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Profiles of the Early Beats: Norman Podhoretz

April 7, 2017

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Well, Norman Podhoretz wasn’t really one of the Beats. In fact, he represented the essence of Squaredom. Just as Kerouac, Ginsberg, and gang were stirring up the nation’s youth to wise Beatnickery, along came a spoil-it-all kid of the same generation who was developing what would become a distinguished career as a critic and journalist and doused the whole movement with a widely-read essay “The Know-Nothing Bohemians.” Seymour Krim in his anthology The Beats reprints the essay and actually shows a modicum of respect for the guy. Here’s Krim’s profile:

“Podhoretz is a highly shrewd young guy who got an entrenched literary position at a very early—perhaps too early—age; position means responsibility means gray hairs means no rockandrolling in print. Norman is a little teacherish for his years, but he’s solid without quite taking himself for his own statue. He’s got a mature head, a wife, several kids. His perceptions are formidable and really illuminating when he lets his mind go to town; here he’s grinding an anti-beat axe which restricts him to the chalkline, but still is sharp. This was written in early 1958.”

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Paul Varner

Profiles of the Early Beats: Ray Bremser

April 6, 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’s Krim’s profile of Ray Bremser, in prison when The Beats came out. In fact Bremser missed the excitement of the crazy Beatnik days courtesy a prison warden. But he got out and went on to marry the eventually more famous Bonnie whom he abused and sex trafficked in Mexico. She went on to write her memoirs.

“Gaunt, tall, unshaven, GI-jacketed, Ray Bremser twangs out rich imagistic poetry in the New York coffee shops and makes the college circuit as well. He can be hard and ironic; learned his wounds well, and some of the world’s dishonesty, while in New Jersey stir for 6 years on an armed robbery count. Is subtle as well as lavish. Shy as a shadow also, with fiendish jollity rising up within the prison walls of his hard-earned loneliness and individuality. You rarely see the cat’s gleaming eyes behind his mother-loving sunglasses. Spooky-real Ray Bremser! Bad news as this book goes to press: Bremser is back in jail for violating his parole—the poor sucker fell in love and got married, which is of course against Democracy’s penal laws.”

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Paul Varner

Today in 1997 Allen Ginsberg Died

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And the screen remains empty.

April 5, 2017

On this date in 1997 Allen Ginsberg died in New York at age 70. Here’s what Seymour Krim said about a young Ginsberg in the crazy Beatnik days of the 1950s, from The Beats, published in 1960.

“Allen Ginsberg, chanter of the scorchingly present-tense ‘Howl,’ is one of the true lunar voices rising about the skyscrapers; he has the courage of his imagination, and is keening a mighty song for his generation. Ginsberg is both an exciting and highly readable human poet. His fever is that of thousands: but nobody of his age and time threw the sick-room back at life as he did, and thus redeemed us all as well as himself. Society’s fangs await his beautiful phantasmgorical songs, if only to insure their validity; but he who would be an atom-age Shelley must have a price on his head. The stakes demand it. Ginsberg is really a bit of a miracle.”

Seymour Krim printed Ginsberg’s famous “Death to Van Gogh’s Ear” in The Beats.

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Chandler Brossard, Pre-Kerouac Beat Novelist

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Zig Zag

April 4, 2017

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 is Krim’s profile of one of the pre-Kerouac Beat Movement novelists. In later years Brossard would seek to disassociate himself from the Beatnik image and go Establishment.

“Chandler won’t go for the present jazz thing, won’t go for action painting, Loden coats, black-stockinged chicks or any of the hip trademarks of the beat scene. A loner, but in triplicate. His first novel, ‘Who walk in Darkness,’ was written with the cool eye of a rifleman; his second never got the attention it should have; his plays haven’t jelled critically or commercially. He stands in odd relationship to his generation–quieter than when he burned his presence onto the literary scene in the late 40’s, more inner. Older, tireder. He has a gnarled maturity encased in a golden boy façade; an unusual cat who hasn’t quite made his fullest literary moves yet. Has the aware calculation of a deepsea diver and has already left his scar on his generation. It could and might go deeper. This selection is from ‘The Double Dealers,’ an unpublished novel”(85).

Seymour Krim published Brossard’s story “Béatilles,” for The Beats.

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Paul Varner

Early Beat Hipster Jack Green

April 3, 2017

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Seymour Krim’s 1960 anthology The Beats, with its cool cover of a very young and hip Allen Ginsberg is one of the great archeological relics of Beat history. Here is savvy Krim describing one of his favorites, Jack Green.

“Gentle, fidgety, huge-bearded, Jack Green puts out a wild sheet called ‘newspaper’ from his storefront at 225 E. 5th St. in lower Manhattan. Pressed for biographical data, he answered: ‘[“] Jack Green is a prof in beat’s clothing. His hobbies are, he has traveled to, and he has worked as a. He is years old[”]” (94).

The piece Krim publishes is Jack Green’s prose Beat ramble, “peyote”:

peyote

is one of the most beautiful things that ever happened to me     i had thought i couldnt get anything from drugs     seeing how happy 2 of my friends were, high on peyote, I decided to try it

And on we go for a peyote trip for the next several pages similar to the above.

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Paul Varner

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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