I am, in equal parts, amused and frustrated by the debates and arguments that never
seem to end.
"Was Bukowski a Beat?"
"Who was the last Beat?"
"When was the end of the Beat era?"
"Is it appropriate to use terms like '2nd or 3rd generation Beat' when referring to a writer?"
"Why do you call yourself a 'Beat' writer?"
Some of these folks get very upset and snotty over these matters. Consensus seems to be that only those that published with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, etc, can lay claim to the word "Beat"...a pretty narrow, confining, and assholish definition; if you ask me... After all, rock and roll didn't stop after Elvis or the Beatles...take a look at the work done by those with their names in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame....from Public Enemy to Neil Diamond. Rock and roll has never taken itself so seriously that it forgot to be inclusive or to embrace progress and evolution....As a poet, it confuses me when the little corner of poetry most tolerant of street-level divergence, walls itself away from contemporary work and today's poets by forcing such a narrow definition and identity upon itself.
People that have never eaten from a soup line, never slept in railway cars, never spent time in southern jails for things both done and not done, nor hitchhiked out west...folks that have never scored drugs on the streets of El Paso nor woken up next to a hot spring in the New Mexico wilderness...that have never bought (or sold) a blowjob in a Tenderloin alley, nor made a few bucks bringing pills across the Mexican border...will argue incessantly about what is and what is not "Beat"...
I fucking laugh at all of them.
The first time I ever read Kerouac, I was locked up in the Travis county jail waiting for charges to be dropped after getting caught riding in a stolen car. "Beat" came out and found me, I never went looking for it....SO, if I'm not Beat enough to be called Beat, I don't know what to tell ya, brother...(and, it IS usually men acting as self-appointed judges about what is, and what isn't "Beat")
Beat is a life...not a "lifestyle"...it is not a list of Proper Nouns from the 1950's, it is America, but it is not confined to our continent, it is alive and eking by, decades after "the experts" have declared it dead; but unless you are around some very exceptional people (like some that I call my friends), chances are, you won't see or find it from where you are sitting.
Beat is DOING, not spectating.
I am so grateful to have found a handful of folks that get it...Don't idolize the dead Beats; celebrate those living right now! Beat is living, man...it's living as much as you can, anywhere you are, no matter how many are choosing to slowly die around you...