Researching, writing and teaching about the Beat Generation movement

Journal of Beat Studies Volume #2 - The Beat Studies Association

“On a Confrontation at a Buddhist Seminary”: Naropa, Guru Devotion, and a Poetics of Resistance

By Tony Trigilio

Radical individualism, autonomy, candor, and populism are crucial to Naropa University’s experimental tradition and to its influence on Beat Generation literature. Yet Naropa’s influence on Beat poetics draws from two contradictory categories of understanding: the neo-Romanticist urgency of the unfettered imagination and, in contrast, the obedience and containment required by guru devotion, one of the core doctrinal principles of Vajrayana Buddhism, the mode of Buddhism that was taught and practiced by Naropa’s founder, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, whose students included Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman, co-founders of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. This essay historicizes the tension between theory and practice in Naropa’s influence on Beat poetics as a way of understanding the complex forces that both enable and bex Beat oppositional writing. It examines how guru devotion contributed to the infamous Snowmass scandal of the mid-to-late-1970s, perhaps the touchstone example of the complicated relationship between the liberatory and spiritual impulses of Beat writing. Looking at representative poems from Ginsberg’s later career, this essay explores how Snowmass dramatizes the gab between Beat oppositional poetics and the spiritual urgency that authorized this same poetics.

Trungpa, Naropa, and the Outrider Road: An Interview with Anne Waldman

By John Whalen-Bridge

In this interview, the majority of which took place in 2009, John Whalen-Bridge and Anne Waldman discuss Naropa’s “Poetry Wars,” the relationship between Buddhism and poetics at Naropa University, and the development of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. The interview addresses Waldman’s relationship with Naropa’s founder Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, her own Buddhist practices, and her thoughts about the future of Buddhism in the United States. The interview was updated in November and December 2012.

Did Beatniks Kill John F. Kennedy?

By Rob Johnson

At the time of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the term beatnik served as a general label for members of the American youth counterculture and was associated with communists, anti-segregationists, and general juvenile delinquency. Kennedy’s death on November 22, 1963, and its immediate aftermath inspired two main suspect profiles: He was either killed by a pro-communist (a label often associated with “beatniks”) or by a right-win anti-communist and pro-segregationist. A search of the Warren Commission Report and associated documents reveals that the term beatnik is a key one in the Commission’s attempt to create a “Lone Gunman” motivated by his communist sympathies. The political aspects of this profiling of the assassin are viewed through Texas “Beat” writer Bud Shrake’s 1972 novel Strange Peaches, set in Dallas and Forth Worth at the time of the assassination. The dramatic center of the essay explores The Cellar, a Fort Worth “beatnik” nightclub where Secret Service agents drank and partied the night before the assassination. The essay concludes with a discussion of the reaction of Beat writers to the assassination, including William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso.

The Miraculous and Mucilaginous Paste Pot: Extra-illustration and Plagiary in the Burroughs Legacy

By Davis Schneiderman

This essay charts the connections between an early user-based textual strategy known as extra-illustration and the cut-ups practice of William S. Burroughs. Extra-illustration dates from the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth century, and this paper offers the work of John Mansir Wing of the Newberry Library in Chicago as a specific exemplar whose practice aligns with that of Burroughs. The second section of the essay explores Burroughs’ small-press works and archival typescripts, centered on the repeated use of text taken from the September 17, 1899, front page of the New York Times. This section draws upon significant archival research as a method of exploring cut-up practices in terms of an expanded tradition of user-text interaction that pre-dates the Modernist literary moment.