Artisan by Dan Joyce
Creating The Counter Culture
The donut shop is nice. It’s a place for reflection and deep thought. In the fifties, the early beatniks would go to places like this, mostly coffeehouses. But they weren’t like Starbucks or hippie joints where there is art and poetry reading. Instead, looking at early photos of them, they were more like a Norm’s or a Denny’s. Reading their lives and literature, it is easy to see why they drew themselves to these all night diners. They traveled a lot, Burroughs, Cassidy and especially Karouac, always by car across the country and sometimes into Mexico stopping at these all nighters for rest and break time. It was at these local all night coffee places where what we now call “the counter culture” was created. Ginsberg, Karouac, Cassidy… all of them would sit, drink coffee and talk about art, jazz, politics, issues of our culture. From there was born the civil rights movements, the feminist movement, anti-war and activism…
People now compare my writings to later poets, usually Charles Bukowski or Hunter Thompson, drunks and drug addicts I really don’t respect. To me, they’re just vulgar for no reason. Thompson was at least political, really radical, and I do respect that. But more, I relate to Ginsberg and the early beats. They had a certain insanity that was later recognized brilliant. Howl, one of my favorites of all time, was written about a stay in a mental hospital to his friend Carl Solomon. I read it in 1997, the year Ginsberg died. At first, I thought it was about drug addicts. Then later, I learned, it was about lunatics. It had a great impact on my writing and myself, as a poem that defined and described my life.
I wish they were all still alive. I wish they were here sometimes in this donut shop talking poetry and politics like it used to be.