Saturday, January 05, 2008

Were You a Beatnik?

This afternoon I visited Coffee Messiah’s blog and was thrown back about fifty or so years as I listened to Shel Silversteins beat poetry.

I suspect that most of the folks who read this blog were born well after the days of the Beatniks, the Beats, or the Beat generation the media sometimes called them. There heyday was the post World War II days from the late 1940s through the 1950s and a bit into the 1960s. Some folks consider the Beats the predecessors of the hippies; I don’t. There may have been some chronological overlap and some shared beliefs, but I believe the Beat generation was unique.

I was too young to be a Beatnik, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t impressed and influenced by them. They called themselves “beat” (originally meaning “weary,” but later also connoting a musical sense, a “beatific” spirituality, and other meanings) and were derisively called beatniks, who expressed their alienation from conventional, (square) society by adopting an almost uniform style of seedy dress, manners, and hip vocabulary that they took from jazz musicians. They, unlike the Hippies, were apolitical and indifferent to social problems. The Beats advocated personal release, purification, and illumination through the heightened sensory awareness that might be induced by drugs, jazz, sex, or the disciplines of Zen Buddhism.

Beat poets sought to liberate poetry from stuffiness and bring it “back to the streets.” They read their poetry, sometimes to the accompaniment of progressive jazz, in coffee shops and bookstores. Although I was too young to be one of them, I rather consider myself an heir of the Beats. So I’m giving you—old beatnik or not—the opportunity to listen to the “voice” of the Beats, Jack Kerouac, doing his stream of consciousness thing with a work entitled Bowery Blues. with Steve Allen playing background jazz on the piano.



  1. Hi ya and Thanks for stopping by!

    I keep meaning to link you up and stop by, but you know, time waits 4 no 1! ; (

    Having spent many years taking a Greyhound bus with friends into SF, watching the Hippies etc, etc, well there's was much in those times to make anyone who had curiosity, to open up to more ways to think, than one was forced to learn.

    Take Care!

  2. Gostei muito desse post e seu blog é muito interessante, vou passar por aqui sempre =) Depois dá uma passada lá no meu site, que é sobre o CresceNet, espero que goste. O endereço dele é . Um abraço.

  3. I feel like putting on a beret and snapping my fingers. Cheers Nick!!

  4. that was amazing... I thoroughly enjoyed it... it's a style of poetry that never dates

    beatniks were slightly before my time;= but I was rather partial to flower power... mmmm... am I giving away my age?

  5. Beatniks were before my time. But I loved Shel Siverstein's Light in the Attic and WHere the Sidewalk Ends.

  6. I love Kerouac. I like what he says and I absolutely love his accent. This is in the three-disc set I bought for Ichabod a number of years ago.

  7. COFFEE MESSIAH: Drop by and link me whenever. I’ve your blog linked here and Bloglines tell me when you make a new post. I truly enjoy both your blogs, although it’s been a time since I’ve seen a post on the Indiana pictures one.

    Of course, you inspired me to create this post—and led me to divShare so I could use the track from the CD that I own. Thank you for both. There is another track on the CD where Kerouac describes living on the west coast, probably in the pre-flower children days of the ‘50s that you might enjoy.

    CRESCENET: Mi español no es suficiente en entenderle.

    MATT-MAN: Not a bad idea. If I can find my beret I’ll join you.

    AKELAMALU: Thank you. There is an, uh, “realism” and earthiness about the Beats that beats most of what I find in contemporary literature. Of course, they were iconoclasts—at least at a personal level.

    ANN: You’re welcome. I agree. There is a story about a visit I made to a west Texas town where I found the largest collection of Beat literature for sale that I have ever located. Some day I must write about that.

    ENOLA: Shel has written some really neat stuff. My favorite, other than some very irreverent songs, is “The Giving Tree.” I rather identify with that tree.

    SQUIRL: Yep, that’s the CD, although I don’t own the 3-CD set, just one CD that’s supposedly the “best” of the 3-CD set.

  8. Hi Nick ~~ Nice poetry that is still interesting many years later. Like
    most poetry is. Thanks for your comments. I like that you whistled a lot and that it encouraged others to
    do the same in that depressed
    community. Have a great week Nick. Regards, Merle.

  9. My Dad was always referring to Beatniks when I was a kid, but I never knew what it was... LOL!

  10. Hi Nick! I enjoyed this recording of Kerouac. I am a bit younger than the Beatnik era myself but have always been fascinated by it. I believe the San Francisco columnist Herb Caen (another favorite of mine) came up with the word "Beatnik" to describe them.

    Ferlinghetti I believe is one of the last of them, if not the last - and still owns City Lights Bookstore in SF.

  11. Thanks for posting this.
    Love that photo of Jack.

    Its great knowing he was a close relative. I guess he would have been the first person I would have like to have met who I never had a chance to.

    My father wrote him a letter nine days before he passed away.
    Not sure what happened with this.

    Its amazing how many people to this day are still affected by Jacks writings.

    Sorry I didn't get to this post sooner,
    I've been away

    "On the road" as Jack would say

    and now dad Kerouac is about to go into the hospital for a operation.

    talk to you soon!!