New book, Beat Lives, by Frida Forsgren looks at the lives and art of 13 lesser known San Francisco Beat artists.
"Studies of beat culture have focused on the trio Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs, leaving many of the so-called minor figures in the shadows. This study contributes to the mapping of these unknowns by presenting 13 artists from the Californian underground in the 1950s and 1960s. The book is a contribution to a wider understanding of beat culture and of lives lived underground."
Inspired by the likes of Eliot and Pound, Elise Cowen was a poet from a very young age. Elise was the only daughter of a middle class Jewish family and her poetry reflects her struggle with familial and social expectations. Considered a proto-feminist voice by scholars, Elise addresses themes like female subjectivity and sexuality in her work. Sadly, she is most often remembered for her death. After a long term battle with depression, she committed suicide in 1962 by jumping through her parents seventh story living room window. She is often linked to Allen Ginsberg, as they had a brief romantic relationship and she typed his poem Kaddish. Her friend, classmate at Barnard college, and fellow Beat writer, Joyce Johnson, tells her story in Minor Characters.
After Elise’s death, her parents had most of her work destroyed because they were disturbed by its discussion of themes like mental illness and sexuality. Fortunately, one notebook survived - kept in the possession of another Beat poet Leo Skir. This notebook has been edited by scholar Tony Trigilio and will be published in 2014 by Ashahta Press.
We’ve put together a list of the best authentic Beat Generation spots to grab a drink so you can join in the history of these literary greats.
A fun run down of “Beat Joints” still kicking in NYC (though changed since the days of the 50s I’m sure). The article mentions that Kettle of Fish was a spot Joyce Johnson’s talked about in her letters with Jack Kerouac.