The Beat generation poets met in New York in the 1940s. The core group were Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, who were joined later by Gregory Corso.
The Beat Generation, also known as the beat movement, were a group of American writers who emerged in the 1950s. Among its most influential members were Gary Snyder, the radical poet Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.
Jack Kerouac was the acknowledged leader and spokesman for the Beat Generation. What could be loosely described as the underlying philosophy was visionary enlightenment, Zen Buddhism, Amerindian culture. The Beat Generation were centred around the artist colonies of North Beach (San Francisco), Venice West (Los Angeles) and Greenwich Village (New York City). The Beat Generation rejected the prevailing academic attitude to poetry, feeling that poetry should be brought to the people. Readings would take place in the Coexistence Bagel Shop and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, often to the accompaniment of Jazz. A common theme that linked them all together was a rejection of the prevailing American middle-class values, the purposelessness of modern society and the need for withdrawal and protest.
The major Beat writings include Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Allen Ginsberg's Howl, and William Burroughs' Naked Lunch. Both Howl and Naked Lunch became the focus of obscenity trials in the United States that helped to liberalize what could be legally published.
Allen Ginsberg said some essential effects of Beat Generation artistic movement could be characterized in the following terms:
- Spiritual liberation, sexual "revolution" or "liberation," i.e., gay liberation, somewhat catalyzing women's liberation, black liberation, Gray Panther activism.
- Liberation of the word from censorship.
- Demystification and/or decriminalization of some laws against marijuana and other drugs.
- The evolution of rhythm and blues into rock and roll as a high art form, as evidenced by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and other popular musicians influenced in the later fifties and sixties by Beat generation poets' and writers' works.
- The spread of ecological consciousness, emphasized early on by Gary Snyder and Michael McClure, the notion of a "Fresh Planet."
- Opposition to the military-industrial machine civilization, as emphasized in writings of Burroughs, Huncke, Ginsberg, and Kerouac.
- Attention to what Kerouac called (after Spengler) a "second religiousness" developing within an advanced civilization.
- Return to an appreciation of idiosyncrasy as against state regimentation.
- Respect for land and indigenous peoples and creatures, as proclaimed by Kerouac in his slogan from On the Road 'The Earth is an Indian thing.'
Bob Dylan, The Beatles were heavily influenced by the Beat Generation. Members like Allen Ginsberg were influential in the anti-war movement. Others who were influenced include: Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Country Joe and the Fish, Crosby Stills Nash and Young. The Beat Generation were followed by the hippies, anti-war movement, which led to the environmental movement, deep ecology and Earth First!
The Beat Generation inspired the Black Mountain poets, so named as they wrote for the Black Mountain Review. The Black Mountain poets were a loose group of poets who coalesced around Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan and Charles Olson while they were teaching at Black Mountain College, North Carolina. Their style was typified by a move away from the structured poetry of T S Eliot to a freer, looser style. The essay 'Projective Verse' by Charles Olson became the group manifesto. Creeley edited the Black Mountain Review, which featured the work of William Carlos Williams, Paul Blackburn, Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder. Much of the group's early work was published in Origin.