Women of the Beat Generation

This is a space that focuses on giving voice to and sharing ideas about the women of the Beat Generation.

“My folder of poems
labeled “weather” holds
no clues as to whether
or not there’ll be any

weather to count on, say,
a hard rain like “little nails,” or
that deluge “plunging radiant”

now that we’ve plunged into war
and wars don’t stop like rain stops

like that last slow drizzle
onto the old tin bathroom vent

sweet hint of growth
in the soft wet drift north

fire or ice, fire or ice

are you breathing, are you lucky enough
to be breathing”


Hettie Jones, Weather

(via theoryoflostthings)

A love letter to Greenwich Village by luminaries who have called it home | The Villager Newspaper

A New Collection of writing pays tribute to Greenwich Village. The collection includes a poem by Hettie Jones, entitle “Sacred Ground,” which celebrates a rose blooming in December on East 6th street.

‘The Beat Generation’ is in focus at college on April 22

The forum, Women of the Beat Generation, will feature author Joyce Johnson and poet Hettie Jones, two significant Beat generation figures.

Well, you had to find it some
where another person passed simplicity
on to you, the practice of some syllables
the position of a seated body and you believe
a lineage of recognition of `mind’

not perfect, but intimate
with suffering
and the futility of maintaining
those troublesome states
of fear and hate

'Try this
Lift the corners of your mouth slightly
and take three breaths
this is known as mouth yoga’ ( * Yvonne Rand)

It has nothing to do with smiling
It has nothing to do with happiness

—   Joanne Kyger Buddhism Without a Book

Women of the Beat Generation: a Celebration at the Beat Museum in San Francisco


Beat Generation Women on the bookstore shelves is a welcome sight. (at Raven Used Books)


Beat Generation Women on the bookstore shelves is a welcome sight. (at Raven Used Books)

Happy Birthday Jack Kerouac!

While the men of the Beat Generation are often guilty of perpetuating the same misogyny of the larger culture, both in their lives and their writing, in challenging traditional expectations of masculinity, and likewise gender, they opened up a space for women to do the same. Kerouac’s “On the Road” may have driven many young men to emulate his movement across the country, but is also inspired many young women to challenge what was expected of them. 

As Joyce Johnson writes in Minor Characters: “It was a time when books were still taken seriously, when writers could actually change things. In 1957, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac seemed to come from nowhere… They gave voice to the restlessness and spiritual discontent so many felt but had been unable to articulate. Powerful desires for a freer life were suddenly set loose by words with compelling irresistible rhythms. The Beat movement lasted five years and caused many young men to go on the road in emulation of Jack Kerouac. Young women found the pursuit of freedom much more complicated. Nonetheless, it was my revolution.”

Recently Johnson has written a critical biography of Kerouac that explores his French Canadian roots and the development of his literary voice: The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

Happy International Women’s Day!

Meet the Beats: Jay DeFeo

Jay DeFeo is one of the visual artists of the Beat Generation. Born in Hanover, NH, Jay moved to CA at a young age where she attended the University of California, Berkeley. Most well known for her work “the Rose,” she created an extensive body of work comprised of drawings, paintings, photos and photo collages. DeFeo and her contemporaries often relied on cheap paints, plasters, butcher paper, and other accessible materials to create their work.

In the early 1950s, Jay traveled throughout Europe and North Africa before settling back into the San Francisco art scene where she dedicated eight years of her life to completing “the Rose.” DeFeo was the subject of a recent retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and her life and work have been explored in several recent publications like Jay DeFeo and the Rose and Jay DeFeo: Chiaroscuro

Several of her pieces are also featured in the Wennesland Collection, the largest collection of San Francisco Beat art, which is housed in Kristiansand, Norway. For more information on the collection and the San Francisco Beat art scene, check out these texts by Frida Forsgren: San Francisco Beat Art in Norway and Beat Lives

SFMOMA | Jay DeFeo on the artists' community in San Francisco in the 1950s

Female beat artist Jay DeFeo talks about the San Francisco artist communities in the 1950s. 

One of many informative and interesting videos included on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s website.