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Friday, 1 December 2017

Donald Hall on The Beat Poets, 1961, 1963

I recently bought an old copy of the second edition of Donald Hall's Penguin paperback "Contemporary American Poets". Donald Hall was born in 1928.

The first edition was originally published in 1962, almost two years after I had discovered the Beat Poets.

In his introduction, he writes, in parenthesis, "I have not mentioned the Beat Generation, incidentally, because it is an invention of weekly news magazines. Insofar as it has made several good lines of poetry, it has belonged to the colloquial tradition".

A bit of a put-down...enough to put me off buying the book at the time.

In his preface to the second edition (above), he does make amends, to some extent, by including Allen Ginsberg: "I have included Allen Ginsberg, whom it was ridiculous to omit in the first place".

He did not include Charles Bukowski, or Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose influential A Coney Island of the Mind was published in 1958 (1959 in the UK).

It is hard to believe that Hall didn't include poems from Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems (1956) in the first edition, but the revised and expanded Penguin edition of Contemporary American Poets (1972) remains a valuable collection; it includes poems by Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath - and there are many more important poets still waiting to be (re-) discovered 45 years year after the second edition was published in the UK.

Ferlinghetti was a major omission! He's still waiting...

Christ Climbed Down

The world is a beautiful place

Born March 24, 1919

I found it even more extraordinary that Ferlinghetti was not included in the huge (1132 pages) Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006), chosen and edited by David Lehman. Lehman includes Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith. How did he overlook Ferlinghetti?

Some much-traveled, beaten-up Beat books from my library:

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