Bob Baker: Ginsberg still doing his ‘thing’ in Steamboat
Now that the brouhaha over the poem “Howl” has reached absurd and surrealistic proportions, a bit of history might be in order.
The poem, written in 1957, was a product of the Beat Generation that emerged in the middle 1950s and lasted until it was submerged by the hippies and anti-war movements of the 1960s. Its centers were Greenwich Village in New York City, the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco and the Left Bank of Paris, France. It was mainly a literary movement that morphed into a social movement, and its main impetus was a reaction against the conformity and puritanism of the Eisenhower 1950s. It became a minor force on college campuses.
Besides novels like Kerouac’s “On the Road” and poems like Ginsberg’s “Howl,” there were many more poets and writers in the Beat Generation of varying degrees of quality. The Beat Generation listened to the jazz of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie on the East Coast and Gerry Mulligan on the West Coast, discussed French existentialism and wore black turtlenecks and French berets.
Its slogan was “epater le bourgeois” loosely translated as “to shock the conventionally minded.” Of course, I can’t be sure, but I think that Kerouac, Ginsberg and the Beat Generation writers would be delighted that they are still doing their thing in Steamboat Springs.
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