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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Diane di Prima in the Beatnik Days

March 31, 2017

Seymour Krim in his 1960 anthology The Beats describes the writer of Memoirs of a Beatnik and Loba with his wonderfully archaic Beatnik slang of the time:

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“Devouring-eyed Diane Di Prima once wanted to be a theoretical physicist; went to Swarthmore; gave in to the hip muse and began writing her very inside, real, stylish, lethal poetry-prose. All of 25 or so she is one of the very few ultra-swinging girl writers in the scene; a very smart cookie, she is also honest, terse, hurt in a way that counts. Very gifted, writes with a fine cutting edge. Her future is important in literature as well as beat. An exciting writer who has concretized what people twice her age will never manage. She flirts with preciousness and never yields—sure sign that intelligence has pinned artifice to the mat, sure sign that we are witnessing the real stunning thing with this unusual kid.”

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Paul Varner

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Early Beat Writers Richard Barker and James Grady

March 30, 2017

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Here is another post I am publishing based on Seymour Krim’s 1960 anthology of the Beat Movement. Before each Beat writer Krim featured he wrote a short profile. What’s so fascinating about Krim and his little book is that it was written and published when the Beatnik culture was dominating America’s 1950s. So he writes from the perspective of the moment and with the crazy Beatnik vernacular that often was fodder for cartoons, satire, and ultimately Hollywood movies. Here are Krim’s profiles of two lesser-known early Beats:

Richard Barker

“Barker is a professional drummer. WestCoast-based, with a legit literary background (MA at Cornell, 1953, with a pre-Beat Henry Miller as his thesis) and some Paris knocking-around as part of his picture. He’s 30 and has made the bohemian scene from coast to coast. He writes a tense swinging piece here.”

For the anthology Krim published Barker’s prose piece “Horn Fight at the Mission Corral.”

James Grady

“Cocky Jim Grady comes out of Ohio, the Army, Manhattan’s New School and is bucking for Broadway dramatist fame—he’s honest about wanting the dollar and beatly bitter in his appreciation of its Lordship. A flinty, sardonic wiseguy complete with brain and, unexpectedly, soul. Plus that startling Irish wit.”

For Grady, Krim published the poem “The Buck is My Benison.”

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On This Day in History Gregory Corso was Born

March 26, 2017

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The Beat Hotel, Paris

The Beats: Gregory Corso

On this day in 1930 Gregory Corso was born. He died in 2001 and is buried in the English Cemetery in Rome, in proximity to the Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.

Here is the profile of Corso written during the frenetic days of the Beatnik scene by Seymour Krim in his 1960 anthology The Beats,

“Corso is urchin-looking, street-bred, a true singer and loving wordman with lots of humor plus a regal tone. A big treasure of talent in this little guy which he’s not entirely certain how to handle—comes on tough or rude or me-no-speak-english when his poetry gives his living-room style the lie. Full of unexpectedness and unclassifiableness; offbeat imagination to burn. One of the big three that began to turn the public on around 1954; Kerouac and Ginsberg the other two. A glitter of contradictions, Corso also has formidable verbal refinements and a closetful of skills along with his deadend-kid comeon [sic.]. Last heard from he was in Athens, jazzing, playing roulette, making a carnival out of this ah sweet mystery of life bit. More power and joy to him.”

Krim published the long poem “Spontaneous Requiem for the American Indian” in the anthology. I thought I would print a particularly relevant clip to our current political predicament in America.

Ghost-herds of uneaten left to rot animals thundering across the plains

Chasing the ghost of England across the plains forever ever, pompous Kiwago raging in the still Dakotas, o america—

America o mineral scant america o mineralize america o conferva of that once

great lovely Muskhogean pool, o oil-suck America despite, oil from forgetive days, hare to arrow, muskellunge tospear, fleet-footed know ye speed-well the tribes thence

outraced the earth to eat to love to die,

o requiems, Hathor off-far bespeaks Wakonda. . . .

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Paul Varner

 

 

Happy Birthday to Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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On this date in 1919 Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poetic patriarch and premier promoter of Innovative and radical poets everywhere, was born in New York. His City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco has been the Mecca for everybody interested in poetry and insurgent literature since the 1950s and is still going strong.

I have been publishing several posts early on in The Scene based on Seymour Krim’s 1960 anthology of the Beat Movement. Before each Beat writer that Krim featured he wrote a short profile. What’s so fascinating about Krim and his little book is that it was written and published when the Beatnik culture was dominating America’s 1950s. So he writes from the perspective of the moment and with the crazy Beatnik vernacular that often was fodder for cartoons, satire, and ultimately Hollywood movies.

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“Ferlinghetti is a shaker and mover via his City Lights Bookshop in Frisco; hot as a poet now, with a wild and subtle personal music and nutty surrealist surprises. Many colored lights in his work, in himself. To hear him read his own work is an experience; he’s fresh and important, in on the beat and helping make it country-wide. A center of activity movement hip charm vivid dramatization of the present. Unscared though very sensitive.”

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For The Beats Krim published Ferlinghetti’s “A Coney Island of the Mind: #5,” usually known by its first line “Sometime During Eternity.”

In commemoration of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s birthday today, here are some famous tweetable quotes from his Poetry as Insurgent Art:

“I am signaling you through the flames”

“The North Pole is not where it used to be”

“What are poets for, in such an age? What is the use of poetry?”

“If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times”

“Nemesis is knocking at the door.”

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Paul Varner

On this Date Jack Kerouac was Born

March 12, 2017

The Beats: Jack Kerouac

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Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsberg

Here is Jack Kerouac’s profile by Seymour Krim written right at the time Kerouac was becoming a national figure and the Beatnik craze was going strong.

“Kerouac needs no introduction; he had the fertilizing common sense to make the infantile happily adult, to make like the Three Stooges in writing, to be tender, lyrical, nutty when the mood mooded him. Jack’s stuff often runs like a drunken faucet, but in the flow he gets a love-tone and naturalness that makes most writers blush for their own artificiality. Just for the record, Kerouac was a flashy actual halfback for the snazzy Horace Mann school in Manhattan-before going to Columbia—and had a 92 point average. This is to the point because too many semi-literary putdowners think he’s purely a belly and not a brainman. More than meets the eye here, in the sense of understanding human beings and what they need. ‘Visions of Cody,’ three parts of which we print here, is about the hero of ‘On the Road’—another and more intimate version of the great baller whom Kerouac loves—and was published in a limited edition by New Directions this Christmas. The selections printed here aren’t related, so don’t look for continuity—only flavor.”

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Paul Varner

 

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The Beats: John Clellon Holmes

March 6, 2017

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This is the third post I am publishing based on Seymour Krim’s 1960 anthology of the Beat Movement. Before each Beat writer Krim featured he wrote a short profile. What’s so fascinating about Krim and his little book is that it was written and published when the Beatnik culture was dominating America’s 1950s. So he writes from the perspective of the moment and with the crazy Beatnik vernacular that often was fodder for cartoons, satire, and ultimately Hollywood movies.

His first profile was of the first real daddy-o of the Beatniks–John Clellon Holmes–who 1.) wrote Go, the first novel of the Beat Generation, and 2.) defined the essence of “Beat” as Krim notes below.

John Clellon Holmes

“Less glamorous, less publicized than Kerouac-and-gang, Holmes was one of the first explicit beat writers, wrote the fairly good ‘Go,’ was sort of conservative ballast to the high cats who wailed the first notes of the movement. Loves and knows and digs jazz, lives the suburban scholar sober hardworking novelist life in Connecticut, is both in and out of the present beat hurly-burly; has acted as sort of Ivy league counterpoint to the gutter-scenes played by the crazier beats. Doesn’t get his hands too dirty. But he has a unifying mind, has impressive ‘felt thought,’ in the words of the big American novelist Henry James, and is really capable one day of writing a huge, thorough blockbuster of a novel about the bloody beat 50’s. Brings a New England temper to Harlem, so to speak—conservativeness to a frantic scene, and nobody else writing on the same wavelength gets the same convincing result. His article [‘The Philosophy of the Beat Generation’] was written in late 1957-58, before the movement was as torrid as today; nevertheless it holds as honest sober statement, despite its occasional tone of Apologizing to the Squares” (13).

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The Beats: Dan Propper

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This is another post I am publishing based on Seymour Krim’s 1960 anthology of the Beat Movement. Before each Beat writer Krim featured he wrote a short profile. What’s so fascinating about Krim and his little book is that it was written and published when the Beatnik culture was dominating America’s 1950s. So he writes from the perspective of the moment and with the crazy Beatnik vernacular that often was fodder for cartoons, satire, and ultimately Hollywood movies.

Dan Propper

Seymour Krim said of Dan Propper, “The phenomenon of all this is that Propper is 22; much to learn you might think, but also much to forget. Except, as poet-painter William Morris has pointed out (and Morris’ own contribution was squeezed out by space and morality), you only forget when you ain’t. Propper is very bright, with the bitter glitter of missile-age precocity.”

Propper’s long poem “The Fable of the Final Hour,” suitably dark and beaten down toward beatitude is the selection in The Beats.

Follow The Scene: Radical Poetics at the Zig Zag Edges.

Paul Varner

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