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The term Beats or Beatniks refers to a group of American lyrical poets who emerged from the mid to late 1950s with the publication the magazine Evergreen Review, and who denounced academic intellectualism, politics, and the status quo as fervently as they embraced freedom of thought, unconvential romance (homosexuality and free love - ironically, in the era of wholesome family values preceeding the 1960s), spirituality, and creativity. The term Beats has been said by scholars and members of the Beatnik group to refer to the word beatific, which suggests happiness and bliss, as well as the word beaten, which suggests beaten down and broken. Straddling these alternate meanings, the Beats embraced the ideals of Walt Whitman, who in the 1800s shaped a style of romantic and celebratory poetry truly unlike anything before, and the jazz movement, which was being recognized for its impromptu bravado and originality. Adopting the rhythms of jazz and showcasing their poetry in jazz clubs, the Beats became a powerful group of innovators who succeeded in raising awareness not only for their poetry but for freedom of expression in a public forum for all Americans—a tenet that would later be tested during the Civil Rights and Vietnam War demonstrations of the 1960s.

Poets of Interest:

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)
Gregory Corso
Diane DiPrima
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Allen Ginsberg
Kenneth Patchen
Gary Snyder

Books of Interest:

The Beat Book Click to Order The Beat Book: Poems and Fiction of the Beat Generation (ed. Anne Waldman - hard $$)
This book brings together the work of some of the most influential Beats: Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Diane DiPrima, William S. Burroughs, Amiri Baraka, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, and Gary Snyder.

Birth of the Beats Click to Order The Birth of the Beat Generation : Visionaries, Rebels, and Hipsters, 1944-1960 (soft $)
This book by Steven Watson chronicles the Beat generation, including the intimate friendships among its key figures: William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg, as well as the movement's icon Neal Cassady. The book features commnetary, quotes, photographs, and sidebars. Among its greatest asset is the contextualization of key figures, providing the reader with elements of their childhood. Such information gives the reader an understanding into the drive and background of those who made up of the Beats. The book also shows how far the Beat generation extended, including among its ranks Gary Snyder and Michael McClure.

Walking Tout Click to Order The Beat Generation in New York: A Walking Tour of Jack Kerouac's City (soft $)
This book by Bill Morgan, and published by Lawrence Ferlinghtetti's press City Lights, brings anecdotes and little-known facts of Jack Kerouac to life in eight tours that take readers from the Columbia University area where Kerouac and Ginsberg first interacted with students in the 1940s, to Chelsea where Kerouac wrote On the Road in less than a month.

Links of Interest:

Allen Ginsberg Memorial Tribute
Beats at the Gate
The Beat Cafe
Literary Kicks
Bohemian Ink
Beat Literature (includes several links)
Hotel Boheme: Beat Poetry
The Beat Movement
Beat News

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