I’ve recently become aware of the poet Allen Ginsberg, most notably his poem “A Supermarket in California,” and really started to wonder where that idea came from. Being vaguely familiar with his poem “Howl,” I did a little research, and it turns out that that most of the Beat Generation kicks butt!
I think the first thing that is synonymous with these revolutionary baby boomers is that they grew up during the romantic view of suburbia in America post-WWII. It was in these hallowed halls of capitalist complacency, that the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gary Snyder emerged. Kerouac himself came up with the term “Beat Generation,” which addressed the beat down and disenfranchised with the system. The home of this movement was in the prestigious schools out west (San Francisco), where the most prominent writer could get published in journals and rebel against the intellectualism of the Enlightenment of a former movement and focus on more personal and private matters.
Major Themes and Authors
Ginsberg, for instance, included homosexual musings in his poems, but also other authors such as Kerouac included references to drugs and nature itself, such as Zen Buddhism (Gary Snyder) and the culture of the Native Americans because it reflected their perception of the natural world.
As Beatdom.com states: “In 1945, young Kerouac and Ginsberg were heavily influenced by the Romantics, and began debating something called ‘the New Vision’ inspired by William Butler Yeats’ A Vision. At the time both Ginsberg and Kerouac were exploring new areas of literature and life, and began formulating some of the ideas that are now often associated with the Beat Generation.”
The idea was to reject formalism (which we touched on before as having a rigid and non-contextual outlook), and with poems like “Howl,” which saw a censorship trial, the Beat Generation were able to advance a more honest and transgressive view of the United States that had been highly romanticized (sugar coated perhaps) up to that point.
So, with the previously mentioned authors included, here are some highlights of prominent figures:
- Allen Ginsberg
- Jack Kerouac
- Gary Snyder
- Ken Kesey
- Amiri Baraka
- William S. Burroughs