Saturday, October 3, 2015

Poetry Prompt #35: Beat Poetry

The Beat generation of poets resurrected themselves from the mainstream during the 1950's and paved their nonconformist ways into the early 60's.

Surmised of poets such as Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder (to mention only the most prominent) wrote poetry that revoked the ideas of modern-day society and customs they felt were outdated.  The Beat poets revered social freedom, spiritual liberation, and the extol of a society that was set only to limit the individual from self-actualization.  They wrote diligently of a generation desperate to separate themselves from undue materialism, consumerism, and militarism.

Such poets sought a higher spiritual realm for which they could connect more deeply with themselves (and relate more meaningfully with each other) and many of them experimented with psychedelic drugs, others turned to Eastern religion, meditation, and Buddhism as a spiritual source of inspiration.

I have numerous books of Ginsberg and one of Ferlinghetti, and the resounding message I always receive when perusing their words is their defiant rejection of conformity...both literary and lifestyle.  I don't know why, but I'm particularly enamored with Ginsberg's attitude that he really could give two shits about what anyone else thought outside himself.  Take the following poem as a perfect example (which is one of my personal favorites, for what other poet has ever been brave enough to just put it 'in your face' this way?)

by Allen Ginsberg

Kissass is the Part of Peace
America will have to Kissass Mother Earth
Whites have to Kissass Blacks, for Peace & Pleasure,
Only Pathway to Peace, Kissass.

Even in today's world of publishing, you see poets battle against each other for who can say what most eloquently and win the prize of most published.  It really makes a reader stop to ponder if material was written for the basic conquest of publishable rather than because it meant something to the writer at all.  Consider that idea as you read the following poem by Ferlinghetti:

Constantly Risking Absurdity
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of the day
performing entrachats
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
any thing
for what it may not be
For he's the super realist
who must perforce perceive
taut truth
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
with gravity
to start her death-defying leap
And he
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
of existence

So this week, I challenge you to write some of your own beat poetry.

Consider the following tips:

1.  Try meditation as a pre-writing warm-up.  Make an effort to get in-tune with your higher self on a more conscious level.  

2.  Ask yourself "Who am I?"  and "What do I really believe in?"  or "What do I want my writing to stand for?"

3.  Jot down a list of social norms and societal customs that you totally disagree with.  These could range from organized religion to gender expectations.

4.  Think about laws, ideas, rules that you feel need to be changed or omitted from society as we know it.

5.  Reflect on personal what ways do we, as individuals, need to change in order to live more authentic lifestyles customary only to ourselves?

6. Consider the quote by Kerouac above and ask yourself what kind of personal changes and activism you can display in becoming part of a generation that can change the world.

Take your brainstorming material and set out to write a great Beat poem in the style of Ginsberg & Ferlinghetti.

And if you're feeling really brave, post it below or share your blog link with us!