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Gary Snyder Born on this Date

May 8, 2017

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Profiles of the Early Beats: Gary Snyder

On this date in in 1930 Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco. Snyder, today at age 87, keeps the Beat Movement alive while passing the flame on to successively younger generations. But let’s take a look at Snyder in the early days of the Beat Movement in this profile by Seymour Krim from his 1960 anthology The Beats. Easily forgotten about Snyder’s early career is that he was there at the famous Six Gallery reading in 1956 doing his own poetry the night Allen Ginsberg first read Howl and the night the Beat Movement became famous.

“Now making it in Japan-from which he wrote this charming letter [“Letter from Kyoto”]—Snyder is one of the important figures of the West Coast beat society, a poet, softly religious man, influence on Kerouac and others. Hostility syphned [sic.] out of him or transcended. His voice, like the very best of West Coast talent, is sweet without flaw or phoniness; not like the harsh New York hipsters. In a modest way Snyder is a credit to the human race, as sportswriter Jimmy Cannon once called Joe Louis. In addition to Snyder’s letter we are appending a very straight little number by him on beat religious attitudes; once again his writing gets to the bone with unsurgical, unhard naturalness. For a poet he writes first-rate prose.”

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Paul Varner

Profiles of the Early Beats: Hubert Selby, Jr.

April 11, 2017

Profiles of the Early Beats: Hubert Selby, Jr.

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Here is Seymour Krim’s profile of Hubert Selby, Jr. in the anthology The Beats written long before Selby’s best works: The Room (1971), Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964), and Requiem for a Dream (1978).

“Hubert Selby is a natural, one of the most sheerest powerful of the new writers, a rammer whose stories build like a storm and whose richest work is just on its way to being written. A Brooklyn guy with a pair of eyes and a heart that won’t lie; some of his sex stories are as powerful as Henry Miller’s and will fight their way into print by sheer muscle. A little nasty beauty of his called ‘Another Day, Another Dollar,’ will be found in the 1960 New Directions annual. The one we’re printing here [“Double Feature”] swings too, with a mounting, barking rhythm. Go, Hubert, go baby!”

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Paul Varner

Profiles of the Early Beats: Phillip Lamantia

April 10, 2017

Profiles of the Early Beats: Phillip Lamantia

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Seymour Krim’s profile of Philip Lamantia in his 1960 anthology The Beats surely must be one of the most colorful description of the neo-surrealist poet. One thing about Philip Lamantia often forgotten is that he read his poetry that famous night at the Six Gallery when Allen Ginsberg first read Howl.

“Lamantia is a flamethrowing Roman catholic and can really light up the poetic pinball machine 1 out of every 4 shots. His whole bent is mystic, ecstatic, sensuous, dangerous. But when he hits, he hits for a high score. Sometimes the work gets vague and shrill; but the misses are what have to be suffered in order for him to get his rare, charging highs which sweep into the memory like an army of Christian neon lights. Hot stuff here, always a hair’s breadth away from over-statement. But the real spinal shudder when he makes it.”

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Paul Varner

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