BEAT Goes On…

Christopher Felver’s beatific scrapbook glows, flows, glitters and howls. BEAT from Last Gasp is packed with the author’s photographic portraits of  Beat luminaries. 

This book is truly the face of BEAT, as well as the heart and soul. It’s cool jazz, true minds,  and word tantrums, wrapped in newspaper clippings, collaged with rare covers, manuscript pages, hand-written poems, post cards & scattered ephemera. All the hip excitement on the streets of San Francisco and the Lower East Side comes alive here. You can fairly smell the incense, the grass, the black coffee. These were heady times when a poetry broadside published by City Lights had the power to send tremors from San Francisco to the East Village.

My childhood heroes—poets all—are packed inside like crackerjack toys: Michael McClure, Ed Sanders, Anne Waldman, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Tuli Kupferberg, Diane DiPrima, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Bob Kaufman, and many more. Sadly, the one angelic face  absent from these pages is the great Kenneth Patchen. Be that as it may, thank Ra such a gifted photographer as Felver was on the scene to capture these creatures in public and private.

Take a joyride down this raucous American highway… here are the best minds of a generation illuminated in black and white.

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‘Glyphs & Riffs For What Ails Us

In 1965 I was too young to be a beatnik. Instead, I was a budding, long-haired  hippie, hanging out on the Lower East Side. I haunted Ed Sanders’ infamous Peace Eye Bookstore on Avenue A.  I remember how, occasionally, a little 2 x2-inch ad for the store would mysteriously appear in The Village Voice–the copy—pure poetry—unmistakably penned by Sanders:

 “The Peace Eye Bookstore…where porn-apes with hairy fingers slouch & skulk.” 

I was in Peace Eye  one afternoon, groping a copy of a little mimeographed pamphlet titled Roosevelt After Inauguration,  by William Burroughs, published by Sanders’ Fuck You Press. It was out of print and already “rare” and I couldn’t afford to buy it.  Ed stood watching me with a bemused expression as I moaned & groaned… a lit-addict in the throes of book-lust. He  suddenly zapped me with  a peace-beam and gave me the book as a gift.  Wow.

I’ve never forgotten that small act of generosity, for it speaks volumes about the man and his spirit;  it revealed for me the poet’s essence. No capitalist roader he!  He was a  true hero of the 60s, who never “sold-out” and whose poetry still rages for peace in a war-weary world. Edward Sanders is the quintessential rebel… a singing bard, a mischief-making troubadour, part-beatnik, porn-ape, hippie, yippie-yodeling scholar;  ex-Fug, book-pusher, protestor, environmentalist, publisher, and investigative ode-meister. His latest collection, Let’s Not Keep Fighting the Trojan War (Coffee House Press)  features visionary odes to a potential peace-lined future; moving works aimed  at unborn revolutionaries; inspired nostalgia, memories of friends who’ve passed away like Allen Ginsberg  and Charles Olson… odes to the land, to his love-wife Miriam. The book is a masterful mix of history, myth, rock and roll, green dreams,  and bardic screams against greed and war. It sparkes with satiric “ha- ha-hee” here and there,  with planet tants’, and billows of sheer spirit-clouds… timeless riffs that rebel on the page and soar from head to heart. 

 Let’s Not Keep Fighting the Trojan War is fuel for the soul by an anti-war hero.

May the Peace Eye be with us all.

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