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San Francisco Bay Poets Collection Exhibit: Full Text of This Exhibit

The CSUEB Libraries' Spring 2014 Exhibit highlights selected San Francisco Bay Poets from its Special Collections.

Note on Full Text

Please note that the text on this page comprises that of the entire exhibit where available.

There may be additional information on other pages within this exhibit's Guide that expands on the production, as well.

Together, the text from these two sources comprise all the information covering this topic.

Full Text of This Exhibit

Wall Posters:


Poster #1 - Title Poster:

The San Francisco Bay Poets Collection

[image insert of Jack Kerouac, shelved books, and Angela Davis]

An exhibit featuring holdings of the CSUEB Special Collections

Now through August 2014 at the University Library


Poster #2:

What is the Bay Poets Collection?

The Floyd R. Erickson Special Collections Room

The San Francisco Bay Poetry Collection is maintained in the Floyd R. Erickson Special Collections Room of the CSUEB University Library. Opened in 1975 and later named in honor of the founding Director of the University Library, the Special Collections Room houses unusual and rare materials that require more care and protection than is available in the open stacks of the Library. The Room includes rare books, periodicals, pamphlets, manuscripts, and recordings – all of which facilitate research and support the varied curricula of the University

The University Library acquired the extensive private library of San Francisco writer and scholar Henry H. Hart in 1966. While the majority of his books were added to the regular collection, his rare and special items dealing with early exploration and travels, Marco Polo, and the Portuguese poet Camoes, became the core around which other specialized collections – like the Bay Poets – have grown.

The Special Collections Room now also contains San Francisco Bay Area Poetry, fine press books, anti-slavery materials, early imprints, the Tocher Vulcanology collection, the Jensen Family Papers, and other manuscripts and books.

Image caption: Photograph of the Floyd R. Erickson Room, which houses the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections.

 

The Bay Poets Collection

The San Francisco Bay Poetry Collection contains books, journals, broadsides, recordings, and ephemeral materials that reflect the writing and publishing of poetry in the Bay Area from the late 1920s to the present.

The collection contains extensive holdings of key figures who influenced the San Francisco Renaissance, Beat, and counterculture movements during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Among those represented are Kay Boyle, DIane Di Prima, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Madeline Gleason, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure, and many more.

There is a particularly outstanding collection of materials by William Everson (aka Brother Antonius), most of which have been signed by the poet. Also strongly represented are publications by poets Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan.

There is also a representative collection of other writers native to the area, as well as those whose work contributed to the overall Zeitgeist in which the Bay poets flourished. Represented, too, are many local presses which specialize in the publication of poetry, as well as several hundred poetry journals, and many anthologies.

The total number of items in the Bay Poets Collection exceeds 7,000, and includes over 300 broadsides (many signed), and over 500 poetry periodicals.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #3:

Helen Adam (1909-1993)

Helen Adam was an artist, photographer, and poet who came to be associated with the San Francisco Renaissance as well as Beat culture of the 1950s and 1960s. Scottish by birth, Adam was early steeped in the poetry of Milton, and was writing traditional ballads long before her modernist colleagues of the Beat era decades later (Adam had already celebrated her 50th birthday years before Allen Ginsberg published “Howl” in 1957, thereby setting off the Beat movement in the Bay Area).

Adam had published her first book in a traditional Victorian ballad genre, when she was only fourteen years old (The Elfin Pedlar in 1923). Being an artist in a wide-ranging field of expressions (including photography and collage), Adam was more open than many of her artistic contemporaries between the World Wars to the various new forms of artistic expression.

She moved to the U.S. in 1939, and came to live in San Francisco by 1949. At this point, her reputation as a poet began to grow. She used poet Robert Duncan’s workshops at S.F. State College as a means to introduce a much younger audience to her dark-themed, erotic verse. Allen Ginsberg later confessed to being won over by Adam, after he initially wanted to reject her work out of hand.

She became a friend and mentor to many of the younger Beat poets, including Duncan, Ginsberg, Jess (Collins), and her own contemporary, Madeline Gleason. Although of a different, more staid literary tradition, Adam nevertheless greatly impressed her wilder, younger cohorts. She is regarded as one of the oldest poets in the San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s and ’60s.

As early as 1960, with the publication of Donald Allen’s standard reference anthology, The New American Poetry, 1945-1960, Adam shared a place with only three other women in Allen’s pantheon of influential poets.

As if to underscore her own unique poetic style and vision and their contribution to the San Francisco Renaissance, in 1963 she and her sister penned San Francisco’s Burning, A Ballad Opera. Illustrated by Jess, the CSUEB Special Collections houses both an oversized folio of the opera’s libretto without music, and a later publication from 1985, which includes the musical score by Al Carmines.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 12 records in a modified author search for Helen Adam. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #4:

Kay Boyle (1902-1992)

Kay Boyle published 14 novels, 11 short stories, and 8 volumes of poetry during her long life.

Born in 1902, she came to the Bay Area political and literary scene when she joined the faculty at San Francisco State College in 1963, teaching creative writing. A child of a privileged lifestyle in St. Paul, Minnesota, Boyle’s mother nevertheless greatly influenced her child’s sense of social responsibility to those less fortunate. This theme carried with Boyle throughout her years living abroad.

She married a French student and moved to France in 1923, then subsequently married a second time in 1932 to Laurence Vail, with whom she had 3 children. By 1943, she and Vail had divorced, and she married Baron Joseph von Franckenstein, adding 2 more children to her brood. Von Franckentstein was working for the U.S. State Department, and Boyle took a position as a foreign correspondent for the New Yorker magazine.

The couple moved to the United States and soon fell victim to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt searching for communists: Boyle was blacklisted and her husband was fired from his position. Boyle was active at this time as a writer-in-residence at Wagner College. With her husband’s death, she accepted a creative writing position at San Francisco State College.

In terms of Boyle’s association with the Bay Poets, this was obviously a key period for her: her activism – bolstered by the post-Beat, Civil Rights, Vietnam, and counterculture protests – came to the fore: She early traveled (1966) to Cambodia, for example, on a “fact-finding” mission; after numerous protest appearances, she was arrested on two occasions in 1967, even going to prison.

In 1968, she also signed the anti-war document, Writers and Editors War Tax Protest in which the signers refused to pay all or part of their income taxes that went to support the war. Other causes which she came to support included the NAACP and Amnesty International.

During the course of her literary career, she won two O. Henry Awards for two of her short stories: The White Horses of Vienna (1935), and Defeat (1941). The earliest of Boyle’s volumes of poetry, entitled A Statement, was published in 1932, with the last, Collected Poems of Kay Boyle published by Copper Canyon Press in 1991.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 35 records in a modified author search for Kay Boyle. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #5:

Richard Brautigan (1935-1984)

Richard Brautigan was a poet, novelist and short story writer who was an integral part of the Beat and counterculture scenes in San Francisco in the 1960s and ’70s.

Brautigan’s childhood in Washington and Oregon – during the Depression and World War II – was mired in poverty and the domestic abuse of a stepfather. He began writing for his high school newspaper in Eugene, Oregon, where his family had settled in 1944. He graduated with honors, and had his first published poem appear in the school’s paper in his senior year.

In 1954 Brautigan made his first trip to San Francisco; he did, however return to Oregon from time-to-time. On one such occasion, he was institutionalized for rowdy, erratic behavior and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and clinical depression. During this period he produced an unpublished manuscript entitled The God of the Martians.

After this episode, it was in San Francisco that Brautigan eventually made a life and career for himself as a writer. Starting about 1956, he actively promoted himself by reading in poetry clubs and passing out copies of his work on street corners. He published several poems in the late 1950s and wrote for a local underground newspaper, Change.

He wrote his best-known novels, A Confederate General from Big Sur, and Trout Fishing in America, in 1961. With Trout Fishing’s 1967 publication – and subsequent promotion by a new publisher in 1969 – Brautigan gained fame and notoriety as a representative of the nascent 1960s counterculture movement which was morphing out of the Beat period of the previous decade in San Francisco. More importantly, however, the novel’s critical acclaim established Brautigan’s literary credentials, and he became a symbol and voice for the youth of the time. During the 1970s, Brautigan wrote five more novels.

Brautigan’s writings are influenced by his interest in Zen Buddhism and his love of nature, and make use of quirky metaphors, black comedy, parody and satire. Over the years, his poetry has received a more uneven reception than his novels, but it still shares Brautigan’s imaginative whimsy and literary precision so evident in his prose.  He committed suicide in 1984 in his home in Bolinas, California.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 21 records in a modified author search for Richard Brautigan. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #6:

Gregory Corso (1930-2001)

Born to teenage Italian-immigrant parents in Greenwich Village, New York during the Depression, Corso’s childhood was a rough one: his mother abandoned him when he was still an infant, leaving the child in New York. Corso bounced back and forth among a succession of orphanages and foster homes, living briefly (upon occasion) with his father. He even spent time in jail and was committed to Bellevue after attempting to run away from “home.”

In 1944, 18-year-old Corso was convicted of theft and sentenced to 3 years in Clinton State Prison, where he developed a profound interest in literature. Occupying the same cell recently vacated by Lucky Luciano, Corso read in a broad range of material, including works by Shelley, Stendahl, Dostoyevsky, Christopher Marlowe, and Thomas Chatterton. He began writing poems, and studied the Greek and Roman classics, using Will Durant’s Story of Civilization as his self-assigned textbook. A brilliant student, he read encyclopedias and dictionaries as well. He was taken under the wing of Italian mafiosi while in Clinton, and was encouraged in his studies.

After his release from prison, Corso returned to Greenwich Village, where he met the young poet, Allen Ginsberg. It was Ginsberg who first exposed Corso to experimental poetry. By 1954, a penniless Corso had moved to Cambridge, where he devoured Harvard’s Widener Library and lived off favors of students with whom he had made friends. Recognizing Corso’s talent, a college dean – the poet and writer Archibald MacLeish – allowed Corso to attend classes as a non-matriculating student at Harvard, effectively becoming a poet-in-residence. He was able to get his poetry published in the Harvard Advocate , and have his first book, The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems, published in 1954.

In 1956, Corso traveled to San Francisco and performed readings of his poetry (most famously at the Six Gallery) and began his close association with founding members of the Beat movement – notably Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lived in Paris, France between 1957-58, and was able to get Ferlinghetti’s City Lights to publish his book, Gasoline, in 1958.

Throughout the remainder of his life, Corso did teaching stints, traveled widely, and continued to publish his prose and poetry. He died in 2001.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 14 records in a modified author search for Gregory Corso. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #7:

Robert Creeley (1926-2005)

Robert Creeley was born in Massachusetts in 1926, and lived much of his youth in and around New England. Having lost his left eye to an accident when he was four, he nevertheless volunteered for a stint in the American Field [Ambulance] Service in Burma during World War II.

By the war’s end, Creeley had attended Harvard, and eventually received his bachelor’s degree from the experimental, communal Black Mountain College in 1955. He had begun corresponding with the poets Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams around 1949, and he also met Charles Olson, who later – as Black Mountain College’s rector – extended Creeley a faculty position at the college. While there, Creeley edited the Black Mountain Review, and became associated with a group of writers that became known as the “Black Mountain Poets.” Included in this group were writers Denise Levertov, Fielding Dawson, Ed Dorn, and Charles Olson himself.

Briefly teaching in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1956, Creeley moved on to San Francisco at the time of the literary phenomenon known as the “San Francisco Renaissance,” with which he would become associated. It was there he met the prime movers of the new Beat movement, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, and Jack Kerouac.

By 1960, his inclusion in Donald Allen’s benchmark work,The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, helped established Creeley’s reputation – especially when followed by his own collection, For Love, in 1962.

As a writer, Creeley pioneered his generation’s move away from poetic source material based on history and tradition, to that of individual life experiences. An example of this can be seen in his 1963 novel, The Island, which draws upon his life while living on the Spanish island of Mallorca with his first wife and two children in the early 1950s.

By the late 1970s, Creeley’s famously spare poetic style was undergoing a transformation (see Hello: A Journal, February 29-May 3, 1976), but his subjects continued to be about personal, domestic life issues. Subjects for his best work have included his marriages and personal friendships. Creeley spent many of later years at the University of Buffalo, and was the New York State Poet Laureate from 1989 to 1991. He continued to publish until his death in 2005.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 74 records in a modified author search for Robert Creeley. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #8:

Diane Di Prima (1934-  )

Diane Di Prima dropped out of Swarthmore College to pursue her poetry in New York in the early 1950s. Her first book of poetry, This Kind of Bird Flies Backward, was published by Totem Press in 1958.

She became part of the emerging Beat scene in Manhattan, and helped found the New York Poets Theatre and her own Poets Press. During this period, Di Prima had obscenity charges leveled at her by the government, and was arrested by the FBI for a pair of poems she wrote for the newsletter, The Floating Bear (which she edited with Le Roi Jones).

She became acquainted with Timothy Leary and his commune in Millbrook, New York, and in 1966 she published Leary’s Psychodelic [sic] Prayers. That same year she signed a pledge of tax resistance to the Vietnam War.

In 1968 she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and, as the counterculture, or Hippie movement emerged, Di Prima’s emphasis on the link between spiritual practice and politics became pronounced: She joined the Diggers, a radical group of improvisational actors in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury who saw themselves as community anarchists, and she studied Buddhism, alchemy, and Gnosticism. In 1969 she published her own fictionalized biography, Memoirs of a Beatnik. 

She has also been a highly regarded photographer and collage artist since the 1960s. Additionally, she is known for her prose works – especially as a playwright and writer of memoirs. The 1970s, ’80s, and most of the ’90s were spent teaching at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder , Colorado, along with William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso. She has also taught classes at Oakland’s College of Arts and Crafts, and maintains a relationship with the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University.

While well known for poetry that reflects the political and social milieu of the 1950s and 60s, some of Di Prima’s later work deals with religious practice and feminist issues, as in her poem “Brass Furnace Going Out” which addresses her regret at being pressured into an abortion by LeRoi Jones in the 1960s. She continues to solidify her reputation as a prose author, teacher, and artist.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 36 records in a modified author search for Diane Di Prima. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #9:

Robert Duncan (1919-1988)

Robert Duncan was born in Oakland and adopted by a Theosophist couple, who chose him partially because the circumstances of his birth matched criteria that had been previously determined for his parents by astrologists. He grew up cognizant of occult references in all his surroundings, including careful interpretation of his dreams by his parents. He began writing poetry while attending U.C. Berkeley in 1936, where he also began to cultivate a bohemian lifestyle. After briefly attending Black Mountain College, he ended up in a commune in Woodstock, New York in the 1940s where he met Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller.

When Duncan was drafted in 1941, he openly declared his homosexuality and was discharged from service. He was one of the first American literary figures to openly come out as gay, writing a treatise for the influential journal Politics. Published in 1944, The Homosexual in Society was ground-breaking, and compared the social status of homosexuals in America with that of African Americans and Jews. The essay has since become famous for its pioneering voice in gay culture, years before there was an organized gay rights movement.

He returned to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1945, bringing his early occult and mythic influences to the local poetry and art scenes. He met Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Spicer, and Robin Blaser. He became friends with Madeline Gleason and Helen Adam, and published his first book Heavenly City, Earthly City in 1947. Duncan was thus positioned in the epicenter of the San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s and ’60s.

During the 1960s, Duncan achieved considerable critical success with the publication of his three most significant works; The Opening of the Field (1960), Roots and Branches (1964), and Bending the Bow (1968). His poetry is seen as being both Romantic and modernist – with a leaning toward the mythic and impersonal.

After Bending the Bow in 1968, he vowed not to publish a new collection for fifteen years so that he could avoid the annoyance of publication and focus on his poetics. Ground Work I: Before the War was published in 1984 and won him the National Poetry Award, followed by Ground Work II: In the Dark, published in February, 1988, the month of his death.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 63 records in a modified author search for Robert Duncan. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #10:

William Everson (1912-1994)

William Everson was a key player in the post-World War II San Francisco Renaissance, along with poet Kenneth Rexroth. He had grown up in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and played football for Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno).

At the start of World War II, Everson’s pacifist beliefs led him to join a camp for conscientious objectors doing alternative work in the lumber industry of the Pacific Northwest during the conflict. Everson and his fellow objectors nevertheless managed time to stage poetry readings and plays, and to teach themselves fine printing.

Everson’s marriage suffered from his distance in the Oregon camp, and he poured his personal life into his first volume of poems, The Residual Years (1948). The volume was well received among conscientious objectors and gained him national attention.

After the war, Everson spent a brief sojourn in Sebastopol, California. There, he met his second wife, and then moved to the Bay Area, where he joined the group of poets surrounding Kenneth Rexroth. He was thus front-and-center for the birth of the San Francisco Renaissance movement in the late 1940s.

At one point, Everson was publicly linked to the Beat poets – as alluded to by Rexroth in a 1957 comment in the Evergreen Review. Since the agnostic Everson had converted to Catholicism in 1951, becoming a Roman Catholic monk in the Dominican order, the press soon seized on the apparent contradiction between Everson’s devoutness and the amoral lifestyle of the Beats, gaining him more notoriety.

During his years as a monk, Everson continued to publish under his religious name, Brother Antonius. He took his first vows of priesthood in 1964, but his meeting of Susanna Rickson in 1965 led to his writing of “Tendril in the Mesh,” a poem dedicated to her. His love for her led to his eventually leaving the priesthood to return to secular life. He and Rickson were married in 1969.

In his remaining years, Everson taught, did critical writing, and edited the works of his inspiration, poet Robinson Jeffers. He also worked as a master printer at Lime Kiln Press, and was poet-in-residence at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 74 records in a modified author search for William Everson. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #11:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-  )

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a publisher, poet, author, art critic, as well as a social and political activist. Arguably, he was essential to  the San Francisco Renaissance of literary and artistic expression that flowered in the 1950s and ’60s.

Born in Yonkers, New York in 1919, Ferlinghetti took his bachelor’s degree at Chapel Hill in North Carolina before joining the Navy Reserve in World War II. He was sent to Nagasaki, Japan, a short time after the atomic bomb was dropped on the city in August, 1945.

After the war, Ferlinghetti received his master’s from Columbia University and a PhD (1950) from the Sorbonne in France. He settled in San Francisco in the early 1950s. Together with Peter Martin, Ferlinghetti started publishing City Lights Magazine, and established a bookshop of the same name in San Francisco’s North Beach in 1953; two years later, he launched City Lights Publishing House.

City Lights Bookstore was the first bookstore in the U.S. to sell only paper-bound books and magazines. More importantly, however, City Lights Bookstore and City Lights Publishing – under Ferlinghetti’s direction – together became a center for intellectual activity, promoting the belief that art should be universally accessible, and not just the province of the educated elite. This concept dovetailed nicely with the talent emerging in San Francisco at the time, and manifested itself in Ferlinghetti’s support of the emerging “Beat” poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder.

Ferlinghetti was arrested on obscenity charges in 1956 after publishing Ginsberg’s famous Howl & Other Poems. He was eventually acquitted, but not before drawing national attention to the Beat movement in San Francisco and his principled stance on freedom of expression.

In the years since, Ferlinghetti has continued to publish and engage in the arts. He has toured Italy, giving poetry readings in numerous cities; his paintings have been shown in galleries around the globe, and he has received any number of prizes and awards, including being named Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 1998. Other awards include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Author’s Guild, and the 2003 Robert Frost Memorial Medal.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 59 records in a modified author search for Lawrence Ferlinghetti. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #12:

Alan Ginsberg (1926-1997)

Born in 1926, Allen Ginsberg grew to become one of the most respected poets of the post-World War II generation. Often associated with the Beat and counterculture movements of the 1950s and ’60s, Ginsberg burst onto the stage with the now-famous reading of his poem, Howl at the Six Gallery poets’ gathering in San Francisco in 1955, joined by fellow readers Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Michael McClure.

Growing up in New Jersey, young Ginsberg struggled with his mother’s mental illness and institutionalization over an agonizing period of time. According to some, much of his personal frustration and anxiety was transferred to his perception of an American society at odds with itself: claiming high morals and just causes, all the while condoning the destructive tendencies (racism, sexual repression) on a monumental scale.

During a period of mainstream, middle-class social conformity in the 1950s, Ginsberg championed sexual liberation, drug use and individual enlightenment, and, in so doing, ran afoul of the social establishment – Howl resulted in his San Francisco publisher, City Lights Books, being brought up on obscenity charges. City Lights, run by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was acquitted of the charges, but not before elevating both the Beat culture of San Francisco, and Ginsberg himself, to international fame.

Ginsberg’s message of social tolerance struck a chord with many in the culture, especially post-war youth. In his groundbreaking poems Howl (1956) and Kaddish (1961), he speaks in raw, confrontational terms, displaying a rage and desperation with the hypocrisy and complacency of mid-twentieth century American culture.

Ginsberg, in fact, inspired the so-called Hippie movement of the mid-1960s, coining the term “flower power” to describe the desire of youth to eschew violence in favor of the power of Love. His influence crossed over into the folk protest and rock music of the 1960s, influencing, among others, Bob Dylan’s early work.

In his own quest for personal enlightenment, Ginsberg experimented with various drugs in the 1960s, including peyote, marijuana, and LSD; by the 1970s, however, he began to pursue Buddhist practice as his preferred avenue to this end. He continued his prolific output until his death in 1997, living modestly in spite of his fame.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 78 records in a modified author search for Allen Ginsberg. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #13:

Nikki Giovanni (1943- )

Nikki Giovanni was born into a close-knit family in Knoxville, Tennessee. The younger of two sisters, Giovanni was especially close to her grandmother, the family story-teller who taught her an early appreciation for her African-American roots. This relationship came to inform Giovanni’s “plain-speak” verse, as well as her appreciation of the power of words.

Her family moved to the Cincinnati area when she was young, and, encouraged by her teachers and others, she enrolled in Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she earned her B.A. in History in 1968. She was present at a time of unrest on U.S. campuses due to both the Civil Rights Movement and anti-Vietnam protests, but also at time that all-Black Fisk was experiencing a creative renaissance of artists and writers seeking new ways to express themselves and their Black identity.

Spurred and angered by the numerous political assassinations of the 1960s – Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, president Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy – Giovanni’s early poetry was a direct conduit for her plain-spoken rage at the System. These early works sold unusually well for poetic volumes, both Black Feeling, Black Talk (1967) and Black Judgement (1968) displaying an urgent, militant Black Power viewpoint that resonated with the times.

By 1969, Giovanni had begun teaching duties at Rutgers and became a mother. She began to travel as well, broadening her perspectives both abroad and at home, and penned her first poetry for children. These later volumes drew heavily on the African-American experience, and opened the doors for several books she would write for children throughout her life: Spin a Soft Black Song (1971), Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People (1973), Vacation Time (1980), Knoxville, Tennessee (1994), The Sun Is So Quiet (1996), Rosa (2005), and Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship (2008).

Increasingly popular as a speaker during the 1970s and ’80s, Giovanni was featured in many mainstream magazine articles (Jet, Ebony, and Harper’s Bazaar). Her topical concerns continued to be social and gender issues, only somewhat mellowed from her earliest works in the mid-1960s. Since 1987, she has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, and she has received numerous awards and honorary doctorates.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 17 records in an author search for Nikki Giovanni; 3 of the items are in Special Collections. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #14:

Madeline Gleason (1903-1979)

Madeline Gleason became famous later in life, when she organized the first international Festival of Modern Poetry in San Francisco in 1947. She, along with eleven other poets – including Jack Spicer, Kenneth Rexroth, William Everson, and Robert Duncan – read their poems during the two-evening event, and essentially launched what became known as the San Francisco Renaissance in poetry.

In the 1920s, Gleason had begun writing poetry while working in a bookstore in Portland, Oregon, circulating her own manuscripts and writing poetry-centered articles for the local newspaper. During the Depression, she moved to San Francisco, where she obtained work with the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) Writers’ Project. She also supported herself as a translator of classical and operatic German song lyrics for composer John Edmunds and, in 1936, several of her poems were published in Poetry magazine.

Gleason seemed to like performing in the arts: she had done some singing and dancing in vaudeville in the 1920s, and by the 1930s she was helping Edmunds organize singing festivals. Thus, in 1947 – once she had obtained some standing in the poetic world – it came naturally for her to organize the aforementioned Festival of Modern Poetry at the Lucien Labaudt Gallery in San Francisco. In so doing, she firmly linked herself to the history of poetry in the Bay Area and tapped a thirst for an alternative form of cultural expression in the conformist, mainstream American society of the time.

In fact, the Gleason-organized modern poetry festival was the first in a series of cultural events in San Francisco that presaged a quick succession of seismic cultural shifts: The San Francisco Renaissance of the 1940s, the Beat poets of the 1950s, and the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

Although later partially eclipsed by the stardom of the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat poets, Gleason nevertheless published in a steady stream: her first book, Poems, was published in 1944; her second,The Metaphysical Needle, in 1949; her third, Concerto for Bell and Telephone in 1966, Selected Poems in 1973, and Here Comes Everybody: New and Selected Poems in 1975. She taught creative writing at San Francisco State and continued to produce poetry until her death in 1979.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 7 records in a modified author search for Madeline Gleason. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 



Poster #15:

Le Roi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka) (1934-2014)

Le Roi Jones was born during the Great Depression. Although he came from a working-class family, he was able to obtain a scholarship to Rutgers, before transferring to Howard University where he studied English.

He moved to Greenwich Village after World War II, where he became part of the Beat scene. After marrying in 1958, he and his new wife founded Totem Press which published several of the New York Beat poets. The couple also published a quarterly literary magazine entitled Yugen, which ran until 1962. In 1961, he and poet Diane Di Prima began publishing The Floating Bear newsletter (the CSUEB Library’s Special Collections has the entire run of the magazine between 1961 and 1969).

In the early 1960s, Jones visited Cuba at the time of Castro’s revolution, and penned an essay entitled Cuba Libre which was published by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. This activist group had been founded in 1960 to lobby for American support of Castro and his Marxist policies, but was eventually disbanded after the Kennedy assassination (Lee Harvey Oswald’s association with the group became widely known). The CSUEB Library’s Special Collections houses a copy of this 1961 essay.

Jones also wrote Blues People: Negro Music in White America, in which he examined the significance of the blues and jazz in African-American culture. The CSUEB Library’s Special Collections houses an original copy of this 1963 publication.

After the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, Jones broke with his old world-view: he divorced his wife, moved to Harlem, and became convinced that violence was needed to create justice in America. As a result, his poetry became controversial. By 1968, he remarried and changed his name to Imamu Amiri Baraka to reflect his new role as a spiritual leader of Kwawaida, his own Black Muslim organization. By 1974, he dropped the spiritual title “Imamu,” and Amiri Baraka embraced a Marxist Leninist philosophy, championing liberation movements in the Third World.

Throughout his life, he taught poetry, drama and literature at many universities, including University of Buffalo, Columbia, and San Francisco State. He earned numerous honors in the field of literature, including fellowships from the Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

As of this writing, CSUEB Link+ lists 79 records in an author search for Amiri Baraka (le Roi Jones). You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #16:

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)

Jack Kerouac was an author and poet who – together with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and a handful of others – is considered a pioneer of the “Beat Generation.” Born into a French-Canadian family in working-class Lowell, Massachusetts, Kerouac wrote stories at an early age, inspired by the radio show, The Shadow, and by the novels of Thomas Wolfe.

Kerouac won a football scholarship to Columbia University, but dropped out of college. He briefly served in the United States Merchant Marine at the start of World War II. In 1943 he enlisted in the Navy, but was soon discharged as having a “schizoid personality.”

While at Columbia, Kerouac had made friends with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady. Throughout the early 1950s, Kerouac wrote several unpublished novels, including one that chronicled the wild cross-country trips he and Neal Cassady took throughout the U.S. and Mexico in the late ’40s – it was entitled On the Road.

On the Road was Kerouac’s most famous novel, but was not published until 1957, shortly after Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and the other “Beat” poets hit everyone’s literary radar with the Six Gallery reading in 1955. Kerouac was seen as part of Ginsberg’s group, and the novel, which depicted a lifestyle replete with jazz, drugs, and poetry, purportedly defined the “Beat Generation” (which Kerouac gets credit for naming). By century’s end, On the Road became widely recognized as among the top 50 or 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

Kerouac’s sudden fame with On the Road became his undoing, and as he tried to live up to the hard-drinking image of himself in his novels, he sank into alcoholism which eventually destroyed his health. He died in 1969; he was only 47.

Among Kerouac’s other notable prose works are The Dharma Bums (1958), and Dr. Sax (1959). Much of his wild, free-flowing poetry was influenced by jazz and Buddhism, in particular. Most of his poetry was written during the Beat years (1950-1960).

The CSUEB Library Bay Poets Collection holds several first editions of Kerouac’s novels, as well as contemporaneous reviews of his publications (The Hasty Papers: A One-Shot Review, 1960).

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 35 records in a modified author search for Jack Kerouac. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #17:

Joanne Kyger (1934-  )

Bay-Area based poet Joanne Kyger came to San Francisco in 1958 after attending Santa Barbara College (now U.C. Santa Barbara). In the City, she met her first husband, Gary Snyder – her arrival coinciding with the notoriety being given to the Six Gallery readings that launched the careers of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Spicer, Snyder, and other the other “Beat” poets.

Her own poetry is steeped in daily life and her awareness of the Northern California landscape; she has been called a “phenomenologist” by poet Alice Notley. Kyger came to be heavily influenced by poets who had studied at the famous arts-centered Black Mountain College in North Carolina, as well as by Zen Buddhism, especially the writings of D.T. Suzuki. She and Snyder – with whom she shared an interest in Buddhism – married in 1960 while on a trip to Japan.

During the next four years, she traveled extensively in Japan and India with Snyder, Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky, meeting the Dalai Lama. Upon returning to the United States, she published her first book, The Tapestry and the Web in1964. She married a second time in 1965.

In the ensuing decades, Kryger has published over 20 collections of poetry and several prose works and journals. Since 1968 – after traveling to Europe and New York – she has been living in the unincorporated coastal community of Bolinas, in Marin County. She has also taught poetry at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Some of her later titles include Just Space: Poems 1979-1989 (1991) Black Sparrow Press and Strange Big Moon: The Japan and India Journals: 1960-1964 (2000) North Atlantic Books. Originally published in 1981 by Tombouctou Books as The Japan and India Journals, 1960-1964, this was a collection of autobiographical writings which Anne Waldeman called “one of the finest books ever in the genre of ‘journal writing.'”

Other volumes include As Ever, Selected Poems, (2002) from Penguin, and About Now: Collected Poems (2007), published by the National Poetry Foundation. Kyger was the winner of the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Award for Poetry in 2008. Her most recent collections include God Never Dies, Blue Press, The Distressed Look, Coyote Books, and Again, La Alameda Press.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 18 records in a modified author search for Joanne Kyger. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #18:

Michael McClure (1932- )

Famous as one of the inner circle of the early 1950s Beat generation poets from San Francisco, McClure also made the transition to the late 1960s Hippie counterculture. As such, he is now firmly established as one of the central icons of the San Francisco Renaissance movement of the 1950s and ’60s.

His Beat experience began when he participated in the pivotal San Francisco Six Gallery readings in 1955. Jack Kerouac – who also attended the event – later made fictional reference to McClure in both his Dharma Bums and Big Sur novels. McClure’s first book of poetry was entitled Passage, and was published in 1956. In subsequent decades, he published over a dozen additional books of poetry.

In addition to his poetry, however, McClure became a prolific playwright, songwriter, and novelist whose works have been published in Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other outlets. Like many of the Beat poets in the 1950s and ’60s, however, McClure early ran afoul of the mainstream Establishment with one of his major artistic works before becoming nationally recognized and accepted.

McClure’s particular artistic cause célèbre was his theatrical production, The Beard. The play – originally performed in December 1965 at the Actor’s Workshop in San Francisco – drew attention from police and other interests for “lewd and dissolute conduct in a public place” when it was performed six months later at Bill Graham’s famous Fillmore Auditorium, and, shortly thereafter, in North Beach. Championed by the American Civil Liberties Union, however, charges were eventually dropped.

The play went on to become a staple of university drama groups, and has been performed internationally to much acclaim. In 1967-1968, it even won Off-Broadway (Obie) theatre awards for Best Director and Best Actress. About the same time, McClure became playwright in residence at San Francisco’s new Magic Theatre company at Fort Mason. Founded in 1967, much of the Magic’s success was due to McClure and his work during his eleven-year tenure there.

McClure has also been plugged in to the music scene throughout his career, often performing his poetry with musical collaborators such as keyboardist Ray Manzarek, of Doors fame, and composer Terry Riley.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 62 records in a modified author search for Michael McClure. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #19:

Josephine Miles (1911-1985)

Josephine Miles received her bachelor’s degree in English Literature at UCLA in 1932, and then went north to the Bay Area to earn her doctorate at U.C. Berkeley. She joined the faculty at Berkeley as a professor of English in 1940, and in 1947 she became the first woman to earn tenure at Berkeley’s English Department. During the course of her long academic career at U.C., she authored numerous books of poetry and many critical works.

As a teacher, Miles was fascinated with the Beat poets of San Francisco who began emerging in the mid-1950s, and whose crudely published street poems were often brought to class by her students. Whereas many of her teaching colleagues dismissed the new style out-of-hand, Miles was excited by the changing forms of poetry taking place around her in the Bay Area. She saw the new poetry scene as an opportunity for her students, and used their interest in the Beat poetry to encourage them to find their own voices.

At one point in the mid-1950s, a pin-stripe-suited Allen Ginsberg approached her about possibly doing graduate work at Berkeley. Miles was so impressed by his energy and his ground-breaking poem, Howl, that she recommended it to the Pulitzer-Prize-Winning poet Richard Eberhart, who was looking for new writers in the Berkeley poetic scene. Eberhart’s subsequent positive review of the poem helped legitimize Ginsberg’s reputation early on.

In a more traditional vein, Miles helped found the Berkeley Poetry Review in 1974, for an international market. Through her reputation as a scholar and her role as teacher, Miles had the opportunity to mentor many of the young poets associated with various “schools,” including the so-called San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movements of the 1950s and ’60s (notably Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser, William Stafford, and A.R. Ammons).

Throughout her life, Miles suffered from a severe form of degenerative arthritis. In spite of this – and the attendant inability to perform the simplest tasks, including use of a typewriter – Miles’ academic career was marked by prodigious activity, many publications, close engagement with her students, and numerous awards, including a National Arts Endowment Senior Fellowship in 1980.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 16 records in a modified author search for Josephine Miles. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #20:

Gary Snyder (1930-  )

Unlike many of his poet contemporaries who are associated with the San Francisco Renaissance and the Beat poets of the 1950s and ’60s, Gary Snyder was actually a San Francisco native. Born in the City in 1930 at the start of the Great Depression, his family soon moved north – first Washington state, then to Portland, Oregon after the start of World War II (his mother had just divorced, and took young Snyder with her). Growing up in the rural Pacific Northwest, he became alarmed by the wholesale destruction of vast swaths of forests in the region.

By the age of seven, Snyder had become an avid reader, and came to be interested in Native American culture when he encountered the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest. Snyder’s mother worked for the Oregonian newspaper as a reporter, and Gary was employed as a copy boy. In addition to these influences that underscored the value of the written word, young Snyder also became involved in numerous outdoor pursuits (camp counselor, climbing, merchant seaman), all of which would later give him a rather different outlook and life experience than his city-bred contemporaries in the Beat movement.

Reflecting his interests, Snyder graduated Reed College in 1951 with a dual degree in Anthropology and Literature. Shortly thereafter, he published “A Berry Feast” and several other poems. During this time, he also became exposed to Buddhism and traditional Asian artistic views of nature. His primary love was poetry, however, and he decided to return to his birthplace of San Francisco to make a living at what he loved most.

In the early 1950s, Snyder continued his Buddhist studies and pursued East Asian studies at U.C. Berkeley (1953). Ever the environmentally oriented individual, Snyder worked jobs in the forests during the summers at school.

Snyder’s association with the Beat poets and the San Francisco Renaissance began when he met Jack Kerouac and roomed with him in a Marin County cabin near Mill Valley in 1953-54. Later associations with Alan Watts, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg soon solidified his standing as member of the San Francisco Renaissance, if not the Beat movement itself.

As of this writing, the CSUEB Special Collections lists 57 records in a modified author search for Gary Snyder. You may view the live catalog here.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #21:

Philip Whalen (1923-2002)

Philip Whalen grew up in a small town on the Columbia River in Oregon. He began writing poetry for his high school’s literary magazine when he was 16. But although he had literary aspirations, his family could not afford to send him to college, so he worked as a laborer in an airplane factory and at the docks in Portland.

Whalen was eventually drafted for stateside duties during World War II, and was then able to attend Reed College on the G.I. Bill after his discharge, receiving his B.A. in 1951. It was during this period that he became friends with fellow poets Gary Snyder and Lew Welch. The three roomed together for a time about 1950, sharing many interests, such as their love of nature and a strong sense of spiritual awareness. Snyder eventually introduced Whalen to the writings of D.T. Suzuki, whose Zen philosophy shaped the latter part of Whalen’s life.

Like Snyder, Whalen drifted up and down the Pacific Coast, working odd jobs (including a fire spotter in the Mount Baker National Forest) in the early 1950s, before moving to San Francisco. As with many of the other poets represented in the current CSUEB Bay Poets Collection exhibit, Whalen arrived at a key moment in the cultural history of the City: the “birth” of the Beat movement with the famous Six Gallery readings of October 13, 1955.

Invited to read at this event, Whalen became friends with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and other influential Beat writers. Though not so self-consciously concerned with social change or political issues as were many of his fellow poets, Whalen nevertheless did share a desire to break free of the stylistic and moral strictures of past poetic traditions, and thus became known as a Beat poet himself. Certainly he was an experimenter, and shared the Beats’ desire to call attention to the increasing complexity of life at mid-century, but his was a more self-deprecating style that employed humor in the subject matter of daily life.

Whalen wrote six books of prose between 1967 and 2001, and published 13 books of poetry during his lifetime. He became a Zen monk in 1973, leading the Dharma Sangha in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1984; in later years, he returned to San Francisco to head the Hartford Street Zen Center.

 

Jacket covers, broadsides, and other images from the California State University, East Bay's Special Collections

 


Poster #22:

What Are Broadsides?

Broadsides are news-sheets printed on one side that were originally intended to be posted on a wall or read and thrown away. They trace their origins back to the very invention of printing. In fact, the first surviving example of printing from moveable type is not a book, but a broadside printed in 1451. The use of broadsides flourished in the American colonies during the 17th and 18th century. There they served the function of the modern radio and television. Because they could be printed much faster than books or pamphlets, broadside were used to bring flashes of news, to inform the populace about news laws, to persuade fellow citizens with opinions and ideas, and to memorialize people and events in verse.

Broadsides were particularly important during the struggle for American independence where they were used by both sides to spread news or make statements about rapidly changing situations. When the colonists declared their independence from Great Britain on July 4th, 1776, the original manuscript document of the Declaration of Independence was quickly printed as a broadside that same night and circulated throughout the colonies and in England.

The use of the broadside format continued throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the rise of independent daily newspapers changed the nature of most broadsides to more commercial uses, such as announcing an upcoming circus or show. The immediacy of the broadside was retained in the infamous wanted posters circulated throughout countless western towns.

It was these associations with the ephemeral and the revolutionary, as well as the literary history, which drew many counterculture poets and artists to revive the broadside format during the 1960s and 1970s. No longer meant to be nailed up and thrown away, these broadsides were often printed by small fine arts presses melding the literary and graphic arts in a format that was more immediately striking than a closed book. Despite the differences from the past, broadsides of this era continued the tradition of public declaration as they attempted to move their fellow-man through poetry and art.

The CSU East Bay Library’s Bay Poetry Collection contains over 300 examples of broadsides printed between 1956 and 1993 by many of the most notable poets of the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movements. Although rare, these items are available for scholarly research by making an appointment with the Special Collections department of the library.

 

A sampling of broadsides from the Bay Poets Collection: [images of 7 broadside sheets]

 


 

Poster #23:

What Are Broadsides?

Broadsides are news-sheets printed on one side that were originally intended to be posted on a wall or read and thrown away. They trace their origins back to the very invention of printing. In fact, the first surviving example of printing from moveable type is not a book, but a broadside printed in 1451. The use of broadsides flourished in the American colonies during the 17th and 18th century. There they served the function of the modern radio and television. Because they could be printed much faster than books or pamphlets, broadside were used to bring flashes of news, to inform the populace about news laws, to persuade fellow citizens with opinions and ideas, and to memorialize people and events in verse.

Broadsides were particularly important during the struggle for American independence where they were used by both sides to spread news or make statements about rapidly changing situations. When the colonists declared their independence from Great Britain on July 4th, 1776, the original manuscript document of the Declaration of Independence was quickly printed as a broadside that same night and circulated throughout the colonies and in England.

The use of the broadside format continued throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the rise of independent daily newspapers changed the nature of most broadsides to more commercial uses, such as announcing an upcoming circus or show. The immediacy of the broadside was retained in the infamous wanted posters circulated throughout countless western towns.

It was these associations with the ephemeral and the revolutionary, as well as the literary history, which drew many counterculture poets and artists to revive the broadside format during the 1960s and 1970s. No longer meant to be nailed up and thrown away, these broadsides were often printed by small fine arts presses melding the literary and graphic arts in a format that was more immediately striking than a closed book. Despite the differences from the past, broadsides of this era continued the tradition of public declaration as they attempted to move their fellow-man through poetry and art.

The CSU East Bay Library’s Bay Poetry Collection contains over 300 examples of broadsides printed between 1956 and 1993 by many of the most notable poets of the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movements. Although rare, these items are available for scholarly research by making an appointment with the Special Collections department of the library.

 

A sampling of broadsides from the Bay Poets Collection: [images of 6 broadside sheets]