The Beat Generation Click here for a special
tribute to Allen Ginsberg.

The Beat Generation, term referring to certain American writers of the 1950s whose unconventional work and lifestyle reflected profound disaffection with contemporary society. The poetry and prose of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti provided a stimulus that found its way into art and music as well as active social protest. Their work was characterized by a raw, improvisational quality, and they sought to liberate poetry and prose from formality and plot. To create their art they often drew on their personal experiences, exposing these experiences in ways many found unsettling. Beat writers used drugs, jazz music, sex, and mysticism to release their creativity, and in their art they attempted to transcribe their experiences in an immediate form without revision. Their writing was rhythmic, but they eschewed the use of traditional and formal meters. The movement was centered in San Francisco, California, and Greenwich Village, New York City, and it revolved around poetry readings, jazz performances, coffee shops, and Ferlinghetti's City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. "Beat," with its double connotation of depressed and beatific, was first used in this way by Kerouac about 1952.

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