Beat Rules

Richard Wilbur was a truly fine poet – a Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. poet laureate – but one suspects his influence on the culture has been largely limited to the increasingly insular, hermetic circle of academic poetry. It’s the work of Kerouac and his fellow Beats that has kept poetry alive as a cultural force in its most vibrant contemporary forms: poetry slams, song lyrics, rap music. In the work of artists from Bob Dylan to Jim Morrison to Cee-Lo, Talib Kweli and Jill Scott, one hears the influence of Kerouac, LeRoi Jones and Allen Ginsberg. …

The enduring appeal of the Beats comes from affirmation, not negation, in the way Gregory Corso here affirms his identity as a poet:

And of all the fires that die within me,
there’s one burns like the sun;
it might not make day my personal life,
my association with people,
or my behavior toward society,
but it does tell me my soul has a shadow.

Beat Poets, edited by Carmela Ciuraru, reviewed by Michael Harrington. ( The Philadelphia Inquirer 14.8.02)

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