to New York City to visit a friend at Columbia University. There, he met Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, all of whom were enthralled by Cassady’s energetic persona. He moved to New York City with his 16-year-old wife, LuAnne Henderson, who quickly returned home. Cassady remained in the city, and though he claimed to be straight, began a sexual relationship with Allen Ginsberg. The poet was deeply in love with Cassady; his groundbreaking poem “Howl” calls Cassady a “secret hero.”

Cassady learned how to write fiction from Kerouac, who based the character Dean Moriarty from 1957’s On the Road on his beloved friend.

On the Road

Cassady was relentlessly energetic. His free-flowing, detailed letters to Kerouac heavily influenced the novelist’s style. Cassady’s own prose is characterized by the same breathlessness, but he never finished a book; he struggled to package his ever-expanding ideas into sentences.

In 1947, Cassady met Carolyn Robinson and moved to San Francisco for her. One year later, his marriage to LuAnne was annulled and he wed Carolyn. She had his child, and the family moved to Los Gatos, a suburb of San Jose where Cassady worked on the Southern Pacific railroad.

Cassady was notoriously unfaithful, sometimes cheating with multiple women in a single day. Carolyn also found him in bed with Ginsberg more than once. While she stayed home and raised the couple’s three children, Cassady road-tripped across the country while sleeping with his ex-wife. In 1950, he wed Diana Hansen, a model pregnant with his child, while he was still married to Carolyn. With Cassady’s encouragement, Carolyn eventually had an affair with Kerouac. In his novel Big Sur, Kerouac documents this experience.

Drug Use and Death

In 1958, Cassady was arrested for selling marijuana and served two years in San Quentin Prison. Fed up, Carolyn divorced Cassady in 1963. Afterward, he joined author Ken Kesey and his group, the Merry Pranksters, on a cross-country, drug-filled road trip. Their adventures are detailed in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Heavy drug use ultimately led to Cassady’s death, on February 4, 1968. He was found on railroad tracks after a party in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His autobiography was published posthumously as The First Third.

© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

Neal Cassady biography

1 photo

Quick Facts
NAME: Neal Cassady
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: February 08, 1926
DEATH DATE: February 04, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Salt Lake City, Utah
PLACE OF DEATH: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Full Name: Neal Cassady Jr.
AKA: Neal Cassady

Best Known For

Neal Cassady was a key figure of the Beat movement. The character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is based on him.

Synopsis
Born in Utah on February 8, 1926, Neal Cassady became a key figure of the Beat movement and an inspiration to his writer friends. Cassady’s magnetic energy and wild spirit is immortalized in the character based on him, Dean Moriarty of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Later in life, Cassady joined Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and fell into drugs. He died as a result, on February 4, 1968.

Contents
Synopsis
Early Life
Meeting the Beats
On the Road
Drug Use and Death

Early Life

Neal Cassady Jr. was born on February 8, 1926, in Salt Lake City, Utah. His mother died when he was 10, and he was raised by his alcoholic father in Denver, Texas. Cassady stole cars, hitchhiked, and was in and out of reform schools. He spent a year in jail at the age of 18.

Meeting the Beats

In 1946, Cassady traveled to New York City to visit a friend at Columbia University. There, he met Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, all of whom were enthralled by Cassady’s energetic persona. He moved to New York City with his 16-year-old wife, LuAnne Henderson, who quickly returned home. Cassady remained in the city, and though he claimed to be straight, began a sexual relationship with Allen Ginsberg. The poet was deeply in love with Cassady; his groundbreaking poem “Howl” calls Cassady a “secret hero.”

Cassady learned how to write fiction from Kerouac, who based the character Dean Moriarty from 1957’s On the Road on his beloved friend.

On the Road

Cassady was relentlessly energetic. His free-flowing, detailed letters to Kerouac heavily influenced the novelist’s style. Cassady’s own prose is characterized by the same breathlessness, but he never finished a book; he struggled to package his ever-expanding ideas into sentences.

In 1947, Cassady met Carolyn Robinson and moved to San Francisco for her. One year later, his marriage to LuAnne was annulled and he wed Carolyn. She had his child, and the family moved to Los Gatos, a suburb of San Jose where Cassady worked on the Southern Pacific railroad.

Cassady was notoriously unfaithful, sometimes cheating with multiple women in a single day. Carolyn also found him in bed with Ginsberg more than once. While she stayed home and raised the couple’s three children, Cassady road-tripped across the country while sleeping with his ex-wife. In 1950, he wed Diana Hansen, a model pregnant with his child, while he was still married to Carolyn. With Cassady’s encouragement, Carolyn eventually had an affair with Kerouac. In his novel Big Sur, Kerouac documents this experience.

Drug Use and Death

In 1958, Cassady was arrested for selling marijuana and served two years in San Quentin Prison. Fed up, Carolyn divorced Cassady in 1963. Afterward, he joined author Ken Kesey and his group, the Merry Pranksters, on a cross-country, drug-filled road trip. Their adventures are detailed in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Heavy drug use ultimately led to Cassady’s death, on February 4, 1968. He was found on railroad tracks after a party in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His autobiography was published posthumously as The First Third.

© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

Neal Cassady , ( Feb 8 , 1926 – Feb 4 , 1968 )

San Miguel D’Allende , Mexico
February 4 ,1968 … midnight

Dead from extreme expossure
four days short of forty – two

only fitting , next to a railroad track
He had many words to haul back

The wolf sleeps next to the silver rail
Howling at a silver moon that fell

I hear he drove a topless Cadillac
through San Francisco’s streets

With the top down
smilling free , it was meant to be

Life is a quasar

AMIRI BARAKA-CONTROVERSIAL WRITER ACTIVIST

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AMIRI BARAKA-CONTROVERSIAL WRITER ACTIVIST

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Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey, on October 7, 1934. His father, Colt LeRoy Jones, was a postal supervisor; Anna Lois Jones, his mother, was a social worker. He attended Rutgers University for two years, then transferred to Howard University, where in 1954 he earned his B.A. in English. He served in the Air Force from 1954 until 1957, then moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There he joined a loose circle of Greenwich Village artists, musicians, and writers. The following year he married Hettie Cohen and began co-editing the avant-garde literary magazine Yugen with her. That year he also founded Totem Press, which first published works by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and others. He published his first volume of poetry, Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note, in 1961. From 1961 to 1963 he was co-editor, with Diane Di Prima, of The Floating Bear, a literary newsletter. His increasing hostility toward and mistrust of white society was reflected in two plays, The Slave and The Toilet, both written in 1962. 1963 saw the publication of Blues People: Negro Music in White America, which he wrote, and The Moderns: An Anthology of New Writing in America, which he edited and introduced. His reputation as a playwright was established with the production of Dutchman at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York on March 24, 1964. The controversial play subsequently won an Obie Award (for “best off-Broadway play”) and was made into a film. In 1965, following the assassination of Malcolm X, Jones repudiated his former life and ended his marriage. He moved to Harlem, where he founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School. The company, which produced plays that were often anti-white and intended for a black audience, dissolved in a few months. He moved back to Newark, and in 1967 he married poet Sylvia Robinson (now known as Amina Baraka). That year he also founded the Spirit House Players, which produced, among other works, two of Baraka’s plays against police brutality: Police and Arm Yrself or Harm Yrself. In 1968, he co-edited Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing with Larry Neal and his play Home on the Range was performed as a benefit for the Black Panther party. That same year he became a Muslim, changing his name to Imamu Amiri Baraka. (“Imamu” means “spiritual leader.”) He assumed leadership of his own black Muslim organization, Kawaida. From 1968 to 1975, Baraka was chairman of the Committee for Unified Newark, a black united front organization. In 1969 , his Great Goodness of Life became part of the successful “Black Quartet” off-Broadway, and his play Slave Ship was widely reviewed. Baraka was a founder and chairman of the Congress of African People, a national Pan-Africanist organization with chapters in 15 cities, and he was one of the chief organizers of the National Black Political Convention, which convened in Gary, Indiana, in 1972 to organize a more unified political stance for African-Americans. In 1974 Baraka adopted a Marxist Leninist philosophy and dropped the spiritual title “Imamu.” In 1983, he and Amina Baraka edited Confirmation: An Anthology of African-American Women, which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and in 1987 they published The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues. The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka was published in 1984. Amiri Baraka’s numerous literary prizes and honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, the Langston Hughes Award from The City College of New York, and a lifetime achievement award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He taught poetry at the New School for Social Research in New York, literature at the University of Buffalo, and drama at Columbia University. He also taught at San Francisco State University, Yale University and George Washington University. Since 1985 he has been a professor of Africana Studies at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. He was co-director, with his wife, of Kimako’s Blues People, a community arts space. Amiri Baraka died on January 9, 2014. A Selected Bibliography Poetry Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note (1961) The Dead Lecturer (1964) Black Art (1969) Black Magic: Collected Poetry 1961-1967 (1969) It’s Nation Time (1970) Spirit Reach (1972) Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1979) The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader (1991) Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones (1961-1995) (1995) Wise Why’s Y’s: The Griot’s Tale (1995) Funk Lore: New Poems (1984-1995) (1996) Somebody Blew up America and Other Poems (House of Nehesi, 2003) Prose Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka (1984) Conversations with Amiri Baraka (1994) Daggers and Javelins: Essays, 1974-1979 (1984) Eulogies (1996) Home: Social Essays (1966) Jesse Jackson & Black People (1996) Raise, Race, Rays, Raze: Essays Since 1965 (1971) The Essence of Reparations (2003) Drama Arm Yrself or Harm Yrself (1967) BA-RA-KA (1972) Black Power Chant (1972) Dutchman and The Slave: Two Plays (1964) Four Black Revolutionary Plays, All Praises to the Black Man (1969) General Hag’s Skeezag (1992) Home on the Range (1968) Jello (1970) Junkies Are Full of (SHHH…) (1970) Police (1968) Rockgroup (1969) Selected Plays and Prose of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1979) The Baptism and The Toilet (1967) The Death of Malcolm X (1969) The Motion of History, and Other Plays (1978) The Sidney Poet Heroical, in 29 Scenes (1979) Fiction Tales (1967) The System of Dante’s Hell (1965) Three Books by Imamu Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) (1975) – See more at: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/445#sthash.MajtHAO1.dpuf

Amiri Baraka: Online Poems

Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note

Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus…

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars.
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night I tiptoed up
To my daughter’s room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there…
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands

Online Source

In Memory of Radio

Who has ever stopped to think of the divinity of Lamont Cranston?
(Only jack Kerouac, that I know of: & me.
The rest of you probably had on WCBS and Kate Smith,
Or something equally unattractive.)

What can I say?
It is better to haved loved and lost
Than to put linoleum in your living rooms?

Am I a sage or something?
Mandrake’s hypnotic gesture of the week?
(Remember, I do not have the healing powers of Oral Roberts…
I cannot, like F. J. Sheen, tell you how to get saved & rich!
I cannot even order you to the gaschamber satori like Hitler or Goddy Knight)

& love is an evil word.
Turn it backwards/see, see what I mean?
An evol word. & besides
who understands it?
I certainly wouldn’t like to go out on that kind of limb.

Saturday mornings we listened to the Red Lantern & his undersea folk.
At 11, Let’s Pretend
& we did
& I, the poet, still do. Thank God!

What was it he used to say (after the transformation when he was safe
& invisible & the unbelievers couldn’t throw stones?) “Heh, heh, heh.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”

O, yes he does
O, yes he does
An evil word it is,
This Love.

A literary group, also known as the Beats or the Beat generation

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beatgenerationShown clockwise from left: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Lafcadio Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso in 1956. The Beat movement was characterized by a rejection of the materialism, militarism, consumerism, and conformity of the 1950s, in favor of individual freedom and spontaneity.

Beat Generation

Shown clockwise from left: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Lafcadio Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso in 1956. The Beat movement was characterized by a rejection of the materialism, militarism, consumerism, and conformity of the 1950s, in favor of individual freedom and spontaneity.

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Literary group, also known as the Beats or the Beat generation, that flourished from the mid-1950s until the early 1960s. Its most prominent members were the novelists John Clellon Holmes (1926-88) and Jack Kerouac (1922-69), and the poets Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (b. 1919), Philip Whalen (b. 1923), Gary Snyder (b. 1930), and Gregory Corso (1930-2001). William Burroughs (1914-97) was loosely associated with the group, which was mainly located in San Francisco and in Greenwich Village, New York City. Much Beat poetry was published by Ferlinghetti’s “City Lights” imprint, and his “City Lights” bookstore in San Francisco was an important meeting-place for the group. Gregory Stephenson has suggested that the Beat movement had two distinct phases: the “underground,” from 1944 to 1956, and the public, 1956-62.
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Holmes introduced the term “Beat generation” in a 1952 essay on his novel GO (1952), and later Kerouac suggested that “Beat” meant being socially marginalized and exhausted (“beaten down”) and blessed (“beatific”). There are also musical connotations to the name as many members were jazz enthusiasts. Socially the Beats, many of whom were homosexual or bisexual, extolled individual freedom and attacked what they saw as the materialism, militarism, consumerism, and conformity of the 1950s; “America, where everyone is always doing what they ought,” as Kerouac put it in one of Beat’s defining works, the novel ON THE ROAD (1957). To this end they affected nonconformist styles of dress and speech and, avowedly antimaterialist, they cultivated mystical experiences by the use of drugs or by meditation — many members developed an interest in forms of mysticism and in Zen Buddhism. The Beats were politically radical, and to some degree their anti-authoritarian attitudes were taken up by activists in the 1960s. In their writing they encouraged direct and frank communication and, rejecting the formalist, impersonal writing encouraged by the New Criticism, they cultivated styles that gave the impression of spontaneity and improvisation. Much Beat poetry was performance orientated (often read in public with jazz accompaniment). Although they have been much parodied and satirized, the Beats brought fresh energies to American writing and their influence has been significant.

Further Reading:
THIS IS THE BEAT GENERATION (1999) by James Campbell; BEAT DOWN TO YOUR SOUL (2001), edited by Ann Charters; THE BEAT GENERATION WRITERS (1996), edited by A. Robert Lee; A DIFFERENT BEAT: WRITINGS BY WOMEN OF THE BEAT GENERATION (1997), edited by Richard Peabody, and THE DAYBREAK BOYS (1990) by Gregory Stephenson.

From THE ESSENTIAL GLOSSARY: AMERICAN LITERATURE by Stephen Matterson. © 2003 Stephen Matterson. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Harlem Renaissance

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Langston Hughes was a prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance — a movement during the 1920s of black writers and intellectuals who engaged in intense debate regarding the place of the African American in American life, and on the role and identity of the African-American artist.  Pictured here are Langston Hughes [far left] with [left to right:] Charles S. Johnson, E. Franklin Frazier, Rudolph Fisher and Hubert T. Delaney, on a Harlem rooftop on the occasion of a party in Hughes’ honor, 1924.
New York Public Library

The first major movement of African-American literature, beginning around 1923 and flourishing until the depression, but providing a stimulus that lasted through the 1940s.

The renaissance mainly involved a group of writers and intellectuals associated (often loosely) with Harlem, the district of Manhattan that, during the migration of African Americans from the rural South, became the major center for urbanized blacks. Harlem was described by Alain Locke (1886-1954) as “not merely the largest Negro community in the world, but the first concentration in history of so many diverse elements of Negro life.” The renaissance was associated with the New Negro Movement, so called because of the anthology THE NEW NEGRO (1925) edited by Locke, whose introductory essay “The New Negro” is the closest to a manifesto or statement of ideals that the Harlem Renaissance has. In it he writes of the Negro who is no longer apologetic for blackness but who takes a new pride in a racial identity and heritage, of the “renewed self-respect and self-dependence” felt in the contemporary black community, which is “about to enter a new phase.”

Elsewhere Locke urged writers to examine the meaning of an African past and to utilize this in their art. This urging coincided with a growing interest among whites at the time in primitivism, evident for example in Eugene O’Neill’s plays “The Emperor Jones” (1920) and “All God’s Chillun Got Wings” (1924). The Harlem Renaissance was partly fostered by the existence of this interest, and by the concurrent development of American modernism and the readiness to accept experimentation and to expand the breadth of artistic expression. The renaissance was greatly assisted by several whites, especially Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964), whose enthusiasm for African-American culture was reflected in his popular 1926 novel NIGGER HEAVEN. Locke had explicitly called for social and artistic interracial cooperation in “The New Negro,” commenting that, “The fiction is that the life of the races is separate, and increasingly so. The fact is that they have touched too closely at the unfavorable and too lightly at the favorable levels.”

One characteristic of the Harlem Renaissance was a move toward so-called “high art” in black writing, rather than the use of folk idioms, comic writing, and vernacular that had often been considered the special realm of African-American writing up to that time. In some respects this shift mirrors the change from rural to urban life for many blacks in this period. However, several of the Harlem writers made powerful use of folk idioms such as the blues, particularly Langston Hughes (1902-67). The Harlem writers also engaged in an intense debate regarding the place of the African American in American life, and on the role and identity of the African-American artist. In this sense the Harlem Renaissance is by no means a monolithic movement with a single purpose. For example, the artistic differences between Hughes and the poet Countee Cullen (1903-46) are instructive. Cullen believed that an African-American poet should be free to write in mainstream established traditions, and need not racialize poetry. “I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet,” he said, and wrote in forms such as the sonnet and became a translator of Euripides. Hughes, on the other hand, saw this attitude as a betrayal of racial identity, an aping of white European-ness, and sought in his work to accept and explore his blackness using forms and idioms that he associated with it. Both are major poets but their differences point to the relative breadth of the movement and to the development of quite different kinds of African-American writing in the Harlem Renaissance.

Prominent Harlem Renaissance writers include James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961), the Jamaican-born Claude McKay (1889-1948), Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen (1893-1964), Jean Toomer (1894-1967), Arna Bontemps (1902-73), Gwendolyn Bennett (1902-81), and Helene Johnson (1907-95). In addition to the NEW NEGRO anthology, key works produced during the period of the renaissance or during its influence include Toomer’s multigeneric CANE (1923), Hughes’ WEARY’S BLUES (1926), Larsen’s QUICKSAND (1928) and PASSING (1929), and Hurston’s THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (1937).

Further Reading:
COLOR, SEX AND POETRY: THREE WOMEN WRITERS OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE (1987) by Gloria Hull; THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE IN BLACK AND WHITE (1995) by George Hutchinson; WHEN HARLEM WAS IN VOGUE (1989) by David Levering Lewis, and WOMEN OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE (1995) by Cheryl A. Wall. HARLEM RENAISSANCE: A HISTORICAL DICTIONARY FOR THE ERA (1984), edited by Bruce Kellner, is a valuable resource.

From THE ESSENTIAL GLOSSARY: AMERICAN LITERATURE by Stephen Matterson. © 2003 Stephen Matterson. Reprinted by permission of the author.

ON THE ROAD – JACK KEROUAC

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ROAD

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

By Shubhajit Lahiri on 17 November 2008

“What’s your road, man? — holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.”

That’s not the kind of question that an everyday Joe would ask; that’s not an inquiry that would lurk in the mind of a 9-to-5 desk clerk. Hell, that’s not the kind of thought that someone scrubbing for a mere existence in a drab world, living just another static life, in his routine environment, and doing stuff that is decided through rote and careful rationalization, would even dare let his perfectly chiselled mind waver to.

That’s precisely the kind of belief one would be enticed by who adheres to the maxim, “Road is where life is.” And On the Road, for those crazy venture-addicts, is the greatest bible that there ever was. It is a novel that would make the most cocooned of creatures to be hit by the road bug and actually start ‘living’ life.

Written in 1951, by Jack Kerouc – the original King of the Road, was a novel that eulogized the free-spirited life where boundaries, confines and borders cease to exist. And in the process it kick-started Beat Generation – one of the most fascinating American movements where life is equated with jazz (viz. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong et al), hallucinatory drugs, free sex, smoke-filled cars, and above all, life on the road. For them there’s just one answer to the rhetoric question, “Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”, and that being Heaven.

Though On the Road is considered the greatest book of this movement and Kerouac its unofficial spokesperson – which has been duly acknowledged by the venerated TIME magazine by including the book in its list of Greatest Novels of the 20th Century – Kerouac essentially formed a part of a hallowed trio also comprising of Allen Ginsberg and William H. Burroughs, the co-pioneers of the Beat Movement. And this semi-autobiographical novel chronicles Kerouac’s experiences on the road. Hence they are all there in the novel, with their names altered. However, it is someone called Neal Cassidy, a common friend of the enlightened troika, who formed the basis for the book’s most celebrated character – Dean Moriarty.

Narrated by Salvatore ‘Sal’ Paradise, an Italian-American resident of New Jersey, a writer by profession, and Kerouac’s terrific literary alter-ego, On the Road is a mesmerizing and one-of-its-kind travel-diary of the narrator, and its apotheosis is his unforgettable friendship with Dean, one of the craziest and alive characters one can ever hope to come across. It tells the tales of his journeys back and forth across America. It is a tale of New York, San Francisco, Denver, Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Mexico City. It is a free-flowing account of ‘nowness’ – a word that defined the willingness to reside in present without a worry for the future or attachment to the past. It is a madcap poetry to the Beat life, where all you need to survive is a car that does its 90 mph, beer cans, an uninterrupted supply of cigarettes, friends with whom you can talk all through the night and into the dawn, a few Benzedrine tablets to give you the kicks, and the singular beauty of hitch-hiking.

The novel is peppered with some of the most atypical characters – Carlo Marx, Chad King, Old Bull Lee, Ed Dunkel, Remi Boncoeur, with each representing the various constituents of the Beatific and the free spirits of the world. But the two protagonists – Sal and Dean, are the ones who really draw the readers out with their contrasting lives and yet their common passion. Where Sal is a home-grown, serious, sensitive, college educated intellectual with a steady income – an otherwise regular guy who one can relate to and be in sync with, Dean is an impulsive, irreverent, wildly unpredictable, rebellious, thoroughly alienated soul with an infectious method to his madness. As Sal so brilliantly states in one of his many explanations of who Dean really is, “He was simply a youth tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him.”

On The Road wasn’t just anti-establishmentarian in its outlook, it was also non-conformist in its style and composition. Legend has it that Kerouac wrote it in an uninterrupted and truly inspired Benzedrine-fuelled three weeks’ session on a manual typewriter in his New York City loft, on a long scroll over 100 feet long. The book is devoid of crisp, literary sentences. It is instead based on improvised, absolutely free-flowing, stream-of-consciousness style of writing, where the words form a direct representation of the writer’s unedited and unadulterated thought processes. It was a memorable kick in the belly for the purists and conservatives. In fact Truman Capote once infamously remarked about the prose, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” The book was a glorious tableau of a truly liberated form and style of narration.

The enormous impact of the book is as relevant today as it was groundbreaking then. Its tale of lost souls who dared to be free is timeless. Through its fascinating depictions of friendship, experiences on the road and the longing for ‘It’ – an expression that could signify anything from cigarettes and drugs to frenzy and exhilaration to salvation and bliss, the novel was way ahead of its time in its effortless and spontaneous jab at such bogus parameters like morality and preordained requisites for the so-called good and happy life sans adventure and enlightenment.

Some of the most iconoclastic stalwarts like Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Jim Morrison have been enormously influenced by the novel. Dylan once remarked about the book, “It changed my life like it changed everyone else’s.” Lennon ushered a memorable tribute to the Beat legacy by including the word ‘Beat’ in the name of arguably the world’s greatest boy-band The Beatles, through a subtle change in its spelling. The book may also count such outstanding and legendary movies like Easy Rider, Paris Texas, Five Easy Pieces and Stranger than Paradise as part of its famous legacy. Indeed, the novel’s place in popular culture as well as among the pantheon of great literary works has been preserved for posterity.

“Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.” That sort of encapsulates the spirit and the essence of the book. I really feel a huge impulse to say to every bibliophile and lost souls and free people of this world regarding On the Road, “Dig it! Dig it!” And I’m sure, if Dean had been here with in my living room, he would have excitedly affirmed in his inimitable style, “Yass! Yass!”.