BEATNIKS WERE THE ANTI-MAD MEN (in honor of the new movie “Howl”)

By Rex Weiner

Beatniks were the anti-Mad Men.
In the world of 1950s strivers
they chose not to strive.
“I am a social climber climbing downward,”
wrote Lawrence Ferlinghetti,
“and the descent is difficult.”
They came back from the war
after fighting for the land of the free
to a land that was free only if you fit in
to a split-level home in the suburbs,
a well-paid position with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce,
a grey flannel suit and
a crew cut, while the true madmen,
Long-haired bushy-bearded Beatniks, Howled and
explored the Coney Island of the Mind, following a
blank map that led them On The Road
to low-rent districts of the Lower East Side, Venice, North Beach, and
the ghettoes and outskirts of Anywhere, USA.
Madmen, madwomen asking questions, questions, questions
about America and God and love, and
They were punished for using words that
were illegal (How could words be illegal?).
So a few were petty thieves, and they
Took drugs, and lived messy lives.
But no Beatnik ever stole billions from millions, and
No Beatnik ever invaded Iraq, or Afghanistan,
except to smoke a little hash in Kabul.
And now they are gone…
“Who killed them?” raged Kenneth Rexroth.
“Who killed them? You killed them,
in your Brooks Brothers suit,
you son of a bitch!”
Ah, but Ginsberg, Snyder, Patchen, DiPrima, Baraka,
Rexroth, Burroughs, Kerouac, Corso, etc., etc. etc.,
they live on as, in the heat of the words they left behind,
We push on, continuing to create
every day, the New World.