Wednesday, October 07, 2009


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,
Today marks the anniversary of the reading of Howl at the Six Gallery in San Francisco...the forming of the core of the Beat poets. They took up a collection from the 100 people who attended and Kerouac brought back jugs of red wine to pass around while the poets read. Ginsberg was doing his first public reading at age Kerouac chanted "go go go" in rhythm with the long lines Ginsberg read in a single breath. The crowd was frenzied by the end.

I may have written about Howl before. Ginsberg always makes me feel like I'm wasting my life, somehow... I don't know who the best minds of my generation are. And I should, shouldn't I? I mean, even if I don't know them personally, I should at least be able to say "oh yes...well these people are the best minds of my generation because..." So grr to that.

But, truthfully, i
t's the "angelheaded hipsters" notion that I love... I love the thought of sitting around some half-lit room talking long into the night. I love the idea of people debating ideas and wondering things and gesticulating wildly as they pontificate....smoking horrible cigarettes and downing shots of burning liquor and making music and poetry and ideas. Maybe nobody outside the room will ever hear any of them...but maybe that's not the point. And my part in this little fantasy? I mostly listen, I imagine...adding my thoughts to the melee when the time is right. I'm not really part of this group, and I know it...but in my imagining, they allow me. Somehow, that's enough.

"Peggy Sue Got Married" wasn't a fantastic movie by any means...but the character of Michael Fitzsimmons was endlessly fascinating to me. Even then (when I was much younger), the whole tortured-soul beat poet motif moved me. I'm far too practical to indulge the notion beyond the overly-romanticized ideas I cook up...but I like to dabble in the thought of it. And Howl, for me, is kind of the culmination of that whole oeuvre...a whiskey-burn of a toast to the heart and spirit and madness of all the best minds I've never known.

ell done, Allen. Well done.

1 comment:

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Nice. I wrote about Howl in my blog today, too (