Yugen & Jed Birmingham’s Call To Beat Scholarship

Jed Birminghams bibliographic work over at the Burroughs-centric, cannot-recommend-it-too-highly, Reality Studio is truly amazing. This past December, he published a sensitive screed against all-too-complacent academic Beat scholarship – We’re going to call it essential reading. “When will the Beat Generation generate the criticism it deserves?”, he writes. “Verdict – Enough of this shit. I get it. Beat studies is not accepted in the academy. But enough of a Beat Criticism that has to present a grey flannel suit of accepted academic jargons and buzzwords. This is CV padding and the donning of the university tie required for interviews with tenure boards and trustees. It is time to let one’s hair down. When will we get a Beat Criticism of “wild form” and “spontaneous prose” instead of clumsy parroting of Deleuze and Guattari?” – He goes on – “When will we get archive research from primary sources instead of worn-out cliches pulled from secondary sources, reprints and anthologies?”
– We should pause to remind him that there’s the exemplary CUNY Poetics Initiative (new titles imminent on Ed Dorn, David Henderson, Selected  Correspondence of Pauline Kael and Robert Duncan..),but, point taken.

“Enough of the Beat Criticism nightmare. Enough talk of fairy tales. It is time to get real, it is time to wake up…there is no reason that, more than half a century after its birth, Beat Criticism has to step and fetch it before the academic powers-that-be. Enough of  justifying and testifying to (it’s) validity and importance..”
The whole piece may be read in its entirety here. 

Birmingham doesn’t just rant. He puts-his-money-where-his-mouth-is, uploading important primary documentation.
Yugen the complete run of all 8 issues of this seminal magazine is now available as a pdf download – here –  (Allen’s in every issue, except for 2,6 and 8, but that information is so incidental – it’s so not about Allen, and so much about, rather, a vibrant samizdat independent communal energy).
Here’s “4 Poems” from the initial issue (1958), beginning with a short untitled piece:

We rode on a lonely bus
for half a night
shoulders touching, warmth
between our thighs,
bodies moved together
dreaming invisibly.

I longed for a look of secrecy
with open eyes
— intimacies of New Jersey —
holding hands
and kissing golden cheeks.


I walked for miles
toward that bedroom
on the starlit highway
in the lonesome night.

I  knock. The bridegroom
opens the door.
“I’ve come on the first
night as due”

“Farewell, man,”
his reply.
I go into the house,
he to the wild.


I look like someone else
I don’t like in the mirror
— a floating city heel,
middleclass con artist,
I need a haircut and look
seedy — in late twenties,
shadows under my mouth,
too informally dressed,
heavy eyebrowed, sadistic,
too mental and lonely.


The method must be purest meat
and no symbolic dressing,
actual visions and actual prisons
as seen then and now.

Prisons and visions presented
with pure descriptions
corresponding exactly to those
of Alcatraz and Rose.

A naked lunch is natural to us,
we eat reality sandwiches.
But allegories are so much lettuce.
Don’t hide the madness.

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