This class is an overview of the Harlem Renaissance, Jazz, Jazz Poetry, the Beats, and beatniks. Specifically, we’ll listen to and read Vachel Lindsay, Langston Hughes, Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Kaufman, and Jack Kerouac.

First, I’d like to talk about “The Congo” by Vachel Lindsay. You should first listen to this podcast which is a discussion of the poem, and you can hear and read the entire poem here.

Vachel Lindsay supposedly met Langston Hughes at a restaurant in Washington DC where Hughes was a busboy, and Lindsay credited himself with “discovering” Hughes, although Hughes had already been published. Hughes, of course, became one of the most important figures of the Harlem Renaissance and a progenitor of jazz poetry. You should read and/or listen to his poems here, and here he is reading “The Weary Blues.”

Here’s a track, Four Blues Poems, by jazz poet Kenneth Patchen.

Please read “A Definition of the Beat Generation” by Allen Ginsberg and “The Literary Revolution in America” by Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg, which describes the famous 6 Gallery Reading in San Francisco in 1955.  From Ginsberg, Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1994.

And this essay, “The Making of the Counterculture” by Kenneth Rexroth, who was a mentor to many of the Beat poets.

And now listen—give it your full attention—to “Howl” performed by Allen Ginsberg.

Next we’ll discuss Bob Kaufman—you’ll find a few of his poems and some other info here, and there is also this short article about him by Maria Damon.

Finally, here are some “American Haiku” by Jack Kerouac.

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  1.   nahmed

    I’m tremendously early for the posting, I know! I haven’t read all the material yet, but didn’t want my thoughts to…expire, I suppose.

    The Congo – Vachel Lindsay

    The podcast was so engaging to listen to and I found myself appreciating these tape recordings so much more after listening. Written in 1912, Lindsay wrote this extremely “racist” poem and received a lot of backlash for it. When concerning the text of the poem, the actual words,the discussion on the podcast hit on a lot of good points. When the host made a comment about “getting past the racism in the poem” one of the speakers immediately questioned his statement. How do you get past it? How CAN you get past the content of a literary piece of work? How do you ignore the words on the piece of paper, the meaning of the text? As the speaker stated, “I never had to get past parts of a poem” – or something to that extent. With the amount of emphasis placed on finding the ‘meaning’ in poetry, how does one close their mind off to the meaning of the words staring at us? Receiving my teaching certificate was dependent on my analyzing the meaning behind a poem, THAT is precisely how important and prevalent it is in our culture! So, when reading a poem, filled with racism…can we look past it enough to appreciate it? It is so much easier to appreciate the poem when listening to it being recited by Lindsay. It is then where you hear the vowels being stretched, the rhythm and the accents. While listening I was able to enjoy the poem, without judging the words or the meaning. I found myself HEARING the words, but not necessarily listening to them or deciphering what they meant. It was exactly what Michelle (the female speaker) mentioned – she was listening but not reading. She heard the sounds and in her mind, she made it into a sound poem.

    It is also important (I think) to appreciate the fact that this poem was different from the rest. Other than the content being troublesome, the structure itself didn’t fit the way poetry was being taught in those times. Michelle pointed out that Lindsay showed that poetry can have instructions in the margins and be zany. There are different kinds of poems and Lindsay’s style was definitely one of them. One thing that I loved was when Michelle stated that this poem was written in a way in which it can come alive on the page every time it was performed.

    In the end of the podcast, I found myself answering that first speakers question (and initially my own) of whether or not you can “get past” the racial imagery in this poem in order to appreciate it. I suppose at the end of listening to Lindsay read his poem, I did come to appreciate it. If there was one thing all the speakers firmly agreed on in the end of the podcast, it was that aesthetically speaking, the poem was indeed powerful.

    (I found it interesting that I COULDN’T do this for the sound poetry recordings assigned for the 9/30 class. I guess poetry to me, like I stated in class…should contain some words!)

  2.   sarahcoluccio

    I have to admit, right off the bat, that I enjoyed this week’s jazz/beat poetry much better than last week’s sound poetry (or music, or whatever we all decided it was in the end..I’m still not quite sure).

    The piece I found myself reacting the most to was the American Haikus by Jack Kerouac. I felt while I was listening to them that they were not only genuine and sincere writing on his part, but that each beat of music in between the poems themselves were so deliberate and thought out that the whole thing felt like a very well organized piece of music to me, and that it would fall apart if a single word or musical note was changed or removed. To me, this is what beat poetry truly is – something that on one hand can sound completely disorganized, jumbled and thrown together haphazardly, and yet on the other hand is so obviously compiled piece by piece, methodically and purposefully, so that it flows and has a genuine rhythm to it.

    This leads me to the other piece I responded to, Howl. I was vaguely familiar with it fore this class, having heard bits and pieces, but this was my first time listening to the poem in its entirety. I particularly like the way in which Ginsberg gives each individual line or group he mentions enough emphasis so as to make it sound like each line is the most important in the entire poem, or is the crucial ending, before he moves on to the next line and does it all over again. I think it had something to do with his tone, and the way in which he repeated the beginning of each line, as if to show that while they all had the potential to blend in to one another, they also had the ability to stand out, and almost act as individual poems on their own, rather than simply as lines in one great poem.

  3.   nmatth01

    “They were interested in attacking, disorganizing, and in the case of Ginsberg and Corso, reorganizing the structure of human sensibility as such through a revolutionary use of language, the overturning of the old patterns of logic and syntax.”—Rexroth on “The Beats”

    Putting the mutual dislike amongst Rexroth and Kerouac aside, the evolution of a “beat aesthetic” was brought to the forefront through the Six Gallery Reading. As Kerouac recalls it in Dharma Bums:

    Anyway I followed the whole gang of howling poets to the reading at Gallery Six that night, which was, among other important things, the night of the birth of the San Francisco Renaissance……..everybody was milling around wondering what had happened and what would come next in American Poetry.
    (p,13-16)

    While current critical treatment takes pains to differentiate the “San Francisco Poets” from “The Beats”, one can’t help but notice the similarities inherent amongst both parties. Much can be said about Snyder’s influence upon Kerouac’s haiku style, while similarly, Ginsberg’s own style is heavily steeped in the origins of Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”. The reality here being, that attempting to put labels only further muddies the waters while the true purpose is slowly forgotten. It is no surprise that of all the poets that performed at the Six Gallery reading, that the one poem that endures to this day (and is continually anthologized) is Ginsberg’s “Howl”.

    Without going into a full analysis, “Howl”‘s entire first part is ripe with references to his “beat” contemporaries and what they perceived as a burgeoning movement away from conformity. Lines such as, ” N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver—”, and “who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit”, are channeling the collective energy of the movement through the individual actions of its members (Cassady, and Burroughs respectively). Ginsberg’s “Howl”, like Kerouac’s “On The Road” (regardless of Rexroth’s denunciations), succeeded in creating and illuminating a growing sensibility of disillusionment in post-war America. The “Beat Generation’s” subsequent attempts at marginalization, experimentation, and hedonism, while constantly calling into question their credibility as artists, ultimately allowed for the birth of a style (both written and performed) that still resonates today.

    -Nick

  4.   jaygwelsh

    I believe it was Robert Frost who said something to the effect that writing poetry without structure was like “playing tennis without a net.” And although I’m generally defensive for modern poetry and its insistence on thinking outside of the box, I’ve always found myself hard-pressed to appreciate the beat poets. That’s not to say I haven’t given them the chance – I certainly have, reading a lot of the poetry and fiction of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and so on and so forth from that school of poetry.

    I think the reason why I’ve always found myself biased against the beat poets can be found in Jack Kerouac’s “American Haikus”. I’ve always read that the beat poets wanted to eschew tradition and just fervently reach out in all directions like the Romantics. But the beat poets wanted to be so far ahead of the game that they couldn’t even be defined. However, they contradicted their main tenet: in their effort to remain without a label, they gave themselves a label. This manifests itself in the Ginsberg text, where it mentions that Kerouac defined the beat movement so as to deter misinterpretations of its roots (237).

    But the beats gave themselves a definition on a subtler level. When I listened to “American Haikus”, it struck me as being the archetypal beat poem. The nonsensical scatting, the introduction of the saxophone, the coffeehouse atmosphere. If this was published tomorrow instead of decades ago, it would be considered more a satire than the pinnacle of the beat movement. When I heard “American Haiku”, I heard every amateurish beat poem/slam poem/etc that has been written since. I’m sure it was revolutionary to the audience of the time, but now it just rings generic.

    That’s not to say I’m a feverish opponent of this movement. I’ve always liked Allen Ginsberg. It’s funny because just now when I was typing his name, I almost wrote Walt Whitman. Because, in a sense, he reminds me of Whitman. Both had the same long, scraggly beard; both wrote long, flowing lines; both made an attempt to take a picture of America all at once. True, Ginsberg could be seen as something of a reverse Whitman; even a quick glance at “Howl” betrays a pessimistic view of America’s direction, an inverse of Whitman’s poetry, notably “America”. I refuse to consider Ginsberg to be a bastardized Whitman, though. True, both may be heading in opposite directions, but both are walking with quick paces. I cannot say that I know too much of Ginsberg’s reading habits; sufficed to say, however, I can’t help but think that Ginsberg kept a picture of Whitman over his writing desk. “A Supermarket in California” comes to mind as evidence for the Whitman-Ginsberg Connection (that almost sounds like the title for the next Dan Brown book).

    And, I don’t know…I just always found a certain sincerity in Whitman’s words that have carried over to Ginsberg’s. I suppose it has something to do with the flowing, conversational vibe from both of their works. And also how, at times, their words tend to be a bit too honest and graphic for some people’s tastes. With honesty comes sincerity (a correlation proved by causation). Meanwhile, Kerouac (and those who have adopted his style) sounds so artificial. I don’t know if it’s because the words seem more like simply, plucky rests on the saxophonist’s sheet music or if it’s because he seems to sacrifice meaning for some superficial, aesthetic value. Or maybe it’s all of that. So I must disagree with what Sarah said, that Kerouac comes across as an earnest and sincere poet. Kerouac has always seemed to me to be as honest as a magician, making everything seem so natural you almost forget that it’s all a rehearsed act (although I do agree with you Sarah on Ginsberg’s talent for making every word seem to stand out).

    I’m afraid that I’m running ahead of myself here. Let me try and redeem my loquaciousness. I suppose I can end with a question. I feel like the popular sentiment is that modern day poetry – specifically slam poetry – has so many undeniable roots in beat poetry, what with the aspects of performance, musicality, and shunning of traditional poetry forms. At the same time, though, modern slam places a lot of emphasis on didacticism and leaving the audience with some message, generally a social one. Could we argue that modern slam poetry owes more credit to modernist poetry of the 1910s and 20s – the example this week being Lindsay’s “Congo” – than beat poetry? I’m just curious because the modernist poetry seems more intent on being literary and reading messages on several layers whereas the beat poetry focuses (or rather unfocuses) on musicality while shunning a social responsibility. Of course, this has nothing to do with the fact that I adore modernist poetry.

    -James

  5.   mmullin1

    The found myself really into the whole “beat generation.” I really like how the poetry is performed. When someone can do something that they wroe down or have a passion for, I feel like it’s always better to say it aloud rather than having someone read it. The way you can articulate certain parts of the work do more justice to the meaning and attitude you are attempting to convey. Poets like Ginsberg and Lindsay have a certain rythem to their poems that almost sound like songs or rants that actually rhyme. In particular, “The Congo” was way better when I listened to it then when I read it. The way he changed his voice it was almost like there were instruments behind him and he was staying in tune. He would raise his voice and then make himself sound real bassy. Another question I would like to raise also is do you think -from at least the Ginsberg and Lindsay examples- that the poetry and the way it was performed could be a product of society at that point in time?

  6.   Najila

    I made a few sporadic notes while listening to the links and going over the readings. It was a pleasant experience and kind of gave me the opportunity to free write.
    I had almost a similar reaction as Needa (?) regarding the podcast on Linday’s “The Congo,” as soon as the host asked how one can get past the racism in the piece. Should we have to get past it? If you do manage to get past an aspect of a piece, is the piece still the same, is it still itself? But at the same time, if we don’t touch upon something like racism in a piece, are we guilty of ignoring an important aspect of what makes the poem important with the idea of examining the piece as a whole and just a product of its time. though racism is wrong no matter when or where or who says it, I sometimes wonder if we, as an audience, can hold the artist responsible years after his or her time and judge them by the same standards we have today. Dante’s Inferno was mentioned at one point and whenever I think of Dante’s Inferno I think of how offensive it is in some parts.

    I found Hughes’ piece “The Weary Blues” easy to listen to, the rhymes and rhythms really set the piece a part for me and at one point, I remember thinking that this could easily be lyrics to a song and all that was missing was basically the instrumental background music. While on the opposite spectrum, listening to “Howl,” I realized, not for the first time, how much it sounds like a speech that is being given by a politician or an academic figure. It’s performed almost without any emotions unlike Amiri Baraka’s or other pieces we’ve listened to. It is easy to listen to even if it’s hard to understand..

    One thing that stuck out for me in the “Counterculture” piece was the small paragraph on what the significance the Beat movement had. Rexroth writes “It was the form in which the mass disaffiliation of postwar youth from a commercial, predatory, and murderous society first came to the attention of that society itself” (p 5). I feel that this is true and can be said for today’s time – without getting too political. There is a reason why some of today’s youth is still very much interested in Kerouac’s “On the Road” and why movies about the Beat Generation/figures are still being made – one called “Howl” starring James Franco having come out as recently as some time this year. As politics become more and more prevalent in our years, it makes me wonder what the next generation will invent as a means to come to terms with the world or react to or rebel against it.

  7.   Joshua Lindenbaum

    Even though his voice was dry, hoarse, and he dragged syllables on unnecessarily for way too long . . . Kenneth Patchen’s “Four Blues Poems” intrigued me. I found his words to be image provoking and filled with symbols. What the symbols mean — I have no idea. I think part of the poem is about people wasting their time: “We have not done much that is beautiful.” The speaker of this poem feels that people can do more with their life than going to saloons. It bothers the speaker that people are given the gift of life and never unwrap it. Instead the “the day dies in [their] arms.” What an amazing image! It’s an image of time, or rather the loss of it. As far as this “white horse” goes . . . I have no clue what it means. When I hear “white horse,” I think of coke, but in regards to this symbol_ I’m at a loss.

    “The wrestling fingers of the sun” is a beautiful personification. That’s all I have to say about that.

    The rhythm of his voice or lack their of, did not follow the flow of the jazz music in the background. The music was a nice accompaniment, but he seemed tone death. Overall, I really enjoyed the lyrics, but not how they were performed.

  8.   coreyfrost

    Very much looking forward to the discussion tomorrow. I know there’s a lot to digest in this week’s readings, especially if this is your first exposure to jazz poetry or beat poetry — which, I feel I should emphasize, may overlap but are not the same thing. We’re looking at poets whose careers spanned the entire 20th century, but nevertheless it’s interesting to see if we can spot a through-line or a kind of genealogy. I was intrigued particularly by James’ comments about the similarities between Ginsberg and Whitman, which of course have often been remarked on—even in the 1957 obscenity trial that focused on “Howl,” the poem was explicitly compared to “Leaves of Grass” (the comparison was sometimes favorable, and other times not, with one witness for the prosecution saying that “Howl” was simply a cheap imitation of Whitman’s style). Maybe we’ll talk a bit about how big a sensation that poem was when it was published—the story of which can be partly seen in the new film that Najila mentioned starring James Franco as Ginsberg.

    I’d also like to talk about what Nick was saying about the commonalities between the Beats and the San Francisco Renaissance poets, and how there were multiple threads of influence between them. Some of the most interesting SF poets of the time (I think Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer are both particularly great) were not considered Beats (that term of course can’t be pinned down too precisely, but Ginsberg et al. were themselves somewhat invested in determining who was or who wasn’t). And this discussion of community and influence extends to influence from beyond the specific time and place. James mentioned modernist poets, for example: it’s interesting to think about the inter-relatedness of the Beats and jazz, the Harlem Renaissance, and modernism, even back to the Dadaists, and also to the Romantics (William Blake was another hero of Ginsberg). But before we get carried away, we’ll start perhaps by talking about what you heard in the poems from our 21st-century perspective. Did anyone else feel, like James did, that any of the performances sound cliché or contrived to the modern ear?

  9.   dsykes

    Unfortunately, I felt unable to fully grasp a great deal of the audio performances this week. The listening materials related to Rhythm and Beats proved to be the exact opposite of my experience with sound poetry: the insistent, face paced style and the incessant droning became incomprehensible and impossible to follow- to the point of losing track of what they are even talking about, a burden sound poetry had relieved. One line in particular seemed to encompass my experience in listening to both “Howl” and “The Congo”: In the audio of Congo I, Allen Ginsbery spouts out “yaketay yakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars.” I was unable to follow the audio primarily due to the nature of performance. I was better able to understand the words as I followed textual materials, but the style of performance drew me away and distracted me to the point of not being able to concentrate on the content. Several words and phrases were completely incomprehensible… I just picked up on words a few words like “unemployment offices… opium… lamb stew… push carts full of onions…” I began to lose track of the content and the poem became just a listing of “those who did this who did that and those who did this who did that…who threw potato salad… instantaneous lobotomy… who did this… ping pong table… ” for what seemed like an impossible amount of time- I forgot who he was even talking about. While trying to hold onto the words being spouted out at me, I found myself resisting the audio- in the same way that I tend to resent the message of someone who is talking “at” me rather than “to” me.
    So in the same nature we attempted to analyze why so many students disliked the sound poetry in our last class, I began to wonder what was bothering me so much about the audio text this week. I began to ask myself- what is the point of introducing a subject and then continuing on and on and on about the actions and random intellectual experiences that leave us lost and without a connection to the subject? As my mind was spinning in the abyss of spouted information I realized that my disorientation might have been the intended effect of the style. Trying to understand was as much of a battle as what was I believe the diction and tone emphasized as the experience Ginsberg attempted to convey. In a sense, through subjecting me to a barrage of statements, the style was able to evoke the experience of the subject to the point at which I found myself to be the subject-unable to understand what was going on around me, why it was happening and why these actions were being performed.
    I feel that analysis of our experience listening to The Congo and Howl might reveal something about the nature of the intentional and affective fallacy in performative work; I am very interested in discussing the effect of this style on the rest of the class in an attempt to discover what the motive of the style is and if it reached the audience successfully.

  10.   srogers101

    What happens with no net? Everyone wins? Or perhaps it no longer matters because it’s rather pleasant to hit a ball back and forth without the messiness of obstruction (Rexworth should probably avoid the lower east side of Manhattan). Sport as analogy is useful because it’s one of the more tangible examples of winning and losing i.e. better and worse. Rules are essentially standards and it’s the behavior within the construct of rules that exhibits superior manipulation of a particular closed system. Populism’s intent on eradicating limit as a means to rebel and ultimately unite is for the most part bullshit, not to sound as cranky as Rexworth or Harold Bloom or James Wood or any other captious critic out there. So I’m gonna have to go with James on this one in that nihilism isn’t liberating mostly because there’s no such thing. It’s ephemeral in nature as it only becomes the eventual source of new and convenient rules for the iconoclast that initiated the rebellion of the original rules he just didn’t approve of at the time. Everything (and I don’t mean in this in the hippy dippy weatherman way but in like the math way) has form because it’s coming to be is the natural evolution of its possibility (and that is the case yo). As in “yo” is a colloquial form of punctuating a thought so as to draw attention by breaking a rule of convention and if there were no convention there would be little room to rebel or at least draw attention to one’s self and that would be particularly boring. This I love her; I hate her relationship to rules is evident in just how much Whitman pervades the subsequent American poetry. There’s a whole Freudian, Oedipal wanna murder him but he’s pretty awesome relationship there that as much as they look to kill the guy he keeps coming back, sort of like Jigsaw every October.
    This is not to say specific rules themselves are perpetually useful but rules as a concept is inevitable and the mature thing to do would be to directly confront the rules and make them better. As in we used to think 5 black people were worth 3 white people (and we’re talking 3 white people no one who mattered would even talk to) but eventually it occurred to some of the more progressive types (Vachel aside) that the rule is at the very least not going to impede the eventual imbalance in the congressional seating of a country obsessed with expansion (and (reluctantly so) that it’s on the mean side as rules go). It’s this confrontation of rules with the hope of solution and awareness of hypocrisy as a breathing thing that generated (for me) the more interesting poems of Hughes and Ginsberg. The intertextual referencing of Whitman (sorry if this just sort of repeats James’ post) creates an identifiable progenitor of a tradition that alienates despite egalitarian rhetoric. Despite the “the abundance” of the country there remains the existence of perceptual divides that “does not an ipod cure” and it’s the inability to coalesce and forget the specious a priori misconceptions that to continue exist well beyond our guy Vachel that can still make people feel like shit. So that’s where I’d like to quibble with Rexworth’s idea that a homeless guy’s capacity to collect enough everyday to buy a fifth of Georgi and a couple of loosies as the indivisible object of a logical system of moral propositions. But where I’d like to agree with him is that art can’t endure as nihilistic remnants of transient counter cultures more interested in providing an excuse to get laid than serve as a legitimate source to change the plagues of a nation that suffers from its own abundance. The surplus of which enabled the misguided “liberation” of nihilism and rendered a public to stupefaction by compulsion.

  11.   mooneydanielle7

    Okay I really enjoyed this week’s material much more than last weeks (so I won’t be going on a rant tomorrow night like I did last week)! I thought Langston Hughs has a melodic voice and really enjoyed his reading of “the Weary Blues.” I also enjoyed his other poems that were just the text versions. I also really liked “Howl” and thought it was very enjoyable to listen to, and very well crafted with lots of great images that made it fun to listen to and very vivid to imagine. I did not enjoy the haikus– I’ve never really enjoyed haikus. The “Four Blues Poems” was difficult to listen to, for me at least, because of the jazz music in the background. My ear would go to the music instead of the words.

    Of the articles, I found the excerpt from “Ginsberg: Selected Prose” to be fascinating because this is my first exposure to the Beats. The article made this movement sound so bold and inspiring. It made me wonder what a modern-day equivalent might be, and the only thing I can think of is how blogs and the trend of “self-publishing,” I guess I can call it, is used on the internet today. I mean people always come up with new ways to give a raw and uncharted account of how they feel or wish to express themselves.

    I don’t have as much to say as usual, but I really enjoyed this week’s material.

  12.   Sean Nicholson

    My favorite piece that we listened to this week was ‘Howl’ by Ginsberg. I had heard excerpts of the piece before but this was the first time that I had the chance to listen and relisten, (you can reread, can you relisten?), to the work in its entirety. While coming dangerously close to sound poetry, Ginsberg is back in the realm where I’m more comfortable, using words. The beauty of his performance was in the unique way that he annunciated and emphasized each line. To steal from Sarah’s posting, “…the way in which he repeated the beginning of each line, as if to show that while they all had the potential to blend in to one another, they also had the ability to stand out, and almost act as individual poems on their own, rather than simply as lines in one great poem.” Well said.

    To comment on Najila’s comment on Needa’s comment, I don’t think we can always hold writers of other ages up to our 21st Century ideas of what is acceptable. This does not mean that we cannot point out the fact that things in the work are racist, it just means that we always have to take into account the cultural context in which the work was produced. In the same way, if those of us in the 21st Century were held up against the social mores and traditions of earlier generations we would be viewed as inappropriate in terms of our styles of dress, manners, and observance of tradition. The point that I’m trying to make is that a writer can only be held to the standards of the time when the work was produced, anything else has nothing to do with authorial intention and simply becomes conversational fodder for graduate classes. When giving examples Najila brought up “Dante’s Inferno”, but the book that this made me really think about was everyone’s favorite assigned reading, “Heart of Darkness”. Despite being extremely offensive in its portrayal of Africans it continues to be assigned on campuses across the country. With a work like that there is no way to “look past the racism”, only the ability to put it in proper historical context.

  13.   gfl11131988

    Queens College
    Professor Corey Frost
    ENGL 781
    Response # 5
    George Festin Lorenzo
    10/7/2010

    Another week of an interesting topic and this time it is the way the Harlem Renaissance, as well as Jazz and other forms of poetry, influenced the art of oral literature. One very interesting essay that was quite straightforward was Allen Ginsberg’s, A Definition of the Beat Generation. Ginsberg goes into fine detail about what truly constituted as the “beat generation”, and discusses five interpretations that have an impact on the phrase. Ginsberg goes over how the term itself was invented in the 1950’s but from there, the definition of it has evolved, from the feeling of being tired to the liberation of specific arts.
    Sean brought up a very interesting point when he said in his response that, “Sport as analogy is useful because it’s one of the more tangible examples of winning and losing i.e. better and worse. Rules are essentially standards and it’s the behavior within the construct of rules that exhibits superior manipulation of a particular closed system”. I completely agree with Sean being that I myself utilize many analogies involving sports being the complex rules system and specific plays that could occur because of the way the rules work. That brings up the point, what truly is the definition of a “beat generation”? Well, when I think of “beat generation”, I think of the final definition, in which this was when artists, music producers, and other influential people, went out there and created new forms of art that helped shape popular culture and how those effects are still felt to this day.
    However, Kenneth Rexroth may disagree, being that in his text, The Making of the Counterculture, he writes, “There is probably more misunderstanding and misinformation current about the Beat Generation than any other phenomenon in contemporary culture. This is due to the fact that the sensational press were quick to seize on the Beat writers and to reconstruct them in their own image”. So, in many ways, perhaps the definition of a “beat generation”, is simply a form of a social construct created by the media and the press. Regardless, it is hard to argue the strong influence the “beat generation” has had in our culture, especially in the world of oral literature.

  14.   pseraphin

    I was unable to listen to the langston Hughes reading, only the poem came up but I must say that I enjoyed listening to the podcast and the “Congo”. At firts I tought the introduction of the poets was a bit too long but when they started talking and anserwing questions it became an interesting panel.
    The reading of “The COngo” was particulary interesting because the recording quality influenced the reading a lot. At first I heard a lot of booms and thought here we go again! Because it sounded a bit like last week’s poems. Then I heard words and sentences in between the booms and liked the effect. Then the sound quality added a noise which I think made it a bit scary to listen to and a bit tense.

  15.   Elizabeth

    My first impression of “Howl” was that it made me feel like a crazy person. The repetitions, the stream of consciousness text, the insistence of the sound of Kerouac’s voice—it made me feel like I was going nuts. I suppose that’s okay—as they said in the podcast, poems are allowed to be zany. But for me, it was almost too much to handle. I know that beat poetry can be just about anything that the author wants it to be, but I felt “beat” by the weirdness of it. I started with the shorter section that kept repeating MOAH MOAH. It was almost hypnotic and seemed to be referring to God or to a god, at least. I suppose this is one of the “beats” that Ginsburg refers to in his essay. I don’t think I liked Howl very much, although I feel like I’m supposed to.

    I would also like to respond briefly to the podcast. I, like the woman who was speaking, had not read “The Congo”, I only listened to it. Without being able to distinguish the words, it interested me; I even liked it. The deep rhythms and the cadence of Lindsay’s voice was really quite appealing. When I found out how racist it was, I was disappointed. I agree that we can’t “look past” the racism in the text. However, I did find something positive in listening to it. It reminded me almost of Amiri Baraka’s poem in that it told the story through the rhythm as well as the words.

  16.   Jason G.

    There is something very powerful about spoken word. While the poem itself holds weight we don’t know for sure how intense the energy is behind the words until it is read by the poet himself. Ginsberg’s Howl for example is a great example of this. While his poem holds a great deal of weight in it’s stark images and unexpected turns I feel you don’t get the full affect until you hear Ginsberg read it in his urgent and sometimes frantic style.

    To touch on Professor Frost’s question I would say Howl, which was written in 1956 is not cliche’ or contrived in the least. I would dare to say that this poem is ahead of it’s time. For one thing some of the lines made me visualize modern day images. For example: “angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night”. In relation to modern day spoken word/beat poetry, I would say this poem is significant as it is similar to the style we see today in spoken/beat artists. While modern day performances are more consistent in flow and generally snappier in delivery I feel Ginsberg work is an accurate representation of the origin of this style.

    Jason G.

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  • Listening “Literature” implies a written text. But what about the audiotext? Why do we refer to the “audience” (from the Latin audiens, listening) of a literary work? This course is about listening to literature and reading performance. ____________________________________
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