Portfolio Assignment 7.2: Beat Poem
It is arguable as to who was the better Beat: Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg. Some say it had to be Jack Kerouac, because without him there would be no Beat Generation. Others say Allen Ginsberg was the better Beat because he had more writing talent and was more true to the actual Beat form. Either argument might be true. In the end, however, we can conclude that both writers were integral to the beat movement. We can learn a lot by studying styles and reading works from various poets and authors. However, we can learn even more when we actually write ourselves.
Jack Kerouac was known for observing the world around him, writing everything, and (according to him) editing nothing, though he did edit the spacing so that poems looked like poems. The point of Beat poetry is to allow your mind to open up and let the thoughts flow out of your pen without restraint. Keep in mind Kerouac’s advice mentioned earlier:
- Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy
- Submissive to everything, open, listening
- Be in love with your life
- Something that you feel will find its own form
- Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
- The unspeakable visions of the individual
- In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
- Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
- Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
- The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
- Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
- Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
- Accept loss forever
- Believe in the holy contour of life
- Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
- Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better
- Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in your morning
- No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language & knowledge
- Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it
- You’re a Genius all the time
Your first step is to find an inspiration. It can be anything. Think of Kerouac’s tenth essential, “The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye.” This is very Beat and transcendental at the same time. It means that your inspiration can come from inside of you; you’ll know it when you find it—or when it finds you.
The second step is to just write. This can sometimes be hard for students who want rules and guidelines. For example, if you feel like capitalizing a word, then capitalize it.
For your assignment, find your jewel center of interest and write a Beat poem. The assignment might seem vague, but it is purposely so. The only requirement is that your beat poem needs to be at least ten lines long. You are not required to go through an editing process with your poem—as Kerouac would advocate—but you might be more comfortable doing so. I will leave that up to you.