On Beat Poetry

Photo of Allen Ginsberg with depiction of Jack Kerouac on wall

Postmodernism has a central concept of time being experienced as a series of fragments, images, and hyperreal overlays, which is reflected in the deconstruction of language seen in the works of Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. These writers used odd line structures and fragmented language to create a unique form of literature, perhaps to represent our alienation from ourselves and society, and the commodification of time.

This same concept is also seen in modern social media platforms, where time is commodified into thirty second snippets for those with limited attention spans. In comparison, I have much more respect for writers like Charles Bukowski and Jack Micheline than for Kerouac or Ginsberg. It is obvious that Beat writers borrowed heavily from the dissonant Jazz timing of artist such as Thelonious Monk and other bebop rhythms.

Bukowski and Micheline were born into the blues, whereas Kerouac was a privileged university dropout who had never experienced the same hardships. Bukowski’s famous poem, “Born Like This,” speaks to the struggles he faced, and Micheline’s work reflects his understanding of the plight of the forgotten in America. In comparison, Kerouac’s writing simply cannot match the depth of experience of Bukowski and Micheline.

Kerouac may have romanticized the blues, but Bukowski and Micheline experienced it firsthand. His fascination with Herbert Huncke and Neal Cassidy verges on exploitation, not to mention the Black Jazz musicians who captivated him.

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