Skip to main content

Howl 50 Years Later, Fusion Ten Years On


The following report comes from Heidi Benson, of the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Fueled by various stimulants, fellowship and a near-mystical belief that the world must change and poetry was the way to do it, this group coalesced and staged a reading on Oct. 7, 1955 -- at the Six Gallery on Fillmore Street -- that has gone down in history as the moment of conception of the Beat movement.

No photographs of the evening have turned up, but by all accounts, when 150 to 200 people showed up at this low-ceilinged former auto-body shop in response to hastily printed postcards, the size of the crowd astonished everybody.

Rexroth served as master of ceremonies that Friday night. Kerouac, who had declined to read, brought jugs of burgundy to share.

First to take the orange-crate podium was San Francisco-born Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia, who read poems by John Hoffman, a friend who had just died.

Next up was McClure, reading "Point Lobos: Animism" and "For the Death of 100 Whales," both presaging the animal-rights movement.

Then came Philip Whalen, a friend of Snyder's from Reed College and later a Zen monk, reading his poem "Plus Ca Change."

(On this night, McClure first met Whalen and Snyder.)

Then Ginsberg took the stage, drunk, some say, and visibly nervous. Kerouac urged him on, hollering "Go! Go! Go!" as the poem gained momentum:

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night ..."
The poem brought down the house. Ginsberg and Rexroth were in tears."

The T.S. Review celebrates this important poetry event, which in some ways inspired the goals of the Fusion Poetry movement 40 years later (in 1995). What is to be regretted is that, despite widespread media attention for such historical (and thus relatively safe) movements, the fact that a true current subterranean movement of global poets, driven by the Internet, is primarily neglected, in favour of established figures who represent a fairly mainstream alternative.

If only some more of the Beat spirit of risk, derangement and humour could continue to subvert and impel the poetry now being published and celebrated in the U.K. and elsewhere. Meanwhile, it must never be forgotten that Beat poetry mistakenly relinquished its hold on form, craft and the sense of tradition - all necessary aspects of the poetic art.

Hence the need for Fusion, which is an attempt to merge The Beat and the New Critic (both sides of the poetic psyche) approach and thus establish a fertile rapprochement that can enable poetry to find its force in both chaos and craft: full-bore passion and a blessed rage for order wrestling together to create inseparable dance-beauty.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…