Beatdom is a literary journal inspired by the Beat Generation. We publish essays about the Beats, as well as short fiction and poetry inspired by their work. If that sounds a little limiting to you, fear not. We take "Beat" to mean a wide range of things.

“A Fish With Frog’s Eyes”: Bob Kaufman, George Romero and the Power of Radioactivity

In the poetry of  Bob Kaufman, the poet is the healer, journeying down into the underworld of the American psyche in order to heal the wounds of racism, capitalist exploitation, and war. If Kaufman is, as many critics have suggested, a shaman, it is perhaps most properly in the tradition of Hoodoo, which employs music as a mode of otherworldly transport or to facilitate trance states. If Kaufman recuperates the bizarre dreamscape and linguistic paradox of the ancient shaman’s song, however, these elements have now been transplanted to alien, perhaps even hostile, Western cultural climes. I examine George Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead to demonstrate more clearly Kaufman’s position as mispositioned shaman-healer of the postmodern age.

Although there is no single moment when modernism ended and postmodernism began, the period around WWII can be seen as a time of great transformation. The European avant-garde movement dispersed not only bodily to the far corners of the globe, but spiritually, as a functional vehicle of liberation. But after the war another generation arose. Allen Ginsberg seems to bridge the gaping chasm torn by the war in the middle of twentieth century American and European literature when he gives Ezra Pound a ritual spanking at St. Elizabeth’s hospital. The Beats represented a new way of configuring self, art, and world. The postmodern artist was no longer a priest of culture, but an actual enemy of the state. Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Lenny Bruce were brought to trial on obscenity charges; Carl Solomon was locked in a madhouse; Bob Kaufman was repeatedly jailed. Beat writers were fighting on the side of the imagination in a war that threatened to strip America of her soul. “The war that matters is the war against the imagination,” Diane Di Prima declares in her poem “Rant”: “All other wars are subsumed by it.” The artist became not a high priest but a culture worker, working within the mythos of the American legend to undermine its insistence on collective conformity, on homogenization of spiritual experience.

The Beats accomplish this in their poetry through the juxtaposition of elements of American mainstream popular culture (its film stars and political figures, its movies, popular myths, and songs) with elements which threatened to revolutionize and perhaps fundamentally undermine it: jazz, blues, Eastern and Western mysticism, Zen, and psychedelic drugs. When Bob Kaufman used the word Beat to describe the poetics that he and his friends were engaged in inventing, it may well have been in reference to the beat of the shaman’s drum, which propels its listeners into the Otherworld. Certainly the Beat poetics seems to recapitulate, within the changing landscape of American popular culture after WWII, the liminal poetics originating from the shaman’s song. Ginsberg writes of the madness and schizophrenia of the artist and of his country. Michael McClure’s Ghost Tantra poems GRRRR and GRRRARH their way through a secret language of the animals, filling up the dadaspace of emptiness with new possibilities of meaning. In Bob Kaufman’s art, the poet is the healer, journeying down into the underworld of the American psyche in order to discover the source of and cure to the homicidal madness that Poe, the father of American culture, had intuited as somehow an inherent part of our national consciousness.

Jewish and Black, sane and insane, Kaufman inhabits liminal space in many ways.  In the eyes of mainstream 1950’s culture he is criminal, schizophrenic, the rebel, the outsider. But from the point of view of the poets, the musicians, the artists of North Beach and Paris, Kaufman is unbelievably inside, inside inside, showing the workings of the creative mind as it contorts to adapt itself to the restraints imposed by consensus consciousness. Taking into account the ancient poetics of the shaman’s song we are in an excellent position to understand the precise relationship between the poetry of this “screamer on lonely poet corners” and modern culture.

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beat, meaning down and out but full of intense conviction

jack kerouac

(this line is taken by larry beckett, in his Beat Poetry, as the best definition of the word, “beat.”)

(Source: davidswills)

allen ginsberg on burroughs & scientology, 1974


recently i have been editing a collection of interviews and essays by john tytell, one of the first beat scholars. his interviews were mostly published in now-defunct publications, some lost to time, and so this is an exciting chance to hear from the likes of ginsberg, burroughs, huncke, solomon,…

Competition Time | Beatdom

Get a copy of Cia Mathew’s novella, Wood Splinters, for free! “Like" our most recent Facebook status to be entered into the random draw. 

Some recent Beatdom articles

  1. Carl Solomon on NOT Publishing Jack Kerouac

  2. Doctor William S. Sax and Bird of Paradise

  3. Pulling Our Daisy: The Illusion of Spontaneity

  4. Anita O’Day Sings in Black Hat and White Feathers

  5. Peter Orlovsky, a Life in Words: Intimate Chronicles of a Beat Writer

  6. Allen Ginsberg at Nirvana’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

Carl Solomon talks about NOT publishing Kerouac

The following is from an interview with Carl Solomon, conducted by John Tytell in 1973. John Tytell’s collected interviews (with Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso, Solomon, and Holmes) and essays on the Beat Generation will be published by Beatdom Books in 2014. Tytell is also the author of Naked Angels (one of the first books that took the Beats seriously as a literary movement) and Paradise Outlaws.


John Tytell: I understand that you were also at one time considering publishing Kerouac.

Carl Solomon: We had paid him an advance of $500, and I had visions of myself as being his Maxwell Perkins[1]and him being my Wolfe because his first novel resembled Wolfe.

JT: I read a letter you wrote to Kerouac at Columbia University Special Collections in which you said that the Wolfean aspect of The Town and the City was a charade that bespoke a repressed surrealism and a repressed homosexuality.

CS: I must have been very erudite in those days.

JT:  What happened with the contract because Kerouac never published with Ace  Books?

CS: Well, we rejected On the Road – he sent us this long scroll. My uncle said it looked like he took it from his trunk.

JT: The teletype roll. Did he get that from Lucien Carr at United Press?

CS: I don’t know where he got it, but we were used to these neat manuscripts, and I thought, “Gee, I can’t read this.”

JT: You didn’t accept it as a surrealistic antic, then?

CS: Because at that time I probably wasn’t into that.

[1] Considered the most famous literary editor, he worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe.

Reposted from:

Call for Submissions: Beatdom #15 | Beatdom

It’s that time again. Time to get your submissions ready for the next issue of Beatdom. The theme is WAR, so there’s plenty to contemplate. After all, the Beats rose out of WWII, and transformed into the Hippies with the coming of the Vietnam War. Intergalactic war dominated the work of William S. Burroughs, and protesting war came to define Allen Ginsberg’s public persona. 

See the link for more details, and please share widely. Our last issue was HUGE and this one should be even better…. 

William S. Burroughs, C. J. Bradbury Robinson, and Williams Mix

Keen-eyed Burroughs enthusiasts may well be aware of the proliferation of blurbs and endorsements from the Great Man for the work of others – usually friends whom he was expressing a genuine appreciation for. One of the most intriguing examples of this is the Introduction that Burroughs wrote in 1971 for the novel Williams Mix by C. J. Bradbury Robinson; a novel that Burroughs himself helped to place with Maurice Girodias and The Olympia Press, who had of course, brought Naked Lunch to print. A publisher’s proof of the book was prepared, and it was included in a press-release of forthcoming titles:

In an age of permissiveness few sexual acts retain the power to shock equal to assaults on children. And yet, in the hands of a writer as skilled as C. J. Bradbury Robinson, this subject takes on an entirely new perspective. With delicacy and sympathetic understanding, Robinson takes us into the minds of both assailant and victim. This is a novel that will stand as a significant social document that will take readers beyond their prejudices and force them to face up to a question that deserves serious consideration…

Even though it proceeds in glowing terms, placing Bradbury Robinson and his writing in the same exalted company as Beckett, Burroughs, Genet, Miller and Nabokov, and promises a “Hardbound. 1972 release” it was not to be: The Olympia Press was struggling under financial pressure and lawsuits brought by the Church of Scientology, and there was no money for new titles. A subsequent attempt to publish the book by Cecil Woolf also failed when a printer refused to produce the edition on moral grounds, and so Williams Mix was lost to literary limbo.

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