The Literary Genius and the Downfalls of Success
Of all authors who would eventually be labeled as "Beat Writers," three emerged as arguably the most prolific and inspirational. They were a shy, Jewish boy from New Jersey, an ex-high school football player from Massachusetts, and a wise heroin addict who would grow notorious for shooting his common-law wife in the head while drunk.They were three exceptionally different humans, who never could have imagined their writings achieving a popularity and notoriety that would merit seizures of their books by the F.B.I., and obscenity trials. What were these writers trying to do? In the anthology, Beat Down to Your Soul, (Charters, Ann. ed. 11th Ed. New York: Penguin, 2001) we are introduced to these literary legends, and offered some insight into their work and lives, both literary and socially. We get a glimpse of some of their works, from Ginsberg's monumental poem Howl, to articles pertaining to the Beats, offering explanations for their "madness." As Kerouac himself put it, "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…"
Nearly fifty years ago, five unknown poets took the stage at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. In his essay, Poetry of the 6, poet Michael McClure acknowledges this historic event as, "the venue of thefirst group reading of what has come to be known as the Beat Generation." Of the five, the one who would be most remembered the next morning was a shy, Jewish man from New Jersey named Allen Ginsberg. Already drunk on wine, he confesses, he stood before the crowd and read a draft of his poem Howl. His good friend, Jack Kerouac, urged him on by chanting, " 'Go…Go….