978-1-57324-061-1 / 9781573240611

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About the book:

Female Beats wrote poetry, took drugs, went on the road, listened to jazz, and lived on the fringe just as the men did, but their accomplishments are not as widely recognized. This volume attempts to correct this oversight by profiling 40 women of the Beat generation and publishing samples of their work. Well-known poets Diane di Prima and Denise Levertov appear in the volume, along with the muses of male writers and other women who never became famous at all. As Brenda Knight notes in her introduction, counterculture women in the 1950s and 1960s faced difficult obstacles: "To be unmarried, a poet, an artist, to bear biracial children, to go on the road was doubly shocking for a woman, and social condemnation was high." The first portion of the anthology is devoted to women who were not Beats but who set the stage for the movement. Josephine Miles wrote poetry and mentored the younger Beat poets at Berkeley, while Madeline Gleason founded the San Francisco Poetry Festival. In the "Muses" section are short biographies of wives and girlfriends of famous male writers such as Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. It's widely known that William S. Burroughs shot his wife Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs; this book fills in other details of her wild and short life. Profiles of writers such as Joyce Johnson, Hettie Jones, Janna McClure, and Janine Pommy Vega account for the rest of the anthology. The lives these women led are as interesting as their writing, and Women of the Beat Generation honors their determination to live outside the mainstream. --Jill Marquis

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