“Epitaph for the Dead Beats” by John Ciardi

epitaph for the dead poets

In John Ciardi’s article “Epitaph for the Dead Beats”, which was featured in a 1960 edition of The Saturday Review, the Beat Generation suffers more insult at the hands of popular writers. Throughout this piece, the Beats are repeatedly slighted as juvenile delinquents who pose little threat to society. In fact, he even goes so far as to say that these beatniks can do nothing but sit still, that they could be affective, but do not have the resources nor the drive to be so. At one point, he makes the ultimate insult by calling the beatniks conformists themselves. “The Beats wear identical uniforms. They raise nearly identical beards… They sit around in the same drab dives listening to the same blaring jazz with identical blanked-out expressions on their identical faces. And any one of them would sooner cut his throat than be caught doing anything ‘square.'” Ciardi compares these “poets” to highschoolers who rebel simply for the sake of rebelling. He accuses them of being drug-addicts, childish, and even falsely intellectual and falsely Zen.

Furthermore, he debunks the beats’ claims that they are the product of violence and wanting by saying, “For the Beats are sprung of a generation that had it easy.”

“So much for the intellectual revolution. To the extent that the Beat Generation can be thought of as a literary movement, it has been systematically vitiated bv this insistence on the holiness of the impromptu and by the urge to play the lunatic.”

~Kendall Reasons

Article: Ciardi, John. “Epitaph for the Dead Beats”. The Saturday Review. 6 Feb. 1960: 11-13. Print.

Picture and Article: http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1960feb06-00011?View=PDF

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