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About The Scene: You Know Me

You Know Me


September 8, 2017

I can hear you saying:

Ok, you’ve written and published a lot about radical poets before, but who are you, Really?

Well, I’ve got pages posted at the top of The Scene with my semi-informal biography and with personal notes about why I ever got interested about The Beats.

But other than that, you know me. I’m just a writer like others all of you know. I’m the guy you always see at coffee houses over in the corner writing furiously in my black Moleskine, dressed like a writer with funny glasses and wearing clunky boots. You’ve seen me everywhere. Don’t expect me ever to look up unless you come over and say hi. Then I’ll tell you what I’m writing about. Of course I may be writing about you. But anyway—you know me.

I’m going to use a similar voice to Ezra Pound in his ABC’s of Reading and Robert Peters in his Great Poetry Bake-off series. I will be personal, confident, not angry or anything, but not academic and not full of jargon theory. I’m not going to feel any need to back everything up everything I say and believe with hard evidence or whatever. Editors, critics, and peer reviewers like that sort of thing. But, you know, the Enlightenment was supposed to have gone out of style when the Romantics came on THE SCENE. I also ramble a lot. So follow The Scene on WordPress by hitting the button on this page. And find me on social media as well.

Paul Varner


On This Day in History Gregory Corso was Born

March 26, 2017


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. . . .


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

Paul Varner



The Relationship of the Beat Movement to the 19th-Century Romantic Movement

February 27, 2017


Kenneth Patchen with Anais Nin, Unidentified man and Virginia Admiral, Cafe Reggio, MacDougal St, Greenwich Village, New York City (1940)

Notes Toward a Gone World

The Beats were 20th/21st-Century Romantics. Virtually everything about the Beat Movement—its lifestyles, its revolutionary spirit, its promotion of non-conformity and individualism, its aesthetic theory and poetry (especially) and fiction—would be perfectly compatible to the Romantic Movement.

That said, Romanticism is much more complex, a much broader movement. The Beats are almost exclusively American. Very little influence from European Romantics is evident. Of course, the school poets of British Romanticism prevail. Very little Gothicism from Scott, Radcliffe, etc. matters to the Beats.

But, above all else, both movements embrace subjectivity and reject objectivity. Both celebrate feelings, impressions, emotions in their searches for truth and are suspicious of studied, empirical observation separated from individuality.

Both the Romantics and the Beats see the poet/artist as a creative soul, set apart from others, who seeks to reveal himself/herself to the reader soul to soul.

Exceptions abound to everything I say above and my observations do not take into account the complexity of both movements. However, Romanticism eventually developed into postmodernism with the Beats in the vanguard. The Enlightenment developed into modernism. Twenty years ago or more I would have said that enlightenment>modernism was proving a colossal and evident failure to all while romanticism>postmodernism was predominating in intellectual, aesthetic, spiritual thought. Now I’m no longer sure and I am deeply concerned.