The Beats and Multimedia

The Beats never moved me as they did my friends in grad school. No, I’m not that old; it was the ’90s and I hung around Beat wannabes and Beat scholars. I read Kerouac. Some of Ginsberg. And I think a poem or two by Gregory Corso.

Still, though I’m not enamored of them, their movement is clearly influential. They follow a tradition of wandering American writers and poets out seeking raw experience to transform into art.

An essay in The New York Times hints the Beats also delved into multimedia. The essay talks

Allen Ginsberg

about poet Allen Ginsberg’s foray into photography.

“With his secondhand Kodak Retina,” the essay says, “the poet had surreptitiously illustrated not only his energetic generation, but his own oeuvre, leaving behind a catalog of images to reawaken the euphoric thesis that he’d scribbled across the arch of his lifetime: namely, that sex and poetry and the ‘cosmic vibrations’ of youth and life are way, way awesome.”

For the most part, I’ve resisted multimedia. Even with this blog, I’ve stuck with writing, and the occasional snagged photo or YouTube video. I experimented with an audio blog, but I hate my non-multimedia voice. And yet, I’m beginning to come around to the idea and necessity of  multimedia.

I think it may become a necessity for writers. And obviously, as the essay on Ginsberg reveals, it’s not new. According to the essay, Ginsberg made photography a part of his poetry. He later added captions to the photos, and these captions “act as concentrated poem-documentaries and leave us with a welcome first-person perspective of Ginsberg’s peculiar element.”

The essay says Ginsberg’s photography serves his poetry “almost as well as William Blake’s prints did for his own verse: as a necessary and lovely companion-opus that springs with new life from the spirit of the writings themselves.”

The question for me, is where to start? How much multimedia is necessary? What can I afford? How much do I have to learn? Why do I keep resisting?


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