Beat Poems [Exercise #9]
Due Sunday August 20
Hi Darlings! Long time, no see. I’m back from travel and currently sifting through a whopping stack of poem drafts from the past three months that I need to whip into shape. How were your summers?
While traveling, I got to visit the Beat museum in San Francisco, near where 50's/60's beat writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg used to hang. I picked up an interesting book that explores the influence of Buddhism on poetry from the time, so I thought this week it would be fun to use beat poets as our inspiration.
For this prompt, we’ll read some/all of Allen Ginsberg’s seminal work, Howl, (at least part 1) and write a poem inspired from it. This piece was a subject of much titillation and criticism when it was published in 1956, and is considered one of the most important poems of the 20th century. Its publication resulted in an obscenity trial for including frank language about sex and drugs.
The Beats held a philosophy of pure, raw communication free of inhibition, so try to tap into that in your own work. Kerouac wrote a list of 30 rules to follow to write like a Beat. Check them out here. Some of my favorites include ‘write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind,’ ‘Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition,’ and ‘composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better.’
Ginsberg innovated the use of a long, breath-based line. You’ll notice that each line in Howl seems to last one breath, and he makes natural linebreaks. Try experimenting with long lines in your own work.
I’m unable to copy and paste the poem to Medium because the lines are ruined by the width of the pages. Be sure to follow the link to read some of the piece before starting! Here’s a link to a recording on Youtube of Ginsberg reading the first section which is worth a listen as well:
I can’t wait to tackle this one and see what you all come up with. Glad to be back!