- poetry by Greg Baysans, table of contents
by Greg Baysans
How many famous poetry readings can you name?
I can think of many famous poems but only one
famous reading: October 7th, 1955, San Francisco,
The Six Gallery, a converted auto garage.
The place was packed. Five readers: Allen Ginsberg,
Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Gregory Corso.
Kenneth Rexroth was the emcee.
Ginsberg had never read before in public.
His reading that evening of "Howl" made the night famous.
The elements there that night would blend into
what since is known as the Beat style:
Whalen and Corso represented the Cascade Mountain Buddhists.
Ginsberg's society included Kerouac, Cassady and Burroughs.
Lamantia was the established poet and New York Surrealist.
McClure, a magnet in San Francisco to bring it together.
At the reading, Kerouac (in a writing frenzy of his own,
he'd been asked to read but declined) took a collection
and bought jugs of cheap wine which were passed around
as the reading began. Three readers read before a break.
Ginsberg, starting to get drunk, read after the break.
Ginsberg and Kerouac's muse, Cassady, had a habit
of saying "Go!" Soon after Ginsberg began reading,
Kerouac began to urge, "Go!" after each long line.
The crowd joined in. He was in tears when he finished.
Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti sent a telegram:
"When do I get the manuscript?" the next day.
Ginsberg delivered Howl the following spring.
The book was printed in England. A rumor says
Ferlinghetti made sure the packaging left visible the line,
"who were fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists
and screamed with joy(.)"
San Francisco Customs seized the book. The obscenity trial
began in early 1957. Ferlinghetti was cleared of charges.
On the Road was published in early autumn, 1957.
It was the birth of the Beats.
© 2005 by Greg Baysans, 3-27-05