Poetry Readings/Reading Poetry in the San Francisco Bay Area; Poems in Street, Coffeehouse, and Print—The Mid-1960s; The Language in Trouble—The Late 1960s, etc.

1960s: Days of Rage

Beatniks on parade 1958.

Part I. In 1958, in Richmond, across the bay from San Francisco, I was in the twelfth grade. In Mrs. Weatherby’s English class, a history of literature, the mandatory play was Hamlet. We had come to Wordsworth about the time of the Howl trial in San Francisco. Beatnik life exposés filled the Chronicle. Grant Avenue seemed like a bizarre heaven of music, strange poetry, weird characters—a break from the Eisenhower ordinary. That spring I went over to the Grant Avenue Fair with my friend Bob. The afternoon was sunny, with a slight bite to the wind, and flooded with people. Up Grant were coffeehouses, booth after booth of craftspeople and artists, lots of sandals and canvas paintings. Inside a storefront two black musicians were playing, one the congos, the other a flute. … Bob and I walked up the street and stared…

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