Archives for posts with tag: beat poets


In this 1969 photo — taken at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont by Art Kane – Doors frontman/poet Jim Morrison sits in a closet reading a book. The cover looks as if it belongs in the City Lights Pocket Poets series that publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti started in 1955. If Morrison is reading a book from the series, my guess is PLANET NEWS by Allen Ginsberg, a 144-page collection published in 1968. (Morrison admired Ginsberg’s poetry and was influenced by his work.) A selection from the book is featured below.

I am a Victim of Telephone (Excerpt)
by Allen Ginsberg

…Always the telephone linked to all the hearts of the
world beating at once
crying my husband’s gone my boyfriend’s busted
forever my poetry was rejected
won’t you come over for money and please won’t you
write me a piece of bullshit
How are you dear can you come out to Easthampton we’re
all here bathing in the ocean we’re all so lonely
and I lay back on my pallet contemplating $50 phone 
bill, broke, drowsy, anxious, my heart fearful of
the fingers dialing, the deaths, the singing of
telephone bells
ringing at dawn ringing all afternoon ringing up
midnight ringing now forever.


In 1957, Allen Ginsberg was in Paris awaiting the results of the U.S. obscenity trial related to HOWL, the book-length poem Lawrence Ferlinghetti had published in San Francisco through his City Lights Press.

The 2010 film HOWL, starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, covers a range of subjects — including the 1957 obscenity trial — in some cases using experimental techniques (such as animation of the poem).

I particularly enjoyed Jon Hamm (MAD MEN‘s Don Draper) as defense counsel Jake Ehrlich and Bob Balaban as Judge Clayton HornJames Franco also turns in an admirable performance as Ginsberg.

I had very low expectations when I borrowed this film (HOWL) from the library — I didn’t think there was any way to do justice to the subject matter. Basically, I expected a Hollywood botch job. Count me wrong!  I was enraptured and enthralled throughout the movie, which features the entire text of Howl in animation such as I’ve never seen before.

HOWL, the movie, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, is original, respectful, and a fine testament to Allen Ginsberg, one of America’s most important poets. Highly recommended.

Find the DVD on


April 28, 2013 marked the 90th birthday of Carolyn Cassady— the accomplished and gifted woman associated with Beat writers Neal Cassady (one-time husband), Jack Kerouac (friend and lover), and Allen Ginsberg (friend and confidante). She wrote about these iconic figures and much more in her 1990 memoir OFF THE ROAD (available at

Carolyn showed artistic gifts from her early years — at age 12, joining a theater troupe in Nashville, where she won awards for her set designs. She received a scholarship to Bennington College (Vermont) — studying with choreographer Martha Graham, philosopher Erich Fromm, and poet Theodore Roethke — and earned a B.A. in drama in 1944. After graduation, she served as an occupational therapist for the U.S. Army, then moved to Denver in 1946 to study for her master’s degree at the University of Denver while working as a teaching assistant at the Denver Art Museum.


Fate intervened in 1947, when she met future husband Neal Cassady and his friends Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. While dating Cassady, Carolyn learned he was still married to his first wife, so she moved to California to pursue work as a costume designer in the movie business. Before starting the job, it became clear she was expecting a little Cassady — and decided to reconcile with Neal. They had three children together — and, in all, spent 16  tumultuous off-again-on-again years with each other, divorcing in 1963.

In 1983, Carolyn moved to England and continued to work as an artist and writer, until her passing on September 20, 2013

Photo: Carolyn Cassady in the early 1950s with Jack Kerouac and her daughter Cathleen

by Gary Snyder

Finally floating in cool water
red sun ball sinking 
through a smoky dusty haze

rumble of bigrigs,
constant buzz of cars on the 5;
at the pool of Motel 6
in Buttonwillow,
south end of the giant valley,
ghost of ancient Lake Tulare

sunset      splash.
“Day’s Driving Done” appears in DANGER ON PEAKS, poems by Gary Snyder (Shoemaker Hoard Publishing, 2004). In the photo above, Gary Snyder reads from the collection.

by Jack Kerouac

The low yellow
moon above the
quiet lamplit house.


Poem by Gary Snyder

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

Photo: “Moffat Lakes, Boulder, Colorado” by Tyler P. Porter, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

by Gary Snyder

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light

Photo: Eugene Dodonov

by Allen Ginsberg

A brown piano in diamond
white spotlight
Leviathan auditorium
iron run wired
hanging organs, vox
black battery
A single whistling sound of ten thousand children’s
larynxes asinging
pierce the ears
and following up the belly
bliss the moment arrived
Apparition, four brown English
jacket christhair boys
Goofed Ringo battling bright
white drums
Silent George hair patient
Soul horse
Short black-skulled Paul
with the guitar
Lennon the Captain, his mouth
a triangular smile,
all jump together to End
some tearful memory song
ancient-two years,
The million children
the thousand words
bounce in their seats, bash
each other’s sides, press
legs together nervous
Scream again & claphand
become one Animal
in the New World Auditorium
—hands waving myriad
snakes of thought
screetch beyond hearing
while a line of police with
folded arms stands
Sentry to contain the red
sweatered ecstasy
that rises upward to the
wired roof.

— August 27, 1965

“Portland Coliseum” by Allen Ginsberg commemorates the Beatles’ appearance in Portland, Oregon, on August 22, 1965. The poem is found in READ THE BEATLES: Classic and New Writing on the Beatles, Their Legacy, and Why They Still Matter (Penguin, 2006), available at

Photo: The Beatles performing “I’m Down” in Portand, Oregon, on August 22, 1965 (Bob Boris, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

by Gary Snyder

Green pinecone flakes
pulled, gnawed clean around,
wobbling, slowly falling
scattering on the ground,
     whack the roof.
Tree-top squirrel feasts
–twitchy pine boughs. 

“Whack” is found in Gary Snyder’s 2004 collection DANGER ON PEAKS, available at

PHOTO: “Squirrel Snacks on Pine Cone” by Dixxe Bell, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

by Gary Snyder

A parking meter that won’t take coins
a giant sprinkler valve wheel chained and locked
a red and white fire hydrant
a young dandelion at the edge of the pavement


“Standup Comics” appears in Gary Snyder‘s 2004 collection DANGER ON PEAKS, published by Shoemaker Hoard, available at