beatnik writers

Beat writer Jack Kerouac, Image via Biography.com

Exam seasons are rounding the corner and you can say my hours of sleep and stress levels have been not enough and a little too much, respectively.

While feverishly reviewing for my AP US History exam, I came across the 1950s “Beat Generation” literary artists.

In an era of McCarthyism, televisions, advertisements, and credit-backed consumerism, American society in the fifties conformed to a set of homogeneous ideals. Fearing being deemed a communist sympathizer, people stuck to social norms. TV shows like “Father Knows Best” glorified suburban lifestyles and women’s role as housewives, and advertisements appealed to public emotion and promised a solution to discontent.

Van Heusen advertisement

The Beatnik writers challenged this mass culture by expressing the brevity and impermanence of life through their works. Promoting spontaneity, these artists experimented with sexual liberation and drug use. They were the cool, experimental wordsmith rebels on the block, basically.

Jack Kerouac was one of the beatniks who rejected standard poetic meters and wrote stream-of-consciousness poetry. Here’s one of his “western haikus” (didn’t follow 5/7/5) titled “The Taste of Rain” :

The taste
of rain
—Why kneel?

I have no idea what this means. To be fair, the man was an alcoholic and perhaps this piece was more a product of being inebriated than being a dissenter.

Here’s a better illustration of his love for hooch:

i will write
it, all the talk of the world
everywhere in this morning, leav-
ing open parentheses sections
for my own accompanying inner
thoughts-with roars of me
all brain-all world
roaring-vibrating-I put
it down, swiftly, 1,000 words

I would try and do an analysis, but it’s currently 10:35 PM on a Wednesday night and I have an APUSH test tomorrow. Yet, I’m here reading drunk poetry.


– julie