Beatitude Golden Anniversary 1959-2009 / Edited by Latif Harris and Neeli Cherkovski / Latif Harris / San Francisco / 2009. The publisher provided Empty Mirror with a review copy.
Beatitude magazine came into existence in 1959, in San Francisco’s North Beach, the brainchild of Bob Kaufman, Allen Ginsberg and John Kelly. With Kelly acting as publisher, it quickly became a weekly outlet for the city’s poetic talent. The next year, City Lights Books published Beatititude Anthology, containing work culled from the first 16 issues.
Fifty years later, Beatitude is still alive. This isn’t the time Beatitude has been celebrated in book form; its twenty-fifth year brought forth a lavishly designed silver anniversary issue filled with top-notch poetics. This time around the celebration takes form in an epic, five-hundred-plus page volume, chock full of poetry, art and photos. The contributor list reads like a Who’s Who of the San Francisco – and beyond – poetry scene.
Here you’ll find Beats, baby Beats, post-Beats, poets of many stripes. Poems of Buddhism, jazz, streets. Hearts and alleyways. Enlightenments, politics and friends.
Also: photos (of poets), art, and prose.
Thoughtfully edited, the volume begins with Patricia Washida’s two-page biographical sketch of Shig Murao, City Lights’ longtime manager, to whom this issue of Beatitude is dedicated. Next, Neeli Cherkovski’s foreword. Then, it’s off and running – the poetry, so much of it – art and some prose, too – all of it reflecting the Beatitude spirit.
There lots of serendipitous discoveries to be made. It’s like a print version of the world’s most epic poetry reading, in a café with a lot of good art on the walls.
Highlights? There are many. Some which particularly stick in my mind: Gary Gach’s “Busman’s Holiday”; a pair of poems by Thanasis Maskaleris; five gems from Diane di Prima. Arlene Stone’s “Cherry Blossom Suite.” Latif Harris’ “Icons of Repair.” Jeffrey Grossman, Jack Hirschman. Gwynn O’Gara’s poem, “The Drunken Mother,” on lightning and regrowth. A handful of lovely poems by Julie Rogers…
…excerpts from Allen Ginsberg’s diary. Poems written in Howard Hart’s hand. Art by Robert LaVigne, and Ginsberg’s poem, “The Dangerous Garden of Robert LaVigne.” Paul Landry’s luminous poem, “You Are.” Poems by Bob Kaufman, Eugene Ruggles, A.D. Winans, Steve Dalachinsky, Mel Clay. Luz Decker’s captivating artwork.
There are 470 pages of work here; to choose just a few seems brutal.
Latif Harris closes things out with “Editor’s Afterwords: Some History and Personal Observations,” which honors some of the poets and artists who he’s been close to, and influcned by over the past 50 years. He discusses his own history in San Francisco and North Beach, and the place’s unique status as a longtime convergence zone for creative people and energies.
As if 470 pages of first-rate poetry and a little history weren’t enough, the book finishes by reprinting the entire 100-page 1960 Beatitude Antology as published by City Lights Books in 1960.
Anyone who enjoys poety should make Beatitude Golden Anniversary 1959-2009 a permanent fixture on the bookshelf nearest their favorite reading chair.
Beatitude Golden Anniversary 1959-2009 contributors: