Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(1.2) San Francisco Poets and the Beats

San Francisco Poets

- San Francisco Bay area becomes the seat of avant-garde arts, including dance, theatre, literature, etc.

- the former cultural centres of New York and Boston are left by writers who seek more liberal places like SF

- besides the migration from the East of the USA there is also a wave of emigration from Asia through the SF Bay

- in 1930s the economic depression hits the arts, writers come to be supported by the government so that they could write

- the literature of the period captures the changes of the society

Kenneth Rexroth (1905 - 1982)

- the father figure of the 1940s and 1950s poetry, left-wing, anti-establishment, anti-government

- educated, but deliberately chose to write as differently as possible from the mainstream tradition

> "Vitamins and Roughage" (1944):

- describes the California beech sports, while interspersing the poem with allusions to ancient Greeks

- the Greeks were for both intellectual and physical education, but the Californians meets just one of these requirements

> "Proust's Madeleine":

- the poem evolves around a poker chip which evokes in the speaker a remainder of his past

- like in Proust, an everyday object triggers an epiphany unrelated to the object and unproportional in importance

Charles Bukowski (1920 - 1994)

- not related to the San Francisco poets, lived in the Los Angeles area, his work is associated rather with French poetry

- influenced by modernist fiction, Hemingway, Henry Miller's iconoclasm, and Robinson Jeffers's individualism

- began writing short stories and autobiographical poetry

- introduced the persona of his writing, a hard-boiled, rough loser

- opposes traditional literature, mocks self-serious young writers, writes to amuse the reader

- intermixes crude realism with outrages of surrealism

- pays little attention to the form, emphasizes the content

- his work is more respected in Europe than in the USA

> "vegas":

- the first person speaker is a poet or writer in general who is hitch-hiking from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and finds a truck driver who takes him unsympathetic to his contemplation of modernist poetry

- ironically undermines the modernist poets, mocks his poetry class, Gertrude Stein, the Atlantic Monthly, etc.

The Beats

- originally writers from New York who were attracted to San Francisco, California, in 1950s

- rebelled against the consumer bourgeois society, sought the more liberal poet village communities

- as left-wing artists were suspicious in the USA dominated by social conservatism after 1945

- tempted to visionary poetry, influenced by W. Blake, English Romantics, American Transcendentalists, W. Whitman

< influenced by Eastern philosophies, religion and literature

< also drew on the jazz music approaches, its rhythms and improvisations

- opposed the official modes of writing, philosophically highly radical, but as to content mostly built upon visionary poets

Allen Ginsberg (1926 - 1997)

- a left-wing rebelling intellectual, of Jewish origin, a distinctively urban poet

> Kaddish (1959):

- a traditional Jewish mourning poem, in this case on the death of his mother

> Howl (1956):

- a litany poem, the title refers not to an individual's cry but to the expression over a whole generation of young intelligent people who are deliberately destroying themselves by consumer behaviour, materialism, and conformity

- draws on Whitman's celebration of body and mind and his catalogue-like description, but also expresses strong criticism

- adopts the idea of Charles Olson, the initiator of Projectivist Poetry, in writing as long lines as can be pronounced in one breath

Jack Kerouac (1922 - 1969)

- known as a fiction writer (On the Road, 1957), but was also a poet

- concerned with simple major facts of life in a down-to-earth language

> "113th Chorus": (Mexico City Blues, 1959)

- the title of the poem sequence refers originally to a musical composition

- the poem seeks to approximate jazz music

Gary Snyder (b. 1930)

- born at the Western Coast, lived in California and Oregon, moved to San Francisco in 1950s

< influenced by E. Pound, C. Olson, jazz music and avant-garde arts of 1940s - 1950s

- spent some time in Zen Buddhist monasteries in Japan

< influenced by Eastern philosophies and ancient cultures

- employed for some time as a fire-watch in forests

< like R. Jeffers wrote mostly inhuman poems, i.e. poems featuring no human beings, but was not misanthropic as Jeffers

- predominantly a poet of natural observation, concerned with environmental and ecological themes

- takes a Transcendentalist view of nature, but celebrates nature in a calm and restrained tone

- often writes on American Indians

> "Riprap" (Riprap 1959):

- note: ripraps are paths in the mountains built for horses

- the poem is ordered on the page so as to give the visual effect of the mountain path it describes

- compares words, sentences, and poetry as such to path building

> "Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout" (Riprap 1959):

- an image-based poem, built on a series of direct images, contains no action and few verbs

- inspired by his job as a fire-watch, presents the landscape as observed from the top of a hill

- quietly celebrates the nature he sees, like the Transcendentalist author Thoreau appreciates the lonely life in woods

> "Above Pate Valley" (Riprap 1959):

- the speaker works with a party clearing rocks with dynamite to make way for the expansion of civilization

- reflects on the activity of human beings which happens at the expense of natural landscape

- contemplates the heritage of the former inhabitants of the landscape, old civilizations and wild animals alike, which is blasted in a second by the dynamite

Gregory Corso (1930 - 2001)

- like A. Ginsberg uses long forms and long poetic line, but unlike Ginsberg uses playful approach, irony, and humour

- formally relatively conventional, but original and outrageous in content

> "Marriage":

- a witty meditation on whether or not to submit to convention and marry

- the tone of the poem suggest rebellion against convention rather than compliance

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    North American Poetry 1945 - 2002.
  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2008/09.
  • Vyučující

    Jiří Flajšar.
  • Status

    Volitelný seminář pro III. blok.


Flajšar, Jiří. Dějiny americké poezie. Ústí nad Orlicí: Oftis, 2006.

Jařab, Josef. American Poetry and Poets of Four Centuries. Praha: SPN, 1989.

Jařab, Josef, ed. Dítě na skleníku. Praha: Odeon, 1989.


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