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Love, Jennifer. "No Girls Allowed: Women Poets and the Beat Generation." Women Writers: A Zine
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No Girls Allowed: Women Poets and the Beat Generation
by: Jennifer Love
MA Candidate -- English Literature
MFA Candidate -- Creative Writing/Poetry
I see the girl Joyce Glassman, twenty-two, with her hair hanging down below hershoulders, all in black like Masha in
The Seagull—black stockings, black skirt, blacksweater—but, unlike Masha, she's not in mourning for her life. How could she havebeen, with her seat at the table in the exact center of the universe, that midnight placewhere so much is converging, the only place in America that's alive? As a female, she'snot quite part of this convergence. A fact she ignores, sitting by in her excitement as thevoices of the men, always the men, passionately rise and fall and their beer glassescollect and the smoke of their cigarettes rises toward the ceiling and the dead culture issurely being wakened. Merely being there, she tells herself, is enough.
In Joyce Johnson's conclusion to her memoir, Minor Characters
, this vision of herself as a
young woman seeking her place among the writers and artists of the Beat Generation
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encapsulates the experience of a number of woman writers and poets during this highly male-
centered literary era. The courage it took for these women to be there at all in the repressive and
conservative 1950s and the excitement they experienced at having secured a "seat at the table"
coexisted with the knowledge that they remained set apart and were generally seen and heard
less than their male contemporaries. Given the nature and history of both American culture at the
time and Beat writing in general, such an outsider status should not be surprising. Alice Notley
takes the argument even further in her discussion of Joanne Kyger's poetry and includes literary
movements in general: "Poetry movements are generally man-made; women seen in light of
such movements always appear secondary" (95).
Despite the fact that these women may have been dismissed in the past, current interest
has ensured that their work has begun to appear in anthologies, and academia has begun to
include them in classes on and studies of the Beat Generation. Who were some of these women
and how and why did they become Beat in a literary movement that centered on and emanated
from the lives and works of three male writers? From a personal perspective as a woman writer I
found myself increasingly drawn to this question and in the pages that follow, I hope to give one
version of an answer by looking briefly at 1950s American culture and the Beat movement in
general and then turning to the lives and works of several individual women poets to understand
their response to the emerging Beat culture and the ways in which they attached themselves to
the Beat movement, incorporating and reinventing Beat ideologies in their own terms and
making invaluable contributions to the publishing and proliferation of Beat writings.
Because the Beats grew out of and in response to the predominant American culture of the
1950s, it becomes important to first understand that culture, and for any analysis of the women
Beats, a more focused look must also be taken at the prescribed role of women in society as well
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as within the Beat ideology. It is generally agreed that the 1950s in America marked a time of
both increasing consumerism as well as social and political repression. John Tytell points out
during this decade of affluence, "seven million men had returned to make babies and build
supermarkets, malls, and four-lane highways all over the country" and that at the same time
"radio had been replaced by television with its potential to condition us all into more efficient
and insatiable consumers" (47). Furthermore, at the same time that the consumer culture
blossomed, political repression increased as "the FBI used illegal wire taps and created the
Security Index, a list of millions of citizens who might require detention in the event of a
national emergency" (48). The Beats saw and were alternately outraged and depressed by these
The 1950s were mean, Cold War and conformist; the promotion of the "American
Way" (the tract home and big Buick) was an endless flood of propaganda via
black-and-white television and Time
magazines. Citizens were secretly
tortured by their toothy and smiling indifference to each other, and many turned
to new pharmaceuticals, especially Thorazine, to ease the psychic strain.
Michael McClure along with other Beats deplored the cultural atmosphere that worshipped
economic prosperity and at the same time encouraged the political suppression that led to the
execution of the Rosenbergs and the communist-hunting engaged in by Senator Joe McCarthy.
Beat writing often took on these cultural issues as well as the forbidden issue of sex.
Not only could 1950s America be classified a time of political repression but of sexual
repression as well, and any public discussion of sex was taboo. Tytell remarks that this was an
era "when mastrubation was seen as a cause of insanity and premarital sex was immoral, when
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half of American women were married by the age of nineteen, oral sex was considered sheer
perversion, and adultery and homosexuality were regarded as criminal acts" (53). Just as the
Beat writers reacted to consumerism and political repression, they offered an exhibitionist and
promiscuous answer to 1950s sexual inhibitions in both their lives and literature.
Coming of age amid these powerful cultural forces, the writers and artists who were to
comprise the Beat generation found themselves confronted with the choice of appropriation or
rebellion. Beginning in New York with the men who were to become the nucleus of the
movement—Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs—these young writers chose
rebellion, being "willing to take enormous risks and to gamble with potentially dangerous
experiences in order to transcend [their] conditioning" (Tytell, 9). In his sweeping discussion of
American literary history, Frederick Karl lists the ways in which the Beat Generation writers
confronted the decade on every level with their counterculture:
For the sense of achievement, it would offer failure; for organization and order, it
would suggest chaos; for the main in the gray flannel suit, it offered sandals,
Salvation Army rejects, beards, and long hair; for antisepsis, it paraded dirty
bodies and matted hair; for marriage and family, it stressed promiscuous
relationships, unmarried pregnancies; for discreet drinking in bars and home, it
offered orgies of drugs, cheap wine, rotgut; for political commitment, it eschewed
the cold war, the Rosenbergs, Hiss-Chambers-Nixon; for suburban living, it
substituted communal living, people draped over couches and chairs; for
progressive sanitary arrangements, it substituted filthy johns situated in hallways,
toilets that did not flush, water that did not run. (199)
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From Burrough's attempts at marijuana farming and addiction to heroin to Kerouac's alcoholism
and wanderlust to Ginsberg's Buddhism and sexual exploits, the Beats' lives enacted their
ideologies and their writing attempted to capture and express their lives. At the same time, it is
important to remember that from its onset in the lives and works of the holy three of Beat
writing, this rebellion was undertaken primarily by male writers; critics have connected the
resulting male-centeredness of the Beat movement to this male bonding that took place in
reaction against the "insufferable pressures of conventional family life in a consumer society"
(Charters, Beat Reader
, xxxiv). Their lives and writing began to emphasize not only a
counterculture, but a counterculture based on the model of what Ginsberg termed the "boy
In The Portable Beat Reader
, editor Ann Charters calls the poetry and fiction written by
the Beats "an alternative literature by writers who were sweeping in their condemnation of their
country's underlying social, sexual, political, and religious values" (xxxi). The Beats created
their own literature and their own language, beginning with the term "beat" which was brought
to public attention in an article by John Clellon Holmes as he quoted Jack Kerouac assessing his
generation as the "Beat Generation." Ginsberg notes that "beat" was "interpreted in various
circles to mean emptied out, exhausted, and at the same time wide-open and receptive to vision"
(xiv). The term was picked up by the mainstream media and spread quickly, though debates
about exact meaning and designations as to what it meant to be "Beat" raged and continue to be
However, Beat writers do tend to share similar concerns and means of expression. In a
rather lyric description, Anne Waldman claims that "Beat literature sings against cynicism,
apathy, injustice, deception, compromise, racism, consumerism, war, evils and cons of all kinds"
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(xx). She sees them, and they saw themselves, standing as prophets in opposition to the
dominant culture. But these are not impersonal, theoretical concerns as the poetics of the Beats
"assumes the poem to be a direct unmediated extension of the author" (Davidson, 18). Thus as
subject the writing often took the author's own life and experiences or thinly veiled
approximations thereof. Their raw material consists of their own lives, drawing on everything
from their amateur psychoanalyzings of one another to their communal living situations in dirty
unheated tenements to their experiences with drugs and sex and the pursuit of a transcendent
If their lives where what they wrote about, spontaneity and honesty seem to be the keys to
how they wrote. For example, Tytell finds in Ginsberg a devotion "to the expression of direct
feeling of love or fear, no matter what the cost to public image or convention" (18). And Steven
Watson notes that the Beat Generation "is marked by a shared interest in spiritual liberation,
manifesting itself in candid personal content and open forms, in verse and prose" (5). In both
poetry and prose, traditional forms and narrative concerns were dismissed in search of a writing
that is immediate and places the author naked before the reader.
Thus the fervor of the Beat Generation arose from the repression and rampant
consumerism of 1950s society. But what were the women doing while men like Ginsberg,
Kerouac, Burroughs and later Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder
among others broke all the literary and societal rules to howl their vision to the world? How did
the women fit in? Could they fit in?
Women in 1950s America felt the same repressive pressures inflicted on the society at
large; however, their roles became more narrowly defined and in fact became even more
repressive than prior generations. Steven Davidson points out the nature of this repression with
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"its subordination of women to housekeeping and childrearing roles, when, only a few years
earlier, they had entered the marketplace in unprecedented numbers as part of the war effort"
(176). As the men returned home from World War II, the women were forced back into the
home and the prescribed roles of wife and mother. In discussing her own experience growing
up, Joyce Johnson terms this period "an age of enforced innocence in America" as though
society "contracted amnesia" and "ground that women had won in the Jazz Age and during the
war years was suddenly gone" ("Queens," 43). Unlike the men, women were expected to stay in
the home until marriage; rather than moving out to experience life on her own, "the only proper
way for a girl to achieve independence from her family was to put herself under the protection of
a husband" (43). Hardly an independence at all. With these options, for some women becoming
Beat "was far more attractive than staying chained to a brand new kitchen appliance" (Knight,
Although sent to college "to get their MRS," once there "the liberal arts educations these
young women were given created a natural predilection for art and poetry, for living a life of
creativity instead of confining it to the occasional hour at the symphony, [and] nothing could be
more romantic than joining this chorus of individuality and freedom, leaving behind boredom,
safety, and conformity" (Johnson, "Queens," 43; Knight, 3). In this way, the very society that
exerted repressive roles on women also provided, through their education, the vision that led
them to seek out and choose their own futures, rejecting mainstream society for the emerging
Beat culture. The women who chose this path Brenda Knight praises as "fearless, angry, high
risk, too smart, restless, highly irregular" and Anne Waldman remembers as "more troubled
characters—driven, desperate, fighting against the constraints of culture, family, education, and
often dwelling in the twilight of a ‘great' man's personality or career" (Women of the Beat
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ix). Each of these visions of Beat women seeks to draw in broad strokes the types of women that
joined the Beat culture.
Unlike the initial Beat men, however, whose personalities and ideologies created the Beat
culture, the women with countercultural sympathies responded to and stepped into that already
created Beat scene. One common avenue through which women, as well as men, came to align
themselves with the Beat Generation was through encounters with Jack Kerouac's novel On the
. Joyce Johnson remembers that "in 1957 when On the Road
was published, thousands of
Fifties women experienced a powerful response" as the novel "suggested that you could
choose—choose to be unconventional, choose to experiment, choose to open yourself up to a
broad range of experience, instead of simply duplicating the lifestyle of your parents"
("Queens," 46). Despite the clearly male-centered narrative, women recognized the same desire
to get out from under societal expectations and forge their own identities. Poet Janine Pommy
Vega recalls that "all the characters seemed to move with an intensity that was missing in my
life" (Women of the Beat
Women responded to the male vision of a new bohemia, but that male Beat bohemia did
not offer, at least initially or in the writings of the male Beats, an enlightened or empowering
vision of women. Thus not only did Beat women have to contend against the roles expected of
them within the dominant culture, but in joining the Beats they again came face to face with
prescribed gender roles. Noted for their rather sexist representations of women, the Beats
"relegated women to the role of sexual surrogate, muse or mom; it did not raise them to a
position of artistic equality" (Davidson, 175). At the same time, the women seemed forced to
define themselves within this available male structure as they lacked "the supportive
environment of either an underground salon network or a feminist movement" (174). If the male
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writers did not give credibility and artistic equality to the women joining the Beats, neither did
the mainstream media. In his descriptions of common media perceptions of Beats, Steven
Watson notes that the male Beat's "favorite activities were smoking reefers, playing bongo
drums, and chanting poetry with a cool jazz backup" while the female Beat's "favorite activities
were drinking espresso, attending poetry readings, and dating black jazz musicians" (258-9).
Here the men of the Beat culture act while the women observe or have presence only in relation
Beyond the Beat and media stereotypes of bohemian women, how the women become
involved with the movement and their contributions once seated at the table, to return to
Johnson's metaphor, are only beginning to be recognized and chronicled. As noted above, the
Beat women found themselves drawn by the promise of a counterculture as presented in works
such as On the Road
, but once they recognized what they wanted, they had to find a way to get
it. Often, the first step became a simple matter of proximity. Women made conscious decisions,
despite censure of family and society, to move to where the Beat scene flourished. Diane
DiPrima and Hettie Cohen (later Jones), Elise Cowen, Joyce Johnson, Janine Pommy Vega and
others packed up and left home to live in the East Village in New York. Across the country,
women such as Joanne Kyger and ruth weiss moved to North Beach where Beat met the San
Francisco Renaissance. By placing themselves in the Beat communities, they began to connect
with the Beat writers, and one of the primary methods by which they became more deeply
involved in the movement was through sexual relationships with the Beat men:
Why were most of us babes even in that Boyland? Sex of course—let's start with
this and get it out of the way. Most, though not all, of the guys wanted us there
for sex. And we ourselves were expecting it . . With the Beats…we escaped to a
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place where women could admit, or at least take for granted, their desires. Sort
of. Sometimes. (Jones, "Babes" 51).
Though Hettie's comment indicates that the women as well as the men found some satisfaction
in the sexual relationships that provided them a place in the Beat culture, the relationships
continued to subordinate the women as writers and individuals. The artist's long-suffering but
devoted girlfriend became a stereotype of the time. In her Foreward to Women of the Beat
, Anne Waldman remembers the "creative women who became junkies for their
boyfriends, who stole for their boyfriends, who concealed their poetry and artistic aspirations,
who slept around to be popular…who concealed their unwanted pregnancies raising money for
abortions on their own or who put the child up for adoption" (x). Women had their foot in the
door to the Beat lifestyle they were drawn to, but the types of relationships they found
themselves in often became another hurdle to overcome in their journey toward becoming
Though their relationships did not often encourage them to write, the connections that
these women gained through their boyfriends and husbands gave them access to writing and Beat
ideologies that they would not otherwise have had as easily. Only a very few women poets
directly reached out to the male Beat writers on common literary grounds; Diane DiPrima was
one such woman as she initiated correspondence with poets ranging from Ezra Pound to Allen
Ginsberg in her quest to learn to write. However as most women were not this forthright, they
found their connections with other writers, and their literary educations stemmed from their
relationships with their lovers. For Hettie Jones, it was her husband LeRoi's letter to Allen
Ginsberg after "Howl" was published that led her more deeply into the Beat scene. Ginsberg
responded and asked LeRoi to read his own work in the Beat cafes such as Jazz on the Wagon
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and the Cellar which led to introductions and developing friendships with Gregory Corso, Jack
Kerouac, Frank O'Hara and numerous others (How I Became
Further, though the Beat women did not find immediate encouragement in their writing,
they did find other avenues to independence and self-assertion within their relationships. One
such practical avenue came through employment. Johnson notes that "in our downtown scene in
the East Village there was an interesting role reversal going on—women were often the
breadwinners so the men would be free to pursue their creative work" ("Queens," 47). While
she agrees that on the one hand this silenced the women as writers, as the prevailing attitude was
that women were available to work "since they had no important creative endeavors to be
distracted from," she notes that on the other hand this sort of role reversal wherein she spent her
money to feed and house Jack Kerouac when he was in town "did not make me feel exploited
but strangely grown-up" (Minor Characters
, 207; "Queens," 47). Johnson was not alone in
supporting a male writer; she points out that her friend Hettie Jones, the wife of poet LeRoi
Jones, provided the money to support their household. This income allowed their home to
become a salon for Beat writers and to produce what would become one of the important literary
magazines of the time, Yugen
—a contribution I will take up in further detail below.
However, the assumption of female silence remains a simultaneous reality despite the
independence granted by wage-earning. Hettie Jones offers a slightly bitter view of the assumed
and encouraged silence on the part of women, which allowed them to work: "Men had little use
for an outspoken woman, I'd been warned. What I wanted, I was told, was security and upward
mobility, which might be mine if I learned to shut my mouth" (How I Became
, 10). Her friend
Joyce Johnson remembers Hettie's silence as a writer noting that though she vocally supports
LeRoi's poetry, "she writes poetry herself, but has never stood up with it at a reading of her
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own—makes no particular mention of it, in fact—telling herself it isn't good enough" (Minor
, 212-3). Further, Johnson points to a telling anecdote in her own life that illustrates
ways that aspiring women writers were discouraged from using their voice by men and male
visions of writing at this time:
Another teacher, John Kouwenhoven, who had just made his reputation as a critic
of popular culture, told a roomful of girls that if they really wanted to be writers,
they wouldn't even be enrolled in his class—they'd be out in America hopping
freight trains. Since it was inconceivable in 1953 that a young woman would
open herself up to such experience, and since all we had to write about was what
Kouwenhoven called our ‘boring little lives,' there was obviously no hope for us.
I remember feeling angry and confused, yet the notion of challenging the
professor's remark seemed unthinkable. ("Queens," 44-5)
For her professor, these women could not be writers as he and contemporary culture understood
writers simply because they were women. Such voices, coming from American culture, the
Beats and even from within themselves, telling women that they are unable to write had to be
overcome by each of the Beat women. Their writing grew out of their determined quest for
independence and was fueled by their deepening interaction with the male Beats who surrounded
them. As Davidson asserts, "impatient with the roles their male colleagues assigned to them,
they seized upon the social and aesthetic advantages of 1950s bohemian culture and began to
write ‘her' story in the margins of ‘his'" (199).
Within the scope of this discussion, it becomes unrealistic to try to trace each of the
individual women poets who emerged within the Beat Generation and their varied interactions
with Beat ideology and publishing, but general trends do exist and brief glimpses into the lives
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of three women serve to illustrate the ways these women appropriated Beat ideology and made it
their own through lifestyle and writing and the ways they contributed to the proliferation of Beat
writing through publishing and teaching.
Perhaps the best illustration of a woman entering into the Beat lifestyle and embracing it
as her own on her own terms can be found in Diane DiPrima. DiPrima has been called "the
archetypal Beat woman" by numerous biographers and critics and in her Memoir of a Beatnik
she seems to claim that persona herself (Watson, 270). Rather than approaching Beat writing
and life through attaching herself to a male writer, DiPrima lived on the same terms as the Beat
men with her life of "absolute independence, sexual experience from midteens on, familiarity
with drugs, the Village, jazz, and the bohemian style" (Watson, 270). Allen Ginsberg himself
once termed her the "Queen of Bohemia" (Fried Shoes
As DiPrima describes her life in various pads in the Village in her memoir, it becomes
clear that she values her independence over exclusive and committed relationships and her
literary pursuits over stable work. As Hettie Jones attests to, similar to her male counterparts,
DiPrima had a tendency to change lovers often ("she wore her lovers like chevrons")—a fact that
came rather dismayingly to light as DiPrima had an affair and a child with Hettie's husband
LeRoi. But at the same time, Hettie admits admiring DiPrima for the freedom with which she
enjoys her bisexual life (How I Became
DiPrima also appropriates the male Beat lifestyle in her commitment to her writing over
any other forms of work. Unlike other Beat women who worked to support themselves and their
men and families, Diane seldom held a permanent job, rather she pursued her writing above all.
She got by living with minimal comforts and taking odd jobs available to her through friends,
such as helping Hettie Jones at the Partisan Review
from time to time.
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Finally her work itself demonstrates the ways in which she connects herself to the male
Beat writers as she shares their concerns and styles. As John Tytell points out, "like Kerouac's
her first writing was in search of the vernacular, predicated on capturing the slang of New York
in the early 1950s" (85). In further similarity to the male Beat poets, her poetry draws on the
metaphor of jazz for its structure and "rejects traditional constraints, seeking new forms of
expression in design, rhyme, and meter" and her language "with its explicit four-letter
references…is appropriate to the subject of her poems and links her to fellow poets of the Beat
Generation" (Munroe, 3). DiPrima's poem "Two from One" in the "Prophetissa" series
illustrates these aspects of her poetry as well as her shared concern for spirituality that eventually
led her down Zen paths similar to a number of Beat writers:
know this wind as
at the heart of stone.
from black dwarf star that spinsthe double helix.
this fire as talk.
Bursting in cunt or asshole
in cupped & tensing mouth
fucking word. Heartfire of stars as theycircle & lean toward touch
(Pieces of a Song
In this poem, DiPrima juxtaposes the spiritual and the sexual using a language that invokes the
elements and heavenly bodies and at the same time brings those traditionally more transcendent
concerns into direct contact with the human body in sex and the spoken word. The poem also
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illustrates DiPrima's innovations with form as the heavy caesuras and increased space between
lines as the poem ends seek to mirror the hesitations and declarations that the poet makes.
In other works, DiPrima reflects the Beat notion of immediacy and the use of the poet's
personal life as subject matter for art. In fact, as George Butterick notes, "DiPrima's writing is
most often occasional, commemorative; the journal or memoir is her dominant mode, even in
verse" (5). One of the most playful examples of this kind of verse appears in her "No Problem
Party Poem," which chronicles a party at the Naropa Institute:
first glass broken on the patio no problemforgotten sour cream for vegetables no problemLewis MacAdam's touch lower jaw no problemcops arriving to watch bellydancer no problemplastic bags of melted ice no problemwine on antique tablecloth no problemscratchy stereo no problemneighbor's dog no probleminterviewer from Berkeley Barb no problem (Pieces of a Song
The poem continues in this vein, listing all the inconveniences and even people at the party and
declaring them to be "no problem." Both the chronicling of an actual event complete with the
names of real party-goers (Ginsberg, Corso, Waldman, and Kyger all make an appearance along
with DiPrima herself) and the incantatory nature of the poem align DiPrima's work with the
male poets of the Beat Generation.
Unlike, Diane DiPrima, Joanne Kyger did not develop the notorious lifestyle of a
Bohemian queen, but she did find her way into contact with the Beats in a manner similar to
other women Beat writers. Kyger's initial contact with the Beats came through the poets she met
in North Beach where she moved during the San Francisco Renaissance, which occurred both in
connection to and apart from the Beat movement. In San Francisco she met poet Gary Snyder
whom she married and which whom she traveled to Japan and India along with Allen Ginsberg
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in their quest to become Zen Buddhists. Similarly to other women, she thus became more
closely involved with the Beats through her relationship to Snyder; however, similar to DiPrima,
Kyger already had the desire to write and her relationship with Snyder did not hinder that.
Kyger's poetry exemplifies the Beat focus on immediacy and especially an immediacy
that draws on the poet's personal life and Buddhist inclinations:
October 29, Wednesday
In a crowd of people I am suddenly elevated. No matter that the crowd follows Ginsberg and Snyder, out on a quick demonstration march thru the halls of a tall building outinto the gardens, their faces among the trees as littleChinese sages grained into the wood. White walls, somewhatGrecian, if the fancy takes you. I AM ELEVATING! From across legged position, I rise slowly off the ground in a crowd of people, easy as can be. ELEVATED! Mr. Ginsbergand Mr. Snyder frown, not so much? As they are on their busyway, as groups of people pour their respect and devotion to-wards them. Pour, pour—they're busy drinking it up all day
in teacups. Do you think we've sent these young ladies andgentlemen in the right direction? That is to say, haven't we sent them in the right direction though.
With my back against a stone wall
in a courtyard, I am closing my eyes and –Now if you will just observe me, I will move up off the ground, hopefullyas much as a foot, two feet, grind. In my Tibetan bathrobe.
The poem reads almost as a journal entry, and the title encourages that feeling. With her
observation of Ginsberg and Snyder interspersed with her own meditative feeling of elevation,
the poem illustrates both the sense of immediacy the Beats strive for as well as the strong Zen
Buddhist concerns that run through Beat writing. In particular the final line, "Silence," appears
to indicate that Kyger has reached a point of peacefulness within herself apart from her
distracted detailing of her companions' activities.
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"October 29, Wednesday" is a typical Kyger poem. Brenda Knight states that Kyger's
voice is both "immediate and accessible" and her poems are "snapshots of the realities of daily
life" that combine with "her Buddhist beliefs…to form precise imagery and powerful ideas"
(199). The easy companionship of the voice and the feeling of daily life are captured here as
well as the Zen impressions of meditation.
However, Kyger not only incorporates these aspects of Beat writing shared by her male
counterparts, but she also appropriates and revises the Beat characteristics to her own ends. In
making this move, Kyger enriches the Beat canon. Because the male Beats place such heavy
emphasis on the boy gang as the culture most supportive of the artist and their writings include
women only as peripheral characters, Kyger's attempts to appropriate aspects of this patriarchal
mythology and discover for herself a feminine story become of particular interest in the history
of the female Beats. This aspect of Kyger's writing comes through most clearly in her book The
Tapestry and the Web
wherein "she makes use of a mythical persona (Persephone, Penelope,
Circe) through whom she may examine her own life" (Davidson, 189). This book arose during
Kyger's association with the primarily male circle around Jack Spicer in San Francisco and
through this work, she manages to "wrest a ‘female presence' out of a patriarchal story" (191).
As with her other poems, the Beat characteristics of using the raw material of the poet's
personal life appear in this work with references to her marriage to Gary Snyder and to her
father's death but these merge with the mythical. In this intertwining of personal and
mythological, Davidson sees the work as Kyger's struggle to define herself within the male
The thematics of transformation, the imagery of weaving, the interplay of
pronouns all pertain specifically to the woman writer in a largely male enclave.
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Kyger is Penelope surrounded by suitors (male writers) whom she transforms or
enchants through her poem. That Kyger had to render this history in mythic
terms…points to an attempt to subvert the authority of that male fraternity in
which she…worked. (190)
In a parallel sense, this is what the women Beats attempt to do within the constellation of the
Beat Generation, whether they do it by the kind of revision represented in Kyger's book or by
the direct confrontation and claiming of Beat ideologies that ring through DiPrima's' poetry.
Though these two women poets hardly encompass all the ways in which women writers
incorporate and profess the Beat ideology, they provide a varying view of the kinds of work
being done by women who brought their voices to the Beat Generation.
However, the women Beats not only influenced and effected the course of Beat writing
as poets; they also played a prominent role in the publishing and subsequent teaching of Beat
writing. As it may be guessed from the description of the cultural climate in 1950s America
described above, the Beats did not find it easy to be published by mainstream presses. This lack
of interest on the part of publishers stemmed both from the controversial nature of Beat writing
and the fact that "as newcomers to the literary world, the Beat writers had yet to develop the
contacts and reputations which were, and are, so essential to publishing success" (Hayward, 3).
Their solution? Create their own literary magazines and small presses to publish their work and
the work of friends. And it is in this capacity that the contributions of the women Beats became
Though Hettie Jones found herself silenced in terms of writing and publishing her poetry,
she found a voice and involvement in publishing the Beats' writing. She and her husband LeRoi
started the literary magazine Yugen
in their kitchen, and she took on the primary role in
Printed from www.womenwriters.net 19
production from typist to subscription manager. Hettie's enthusiasm for the work is evident in
The Beat Scene. The heat was great, I'll admit, but for me the core was the work.
It was challenging, a lot of it was good, and I simply assumed that the best of
what we published would eventually be recognized for its literary value.
Along with LeRoi, she helped determine what would be included in each issue as well as the
layout and design. However, it was the expertise that she brought to production from her jobs as
subscription manager for the Record Changer
and business manager of the Partisan Review
helped manage the logistics of distribution of the magazine.
Hettie's connections with Partisan Review
not only gave her the expertise to act as
production manager for Yugen
, but also provided a way to distribute the magazine to a
nationwide audience. Through her friendship with Partisan
's distributor, Bernhard DeBoer
("one of only a few distributors for the handful of literary magazines around in those years"), she
reached an agreement whereby Yugen would be sent across the country "piggybacked" on the
Partisan shipments so that it "made its way onto midwest campuses and into West Coast
bookstores" (Jones, "Babes," 52). In this same connection, John Tytell hypothesizes Hettie's
presence working another way as well when he credits her "infiltration" as an influence on the
gradual shift from "an attitude of rigid dismissal…to tolerance and even support" of the Beats
writing. Thus Hettie's work not only helped to provide the Beats a forum wherein they could be
published and read by a wider audience, but her connections with more established literary
magazines may have influenced their eventual acceptance of Beat writing.
Printed from www.womenwriters.net 20
At the same time that the Beats benefited from Hettie's work, she also benefited in her
development as a writer. Apart from enjoying the work and finding a place of value amid the
Beat writers, in acting as an editor for Yugen
, she "was developing her formidable editing skills
and, though not publishing her own work, knew she wanted to write and that editing was helping
her hone her craft" (Knight, 186).
Hettie Jones was not the only woman Beat to publish a literary magazine with LeRoi
Jones. Several years later, Diane DiPrima worked with LeRoi to produce the Floating Bear
monthly poetry newsletter. The intention behind this newsletter was "to put or keep writers in
touch with one another" and it "became one of the principal and influential vehicles for poetic
communication of the period" (Butterick, 12). In terms of the contents of the Bear
, LeRoi and
Diane worked together to make the final decisions, and Gretchen Munroe argues that it was "the
variance in their philosophies served to produce a fairly balanced magazine that, nevertheless,
tended to avant-garde, nontraditional work" (4). However, when it came to actual production of
the newsletter, DiPrima "was the organizing force," and it was she who did the typing and layout
of the author's work for printing (Charters, Beat Reader
, 336). Her work ensured that this
influential newsletter made it into the hands of Beat readers and writers.
DiPrima not only influenced Beat publication through her work with the Floating Bear
but also through her work with the developing small presses. Just as the established literary
magazines had little interest in publishing the Beats, the established presses had little interest in
publishing their books. Thus young poets depended on the alternative network of small presses
to see their work in print. DiPrima was no different than other Beat writers in this experience,
and she "started her own press rather than wait for a publisher to come knocking" (Knight, 2).
With her husband Alan Marlowe, she founded Poets Press in 1964. The press not only printed
Printed from www.womenwriters.net 21
her own work, but also works by Audre Lorde, Clive Matson, Herbert Huncke, David
Henderson, and others (Knight, 126). After the disbanding of Poets Press in 1969, DiPrima did
not cease her publishing activities but went on to found Eidolon Editions in 1974 after moving to
Beyond work in publications, many Beat women writers later moved into the realm of
teaching, thus proliferating Beat concerns and influences to later generations of writers. Diane
DiPrima acted as a founding faculty member for the Poetics Program at New College in San
Francisco, and both she and Joanne Kyger have frequently taught there and at the Jack Kerouac
School of Disembodied Poetics, which was co-founded by a second-generation woman Beat
writer, Anne Waldman. As much as the men of the Beat Generation, the women have worked to
communicate the concerns of the Beats not only through their writing and publishing, but also
through teaching those that came after them.
In that sense, perhaps one of the most interesting Beat women to hear from at the end of
this discussion is the self-proclaimed second-generation Beat Anne Waldman who learned from
and followed these women in her own development as a writer. In the search for her own poetic
voice, she "consciously took the works of certain woman poets as models—specifically Diane
DiPrima (for her energy and her publishing efforts) [and] Joanne Kyger (for her creation of a
"she" character, her female intelligence)" among others (Charters, "Waldman," 4). Because
these women fought culture at large and the Beat culture at the same time to find voices for
themselves, they provided models for the next generation of women writers to follow.
Many more women joined and influenced the Beat movement than enjoy representation
on these pages, and leaving them out almost feels like another instance in which they are
silenced. However, I have striven to paint in broad strokes through the lives of the few an
Printed from www.womenwriters.net 22
understanding of the cultural climate that both the Beats and more specifically Beat women
faced and the ways in which these women chose their lives as writers and Beats by involving
themselves within a largely male-centered literary movement and making something of it their
own. And it is my hope that this look at the few will kindle an interest in the many and varied
Beat women writers whose work waits to be rediscovered.
Printed from www.womenwriters.net 23
Butterick, George. "Diane DiPrima." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 16: The Beats:
Literary Bohemians in Postwar America
. Ed. Ann Charters. The Gale Group. 1983. 21
Charters, Ann. "Anne Waldman." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 16: The Beats:
Literary Bohemians in Postwar America
. Ed. Ann Charters. The Gale Group. 1983. 21 Apr.
Charters, Ann, ed. The Portable Beat Reader
. New York: Penguin, 1992.
Davidson, Michael. The San Francisco Renaissance: Poetics and CommunityAt Mid-Century
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
DiPrima, Diane. Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems
. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1990.
Fried Shoes, Cooked Diamonds: The Beats at Naropa
. Dir. Costanzo Allione. Narr. Allen
Ginsberg. Mystic Fire Video, 1978.
Ginsberg, Allen. "Foreward." The Beat Book: Poems and Fiction of the Beat Generation
Anne Waldman. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.
Johnson, Joyce. "Beat Queens: Women in Flux." The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats: The Beat
Generation and American Culture
. Ed. Holly George-Warren. New York: Hyperion, 1999.
Johnson, Joyce. Minor Characters
. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983.
Jones, Hettie. "Babes in Boyland." The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats: The Beat Generation
and American Culture
. Ed. Holly George-Warren. New York: Hyperion, 1999.
Jones, Hettie. How I Became Hettie Jones
. New York: Grove Press, 1990.
Printed from www.womenwriters.net 24
Karl, Frederick R. American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical
. New York: Harper & Row, 1983.
Knight, Brenda. Women of the Beat Generation: The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of
. Berkeley: Conari Press, 1996.
Kyger, Joanne. Going On: Selected Poems 1958-1980
. New York: E.P. Dutton, Inc., 1983.
McClure, Michael. "Painting Beat by Numbers." The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats: The Beat
Generation and American Culture
. Ed. Holly George-Warren. New York: Hyperion, 1999.
Munroe, Gretchen H. "Diane DiPrima." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 5: American
Poets Since World War II, First Series
. Ed. Donald J. Greiner. The Gale Group. 1980. 21
Apr. 2000. <http://www.galenet.com/servlet/LitRC>.
Notley, Alice. "Joanne Kyger's Poetry." Arshile: A Magazine of the Arts
5 (1996): 95-110.
Tytell, John. Paradise Outlaws: Remembering the Beats
. New York: William Morrow & Co.,
Waldman, Anne, ed. The Beat Book: Poems and Fiction of the Beat Generation
Watson, Steven. The Birth of the Beat Generation: Visionaries, Rebels, and Hipsters, 1944-
. New York: Pantheon Books, 1995.
CLINICAL PRACTICE GUIDELINE FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF CATARACT AMONG ADULTS Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology Family Medicine Research Group-Department of Family and Community Medicine University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital, Manila SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS DEFINITION Recommendation 1
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