The Spirit of the Female Beats

“Women of the Beat weren’t afraid to get dirty. They were compassionate, careless,charismatic, marching to a different drummer, out of step. Muses who birthed a poetryso raw and new and full of power that it changed the world. Writers whose words weavespells, whose stories bind, whose vision blinds. Artists for whom curing the disease of artkills.” – Women of the Beat Generation (Brenda Knight, 1998)
This month, Film Streams presents Howl, a movie about Allen Ginsberg’s astounding poem.One of the original “beat” generation, which Jack Kerouac defined in 1957 as “a generationof furtives…a weariness of all the forms, all the conventions of the world,” Ginsberg’s poemignited a controversy over freedom of speech and expression; the publisher of “Howl” wasarrested but in 1957 the courts ruled the poem was not obscene.
Ginsberg and Kerouac, along with Charles Olson, William Burroughs and others are theusual Beat-writing mentionables; but what of the women of the group? The writings ofDenise Levertov, Hettie Jones, Joyce Johnson, Anne Waldman, Joan Vollmer, Diane DiPrima,Jane Bowles and others during that time exhibit enlightening spirit and inventiveness in away only the female spirit can.
Lit Undressed invites you to submit your poetry, short-short fiction or essays (up to 200words) inspired by the spirit of the women of the Beat movement. Selected works will beread during the next Lit Undressed performance at RNG Gallery in March live by nude figuremodels, by authors, or with excerpts painted by an artist on models’ bodies. Submit worksto by December 15. See Facebook page for more information.


***The above text was written by the good people at Lit Undressed.


4 Comments to “The Spirit of the Female Beats”

  1. thanks for the info david…sounds interesting…maybe i’ll write one about patti and see if it is accepted. she transcends time.

  2. Yeah, Corso was wrong when he told my ex-wife that, but she was feeling down and out at the time (We were sleeping in the back of my station wagon, living on my unemployment, while we attended the Bisbee poetry festival and heard Corso read and talked to him), and not much in 1984 was around about women beats, so she agreed with him. However, her novel, Afoot in in a Field of Men, was accepted by Atlantic Monthly Press by Joyce Johnson, formerly associated with Jack K and author of “Minor Characters”. Pat Littledog’s book is a Texas beat classic. You can buy a used copy of it for about fifty cents on the web. She always denied she was a feminist, but was greatly influenced by feminist thought, and had a love/hate relationship with the male Beats as a result.

  3. My favorite Female writers have been Carolyn and Diana, Carolyn Cassady’s memoir ‘Off The Road’ is touchingly starry-eyed and wistful in its evocation of Neal Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg, but the writing is again conventional, and in fact gives the impression that this upper-middle class Bennington girl was way over her head when she found herself in this milieu. Other memoirists included in these anthologies, like Kerouac’s daughter Jan Kerouac or Eileen Kaufman, flavour their work with jazz rhythms and Beat attitude, but their work feels clearly derivative. It is the women whose voices declare a modest independence from male beat rebelliousness who stand out here. Diane di Prima and Anne Waldman, extend Beat styles and concerns without unduly suffering from Ginsberg’s hefty shadow. These two women the twin towers of women’s achievement in beat-influenced poetry who have gone on to institutionalize Beat writing at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and the Master’s Program of Poetics at the New College in San Francisco are featured in both anthologies with selections like Di Prima’s technically masterful “The Quarrel” and her justly famous “Rant,” Diane di Prima’ s Memoirs of a Beatnik goes a step further in acknowledging women ‘s real involvement in the shaping of the Beat counterculture. Rather than being molded, as in male representations, women are the one with initiative, capable to assert themselves by the act of writing. More free spirited and opinionated than any woman of the 50s, Diane di Prima has always had strong political beliefs and no fear in voicing literary thoughts in her active correspondence with Ezra Pound, Kenneth Patchen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg.

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