Berkeley Beats Poetry: Appraisal

The four sites of the Berkeley Beat History Project are important because of their potential to preserve and display the intangible heritage related to the Beat Movement of the 1950’s. This counterculture rebellion went against American militarism, materialism, conformity, and racism, all of which had become normal with the rise of McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare. Instead, Beatniks advocated spontaneity, free expression, love, authenticity, the choice to use drugs, and the right to be different.[1] They also influenced the hippies, the Free Speech Movement, and other poets, musicians, artists, and writers to express themselves through their art.[2] Because of this, and the fact that Allen Ginsberg’s most influential poems were either written at these sites, preformed at these sites, or refer specifically to these sites, we believe that they should all be recontextualized and protected.

Ultimately, this recontextualization will provide people with a deeper understanding of Ginsberg’s poems by re-situating them within a physical location. In this way, we can use these sites to display the heritage of the Beat Generation and remind the local community about its history. This will add cultural value and benefit the sites, Berkeley, San Francisco, the lasting memory of Allen Ginsberg, and the Beats. So, the goal of the Berkeley Beat History Project is to bring visitors and local residents into some of the more unknown parts of Berkeley and San Francisco. This includes educating not only locals, but national and international tourists as well.

However, there are some challenges in attempting to preserve the intangible heritage of the Beat Movement.   The first is rising sea levels from global climate change which could potentially damage or destroy the sites. Another is additional construction. The fear is that anything we place on the sites could be demolished or become no longer relevant. We also need to keep in mind how exactly to present the information about Allen Ginsberg, the Beat poets, and their legacy to children. Since they wrote about controversial topics such as drug use, materialism, and sex, care must be taken when conversing about such subjects with younger audiences. But despite these challenges, the outlook for preserving Beat Generation heritage is promising since his poems are easily accessible through printed books and online websites. Another reason is because we hope to preserve Beat heritage by implementing a series of interpretive projects that involve students, educators, business owners, artists, tourists, and the local community. This consists of an audio tour app, a crowd sourcing app, poetry showcases, and physical installation of the poetry at the sites. For those who wish to visit, all are easily accessible and offer street or garage parking. The Ashby Bart Bike Station is also within walking distance to all three Berkeley sites.

Read about our Audio Tour App


[1] Skeryl, Jennie. “Individual Resistance and Collective Action in the Beat Counterculture.” Reconstructing the Beats. N.p.:Google Books. Palgrave Macmillian Publishers, n.d. 41-43. Print.

[2] Raskin, Jonah. “American Scream:Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation.” Google Books. University of California Press, n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.


Posted on December 10, 2015, in Anthro136kF2015, Berkeley-Beats and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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