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.

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Thanks for following and supporting the recovery of these wonderful women’s voices and work. 

"It is only her silence that I wish to give up" - Joyce Johnson, Minor Characters

Hettie Jones

Bea Franco: the woman who inspired "Terry" in Kerouac's On The Road| Donald Munro | FresnoBee.com      

“A woman from the audience asks: ‘Why were there so few women among the Beat writers?’ and [Gregory] Corso, suddenly utterly serious, leans forward and says: “There were women, they were there, I knew them, their families put them in institutions, they were given electric shock. In the ’50s if you were male you could be a rebel, but if you were female your families had you locked up.”


Stephen Scobie, on the Naropa Institute’s 1994 tribute to Allen Ginsberg  (via thisisendless)


(via femmeboyant)

I’m just frozen. Absences of women in history don’t “just happen,” they are made.

(via queereyes-queerminds)

irresponsiblewanderlustofthesoul (via love-some-gallifrey-boys)

(Source: fuckyeahbeatniks, via love-some-gallifrey-boys)

Meet the Beats: Helen Adam (1909 - 1992)

Heralded by Brenda Knight as the “Bardic Matriarch” of the San Francisco Renaissance and one of the precursors of the Beat Generation, Helen Adam published her first book of poetry at just 14 years old. Adam was born in Scotland where she published The Elfin Peddlar to great acclaim in 1923. After briefly attending the University of Edinburgh, Adam moved to America, settling first in New York and then eventually moving to San Francisco in 1949. 

Here, Adam became known for her ballads and her increasingly popular poetry readings, during which she would sing and chant her work. She formed close connections with fellow poets Robert Duncan, Madeline Gleason, and Jack Spicer, and, in 1957, she joined with Duncan and Gleason to begin a poetry and performance troop called the Maidens. Adam’s contribution to the burgeoning poetry scene was recognized as she became one of only four women included in Donald Allen’s anthology, New American Poetry 1945-1960. 

Beyond poetry, Adam experimented with other art forms including collage, film, and theatre. She wrote a lyric play, San Francisco’s Burning, which she would read/perform single handedly until it was produced in 1964. You can listen to a 1977 production here

For more info check out:

The Scottish Poetry Library 

Brenda Knight’s Women of the Beat Generation

The Helen Adam Reader with editorial work and introduction by poet, essayist, and Helen Adam biographer Kristen Prevallet

Write up on last years Out of the Shadows Conference on Women and the Beat Generation

A great event hosted at the University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway.

In Amsterdam, that old city,
Church bells tremble and cry;
All day long their airy chiming
Clavers across the sky.

I am young in the old city,
My heart dead in my breast.
I hear the bells in the sky crying,
“Every being is blest.”

In Amsterdam, that old city,
Alone at a window I stand,
A spangled garter my only clothing,
A candle flame in my hand

The people who pass that lighted window,
Looking my up and down,
Know I am one more tourist trifle
For sale in this famous town.

Noon til dusk at the window waiting,
Nights of fury and shame.
I am young in an old city
Playing an older game

I hear the bells in the sky crying
To the dead heart in my breast,
The gentle bells in the sky crying
“Every being is blest”

—   Margaretta’s Rime by Helen Adam

The phrase “breaking ground” kept coming into my head. I knew that this Allen Ginsberg, whoever he was, had broken ground for all of us - all few hundreds of us - simply by getting this published. I had no idea yet what that meant, how far it would take us.

The poem put a certain heaviness in me, too. It followed that if there was one Allen there must be more, other people besides my few buddies writing what they spoke, what they heard, living, however obscurely and shamefully, what they knew, hiding out here and there as we were- and now, suddenly, about to speak out. For I sensed that Allen was only, could only be, the vanguard of a much larger thing. All the people who, like me, had hidden and skulked… all these would now step forward and say their piece. Not many would hear them, but they would, finally, hear each other. I was about to meet my brothers and sisters.


Diane di Prima details reading “Howl” for the first time in Memoirs of a Beatnik

Happy Birthday Allen. 


New books.
Remembering this amazing woman today and all the beautiful and moving words she has left us with.