Monday, March 28, 2011

The Beat Goes On

It's never been a goal of mine to spark a literary or cultural movement, to live in the eternal cosmos as a person who made a world-shaking, indelible mark....but I guess the idea of achieving that sort of legendary status dances at the edge of any artist's mind. And it certainly never hurts to draw inspiration from the minds and lives and letters of the legendary among us.

All of this is to say that I recently had the pleasure of visiting the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, home of Hotel Boheme and City Lights bookstore, places frequented by Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and friends in their Beat Generation heyday of the 1950's. I've actually never felt a strong connection to these particular writers, but it's still inspiring to walk in their shadows, to browse the shelves that first held their now-famous words, to dwell and dream among their ghosts that seem to linger in the air--at least in the form of memory.

Until now, the Beats existed for me as vague shadows, a vanguard of sorts, but one whose contribution hasn't touched the sphere in which I live. I may have been wrong about that. I read about the Beat poets and the ways they pressed the boundaries of what was considered appropriate and proper by speaking things that were difficult and true. It wasn't an easy road. Ginsburg's published poem HOWL, which sparked the movement, faced (and defeated) obscenity charges on trial in a U.S. court. It seems that, thanks in part to the Beats, the edges of the written word opened wider. It's nice to look back and realize that I am, in some small way, a beneficiary of that effort.

What legends do you look to for inspiration?

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