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Art & Culture

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

To Beat or Not To Beat

In the late 40’s and into the 50’s and 60’s, a movement of unorthodox writers and artists came upon a stagnant literary world and decided through their work to change the playing field. They made work that was sensitive, personal, passionate, all the while defying the establishment to not take them seriously.

 

Their names have all been recorded and most of us can remember the advent of what we now call the “Beat Generation”. The writers included Ginsburg. Kerouac, Corso, Snyder, DiPrima, Cassidy. But perhaps it all started in 1958 with the publication a book of poetry known as “A Coney Island of the Mind”, by the poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Herbert Huncke, another member of the tribe, is usually given the honor of naming the “Beat Generation”; others give that to Jack Kerouac in 1948.

The writing was termed hedonistic, and was resplendent with Eastern mysticism, and what was considered at the time ‘obscenities’.  Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Bill Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” were both brought to trial….obviously both survived.

“Howl” was first published by City Lights Books, owned then as now by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Ferlinghetti and other beat poets, 1965

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