Rest in peace, Simon Vinkenoog [Dutch blog w/English option], poet, friend of artists like Karel Appel, translator of Beat Generation figures like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, psychedelic enthusiast and "weed ambassador" of Amsterdam, and author of such guides to hip living as How to Enjoy Reality. One of the European jazz-loving proto-hippies who made the '60s swing and mentored several generations of culture hackers, though he was never widely known in the US.
Gary Snyder, sublime and seminal poet of ecological awareness and activism [YouTube link], Zen appreciation of "ordinary mind" and American speech, shamanistic intimacy with the natural world, and surviving member of the Beat Generation (West Coast posse) at age 78, has won the $100,000 Ruth Lilly poetry prize. "Gary Snyder is in essence a contemporary devotional poet, though he is not devoted to any one god or way of being so much as to Being itself," said Poetry magazine editor Christian Wiman. "His poetry is a testament to the sacredness of the natural world and our relation to it, and a prophecy of what we stand to lose if we forget that relation.” Previous recipients of the Lilly prize include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, and W.S. Merwin. [Previously mentioned here.]
"Without any particular training or background, this patient, just prior to his enlistment, enthusiastically embarked upon the writing of novels. He sees nothing unusual in this activity." Who was the patient? A 21-year-old seaman named Jack Kerouac, who would become the author of On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Dr. Sax, Visions of Cody and many other great novels that you should be reading instead of these gaddam websites. (The diagnosis from the Navy doctors, "schizoid personality," earned Kerouac a discharge.) A hilarious and poignant find from The Smoking Gun.
Robert Creeley, one of the most exquisite and influential poets of our era, died this morning at age 78. I'd link to a story, but it's not in the news yet. This is a note from one of Robert's friends: "American poet Robert Creeley passed away this morning at 6:15 am in Odessa, Texas, where he was fulfilling a Residency at the Lannan Foundation. (Mr. Creeley was a recipient of the Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.) His wife of twenty-eight years, Penelope, and son Will and daughter Hannah were at his side. The cause of death was complications from respiratory disease." Though a comrade and muse for Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, Creeley was much less well-known, and had a style rather unlike theirs, distinguished by extreme economy of words and an understated approach toward emotion. Creeley was often cited as a pioneer by the so-called language poets, and his most creatively generative friendship was with another poet's poet, the late Charles Olson. Creeley's subtlety and balance will be missed.
Do you consider yourself a latter-day "beatnik"? Even young fans of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg proudly christen themselves with the tag beatnik these days, apparently unaware that word was originally coined as a term of ridicule by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen. "Beat" was indeed used by Kerouac to denote both "beaten down" and "beatitude" -- a state of revelation. He first heard the word spoken by a Times Square hustler and writer named Herbert Huncke; then another writer, John Clellon Holmes, popularized the term "Beat" in a New York Times article headlined "This is the Beat Generation." But the original Beats did not approve of the term "beatnik" -- combining "beat" with the Russian "Sputnik," as if to suggest that the Beat writers were both "out there" and vaguely Communist -- as this hilarious dialogue [note: MP3 link] between a very young Ginsberg, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and an excruciatingly square talk-radio host makes plain.