Beat Generation

The so-called Beat Generation was a whole bunch of people, of all different nationalities, who came to the conclusion that society sucked. -- Amiri Baraka

But yet, but yet, woe, woe unto those who think that the Beat Generation means crime, delinquency, immorality, amorality ... woe unto those who attack it on the grounds that they simply donít understand history and the yearning of human souls ... woe in fact unto those who those who make evil movies about the Beat Generation where innocent housewives are raped by beatniks! ... woe unto those who spit on the Beat Generation, the windíll blow it back. -- Jack Kerouac

Three writers does not a generation make. -- Gregory Corso

Nobody knows whether we were catalysts or invented something, or just the froth riding on a wave of its own. We were all three, I suppose. -- Allen Ginsberg

The term 'beat generation' was introduced by Jack Kerouac sometime around 1948 to describe his social circle.

The Beat Generation, also known as the beat movement, were a group of American writers who emerged in the 1950s. Among its most influential members were Gary Snyder, the radical poet Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.

Jack Kerouac was the acknowledged leader and spokesman for the Beat Generation. What could be loosely described as the underlying philosophy was visionary enlightenment, Zen Buddhism, Amerindian culture. The Beat Generation were centred around the artist colonies of North Beach (San Francisco), Venice West (Los Angeles) and Greenwich Village (New York City). The Beat Generation rejected the prevailing academic attitude to poetry, feeling that poetry should be brought to the people. Readings would take place in the Coexistence Bagel Shop and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, often to the accompaniment of Jazz. A common theme that linked them all together was a rejection of the prevailing American middle-class values, the purposelessness of modern society and the need for withdrawal and protest.

The major Beat writings include Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Allen Ginsberg's Howl, and William Burroughs' Naked Lunch. Both Howl and Naked Lunch became the focus of obscenity trials in the United States that helped to liberalize what could be legally published.

Allen Ginsberg said some essential effects of Beat Generation artistic movement could be characterized in the following terms:

Bob Dylan, The Beatles were heavily influenced by the Beat Generation. Members like Allen Ginsberg were influential in the anti-war movement. Others who were influenced include: Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Country Joe and the Fish, Crosby Stills Nash and Young. The Beat Generation were followed by the hippies, anti-war movement, which led to the environmental movement, deep ecology and Earth First!

The Beat Generation inspired the Black Mountain poets, so named as they wrote for the Black Mountain Review. The Black Mountain poets were a loose group of poets who coalesced around Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan and Charles Olson while they were teaching at Black Mountain College, North Carolina. Their style was typified by a move away from the structured poetry of T S Eliot to a freer, looser style. The essay 'Projective Verse' by Charles Olson became the group manifesto. Creeley edited the Black Mountain Review, which featured the work of William Carlos Williams, Paul Blackburn, Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder. Much of the group's early work was published in Origin.

The Beats were in turn influenced by William Blake, Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau.


The term 'deep ecology' was coined by its founder and leading guru, the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess. Deep ecology is the philosophy of environmental ethics, the spirituality of Gaia. Deep ecology leads to direct action.
Literature ~ Allen Ginsberg ~ Jack Kerouac ~ Gary Snyder ~ Henry David Thoreau ~ Walt Whitman
(c) Keith Parkins 2005 -- March 2005 rev 1