William S. Burroughs–NAKED LUNCH

Norman Mailer called Beat writer William S Burroughs (1914-1997) “the only living American novelist conceivably possessed by genius.” He was born to a wealthy St. Louis family and attended Harvard College. After being discharged from the army for mental health problems, Burroughs moved to New York where he met Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Many scholars consider these three men the founders of the Beat Movement. Burroughs’ life was plagued with trouble and legal controversy. In 1944, Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested as accessories to the murder of David Kammerer, the experience of which would serve as the inspiration for their co-written book And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks. In 1951, he shot and killed his second wife and the mother of his only child, Joan Vollmer under mysterious circumstances. The apocryphal story is that they were playing William Tell and he was attempting to shoot a glass of whiskey off of her head. In any case, Burroughs was convicted of “culpable homicide.” In Queer, Burrough expresses his belief that Vollmer’s death is what ultimately drove him to become a writer. Burroughs struggled with addiction (especially to heroin) throughout his life and these experiences influenced his most notable work, Naked Lunch, which caused a scandal when excerpts of it were first published in 1958. Attempts were made to ban the novel when it was fully published in 1962 and there was even an incident in which a shop owner was arrested for selling it. An obscenity trial was held and eventually the book was allowed to remain in print. More than a million copies have been sold.

Here Burroughs reads an excerpt from Naked Lunch.

Sources:
Phil Cauthon “The Death of Joan Vollmer: What Really Happened?” http://www.lawrence.com/news/2003/dec/09/the_death/
Ann Livermore “Skipped a Beat: Burroughs and Kerouac’s Long Awaited Collaboration.” http://www.examiner.com/article/skipped-a-beat-burroughs-and-kerouac-s-long-awaited-collaboration
Tom Vitale “Burroughs’ ‘Naked Lunch’ Still Fresh 50 Years Later.” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113610846

Philip Whalen

Philip Whalen 1923–2002

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Philip Whalen is an iconic poet of  the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950s. His work flourished and gained a following for its “reverential treatment of the mundane and its self-depreciating humor.” While his work explored many of the themes relevant to beat thought, he had a strong fascination with Zen Buddhism and other Asian religions, environmentalism, and mocking the conformity of U.S. life. Whalen’s poetic growth flourished in part to his friendship with Gary Snyder and Lew Welch. Together the three developed their unique bohemian lifestyles and writings while at Reed College.  Snyder invited Whalen to read at the Six Gallery reading* on October 13, 1955, and it was there where he was also introduced to Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and other important Beat writers. It was with these new found contacts that he further entrenched himself in to the world of the San Francisco beats–that, and peyote. His fascination with Buddhism and eastern traditions came into fruition when he became an ordained Zen monk in 1973. From there on he spent the remainder of his life in Zen centers in San Francisco and New Mexico. Whalen passed away in 2002.

Paul Christensen writes: “Whalen’s singular style and personality contribute to his character in verse as a bawdy, honest, moody, complicated songster of the frenzied mid-century, an original troubadour and thinker who refused to take himself too seriously during the great revival of visionary lyric in American poetry.”

“Whalen has managed to espouse the religious principles of Zen Buddhism without renouncing the world around him, retaining a humorous, whimsical balance in his poems, and mixing the pleasures of California life with contemplation in such a way as to persuade readers that the flesh and spirit may be enjoyed together in the fulfillment of one’s life.”

* https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/poetrycenter/bundles/191226

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/philip-whalen

(In the photo above, from left to right, Welch, Snyder, Whalen, 1963)

– F. Fernandez

Lawrence Ferlinghetti–#11 from A CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND

A successful poet and artist in his own right, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is best remembered as the co-founder of San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore,–a forum and home for members of the beat movement since it’s opening in 1955, and for the publishing house that came to be associated with it. It was Ferlinghetti who first published Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” as well as works by many other Beat writers. He has remained active as an artist and publisher. He will be 95 years old in March.

His book of poems A CONEY ISLAND STATE OF THE MIND continues to have a following. Here is a reading of poem #11.

Sources:
“A Brief Biography of Lawrence Ferlinghetti” http://www.citylights.com/ferlinghetti/

“San Francisco Poet: Larwrence Ferlinghetti” http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment-july-dec02-ferlinghetti_12-27/

Michale McClure

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Michale McClure, born in 1932, wrote plays, novels, documentaries, and above all: poetry. Part of the Beat Generation, McClure gave his first poetry reading alongside the iconic Allen Ginsberg in 1955. His poetry was a combination of many things including spontaneity, typographical experimentation, Buddhism, and body language. Like many others in his time, Michale’s poetry and other works pushed the envelope of what literature meant and where it was headed. One of his plays, “The Beard”, was viewed as obscene and was unsuccessfully brought to trial. He wrote numerous collections, and still performs his poetry frequently. Publishers Weekly acclaims “McClure infuses ecstatic direct address and colloquial diction with an exquisite sensibility, one that reveals the world in its ordinary complex gorgeousness.”

Sources:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/michael-mcclure

Picture: http://www.beatmuseum.org/mcclure/MichaelMcClure.html

~Kendall Reasons~

Duke Ellington and Django Reinhardt–“A Blues Riff”

Listen to this amazing collaboration between Duke Ellington (jazz composer, pianist, and bandleader) and Belgian-Romani jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt shared by Ben Anderson!
The two musicians toured together during Reinhardt’s American tour in 1946. Reinhardt’s accomplishments in jazz guitar are particularly impressive considering that when he was 18 an accident permanently paralyzed two fingers on his left hand.

Source: “Django Reinhardt” PBS.org http://www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_reinhardt_django.htm