Beats- Critical Writing

The Beat movement began in the 1950s; the poets varied greatly in methods of writing and delivery. The common theme that linked Beat poets together was their desire to be individual and free to express themselves as well as their scorn for materialistic possessions.

Following the return of veterans from the Second World War, a housing crisis emerged that resulted in many families moving out further into suburbia. Women reverted back to their housewife roles and Men became the sole breadwinners in the family. It was a major step back for women who had taken up the mantle of ‘male’ job roles throughout the war. However, in the postwar era Americans enjoyed unprecedented personal prosperity as the economy boomed, the rise of technology such as cars meant that suburbia was an option as travel was easier.

Music underwent an important transformation that resulted in the emergence of Rock and Roll; this brought about an intermingling of black and white artists and audiences, especially amongst the younger generation, the anti-conformist youth. This resulted in the production of the ‘Hipster’. The Hispster was described as a man who “has a rebellious instinct and his eyes wide open”, they developed their own social and cultural norms as well as an awareness of what is going on around them. This phenomenon is known as the ‘American Existentialist”; moral and ethical values can only be created once a choice or action has been made. There were three key characteristics that made an existentialist:

1) One must be able to feel oneself.

2) One must know ones desires.

3) One must be aware of the character of ones frustration.

The common denominator is “the individual” and “the individual’s own choices”. These ‘Hipsters’ followed or became part of the Beat movement.

Some Beat writers wrote pieces focussed on Buddhism, it became a popular religion amongst this crowd as they wished to understand human nature,gain insights into the being, existence and reality of mankind.

Allen Ginsberg was known for ‘Howl’ which became a spearhead of the Beat Movement; a movement against materialism and conformity in the post WWII America. Jack Kerouac was another icon of the Beat Generation who was well known for his work on spontaneous prose.

After researching the Beat Generation and the Beat Movement I trialled different ways of writing Beat Poetry. None of which allowed the expression of what I wanted to say in a comprehensible way. Although I found the idea of spontaneous prose daunting, I decided that this would be the best form for my Beat Poem. I chose a theme of Body pressure in today’s society as a focus for my poem as I felt that this was a relevant issue in today’s society that I felt strongly about and I felt that it worked particularly well with the antimaterialistic purpose of the original Beat poetry in the 50s as well as the rebellion against capitalism and commercialism.

I sat and wrote without stopping, pausing or editing from start to finish. Once I had finished writing I recorded a reading of my poem to try and accurately transfer it from paper to screen, I noticed that punctuation was very loosely used in Beat poetry as a rebellion against literary tradiions. Keeping this in mind whilst I typed up my poem, I indicated a breath by starting a new sentence. I used ‘–‘ if a breath was required in the middle of a point, as this was used by Jazz musicians and within Beat poetry.

Allen Ginsberg was fond of repetition within his poems, as such I chose to repeat ‘fake’ throughout my poem as well as listing multiple things in one sentence in an attempt to show Maximalism. The whole poem was in a free verse, rather than a coherent structure.  Whilst I did not enter a drug induced state to write my poem, I did try and clear my mind of clutter and write unobstructively focussing only on the main point of my poem.


Photo Sources: