Friday, April 21, 2006

Day Five

Today I received in the mail the CD Kenneth Patchen Reads With Jazz in Canada, so I put it on and continued my immersion in the Beats. I had heard these tracks before - my friend Patchen, who was named after the poet, used to have an LP of Patchen's jazz poems. Released in 1959, this recording is widely considered one of the earliest records of jazz poetry - something Patchen had been doing live for a couple of years already, predating performance efforts by the other Beat poets. Kenneth Patchen's popular appeal hasn't had the longevity of Kerouac's or Ginsberg's or Ferlinghetti's (I've heard Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind (1958) described as the best-selling book in contemporary poetry, or sometimes as the best-selling book by a living poet. Of course, Ferlinghetti has outlived most of the other Beats.) He was an influential and well-known poet in his lifetime, but he had a Blakean (Patchen sometimes illustrated his own books), out-of-time, world-of-his-own quality that ensured that he never had much of a reputation in academic circles. His career is reminiscent of the status of spoken word today, actually: often political, often schlocky, not taken seriously by some, inspiring to others. He died the year I was born.


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