Author Archives: mcassandras
Berkeley Beats Poetry: Background
1624 Milvia Street/ Ginsberg 1955-56 Residence
Allen Ginsberg occupied the residence of 1624 Milvia Street in Berkeley, California from September 1955 until August 1956. The site became his inspiration for the poem “A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley.” In 1964, Ginsberg’s former cottage was demolished and replaced with a 6-unit apartment complex that still stands today. On the opposing side of the street there is the Berkeley Arts Magnet School, which has a Poetry Garden and plaque commemorating Allen Ginsberg’s time in Berkeley. The site is currently privately owned and rented out as a place of residence. There are no visitors to this site as there is no physical indication of its cultural and historical significance at the site.
Here is a tour of Milvia Street.
Here is a tour of the Poetry Garden.
1885 University Avenue/ U-Save Market
Ginsberg wrote his famous poem “A Supermarket in California” while roaming the U-Save Market on the corner of University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way (1885 University Avenue) in Berkeley. The single-story U-Save Market building was replaced by Kragen Outlet and finally rebuilt in 2006 by Trader Joe’s Grocery Store. The current building is 43,750 square feet in size and houses the grocery store and apartment units in a 5-story building.  The supermarket is publicly accessible as a commercial business and the management of the site is by Trader Joe’s corporation. There are no remnants of the U-Save Market, nor are there any interpretive elements or historical markers for the site.
A Trader Joe’s customer reads “A Supermarket in California” at the grocery store.
2797 Shattuck Avenue/Berkeley Town Hall Theater
At the time of Allen Ginsberg’s residence in Berkeley, this site served as the Berkeley Town Hall Theater from 1956 to 1958. Ginsberg performed the first recorded reading of his most famous poem, “Howl,” here. While the building itself remains, it has been repurposed several times and has no remaining indication of its time as the Town Hall Theater. The site is now used as a Japanese restaurant called Kirala and a café and bakery named Sconehenge Café. There are ongoing plans to turn this site into a Honda showroom. For now, however, the preservation and management of this site belongs to the current business owners.
A student reads “Howl” at Sconehenge Cafe.
1111 Eighth Street/San Francisco Greyhound Station
Two more of Allen Ginsberg’s poems, “Sunflower Sutra” and “In the Baggage Room at Greyhound”, were written at 1111 Eighth Street in San Francisco. This site served as a Greyhound bus station from the time it was built in 1951 until it closed around 1995. The California College of the Arts bought the building in 1996. While the College retained the industrial aesthetic of the bus station, there is no indication of the site’s relevance to Ginsberg or the Beat Generation. The site is currently used by California College of the Arts students and faculty, and there is no popular tourism or community visitation at this location.
Read about our Stakeholders and Stewards
 “Berkeley Home.” 1624 Milvia St APT 2 94709. Zillow, n. d. Web. 11 Oct 2015.
 Jones, Carolyn. “BERKELEY / Neighbors Say No to Popular Market / Trader Joe’s Project Hits Snag Over Traffic, Low-priced Alcohol.” SFGate. Hearst Communications, Inc., 3 Oct 2006. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.
 “1885 University Avenue Initial Study and Environmental Checklist.” (2006): Planning and Development Department Land Use Planning Division. City of Berkeley, June 2006. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.
Berkeley Beats Poetry: Stewards and Stakeholders
The stewards for these four sites include cultural archaeologists, cultural heritage workers, conservation and archival programs, literary programs, and libraries. Site-specific stewards include those who own each of the sites.
In relation to Ginsberg and the Beat Generation, there are also a number of other non-site specific stewards involved in preserving the poets’ heritage. This includes Bob Rosenthal who was a long-time confidant and manager of Ginsberg and is currently the head of the Allen Ginsberg Trust and a part of “Ginsberg’s Estate”. A second is Andrew Wylie who owns the Wylie Agency which handles copyright legal issues and lists Allen Ginsberg as their client. Another person listed as a part of “Ginsberg’s Estate” is Peter Hale, who was also a noted assistant and confidant of Allen Ginsberg. Other stewards include major film companies who have made films based on the narrative of Ginsberg’s life, for example Howl (2010) and Kill Your Darlings (2013), as well as the book publishing houses that have the rights to continue distributing his works.
Interest Groups and Stakeholders
Interest groups include people who own and use each of the four sites, those who celebrate the work of Ginsberg such as teachers and students, those in the literary world, and the local Berkeley and Bay area community.
In addition to the groups listed above, there are also site specific stakeholders. For Ginsberg’s former house on Milvia Street, stakeholders include current homeowners and residents of the building, those who live on or around Milvia Street, the homeowners association, and whoever owns the land (city, state, etc). Stakeholders for Trader Joe’s are those who shop at the grocery store, the homeowners who live in the direct vicinity of the store, the workers and managers of Trader Joe’s, and those who have invested in the store’s success. At the old Town Hall Theater, the stakeholders are people who own or work in Sconehenge Cafe, frequently go to the Café, or live around this location. Competing nearby coffee shops could also be considered stakeholders. Another stakeholder could be the Honda Motor Company who wishes to buy and occupy the building. Possible stakeholders for the old Greyhound Station include the city of San Francisco, students, faculty, staff, and donors of California College of the Arts, those who have used or worked at the Greyhound bus station, and those who have relations to the Greyhound Company.
In order to pursue our interpretive plan and re-contextualize Ginsberg’s poems into these sites, we would need to receive approval from the stewards and owners of these four sites and the Allen Ginsberg Trust. We wish to collaborate with the site owners to install the text of Ginsberg’s poems into their establishments and establish exhibits or poetry nights at these locations. We hope to appeal to stakeholders like the local and literary communities to popularize these sites as historic locations and encourage them to use our interpretive plans.
Read about our Appraisal
 “Allen Ginsberg Project.” AllenGinsberg.org. Allen Ginsberg Project, 2014. Web. 10 Oct 2015.
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. They also influenced the hippies, the Free Speech Movement, and other poets, musicians, artists, and writers to express themselves through their art. 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
 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.
 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.
Berkeley Beats Poetry: Audio Tour App – Interpretive Plan
We envision an iPhone (and/or Android) application that presents an audio tour encompassing the three main Beat Poetry heritage sites in Berkeley: Allen Ginsberg’s House, Sconehenge Café, and Trader Joe’s. The three sites, all within three miles of each other, would be incorporated into one two-hour walking tour, in which a visitor would listen to an audio narration while walking to each of the sites. The app would be modeled after the layout and function of the app “DeTour” (shown here), which provides pictures at each location, a GPS component to guide visitors, and an audio narration.
The app would first navigate tourists to Allen Ginsberg’s Berkeley residence (1624 Milvia Street), which is now an apartment complex, and begin with a reading of Ginsberg’s “A Strange New Cottage In Berkeley.” The visitor’s iPhone would display pictures of Ginsberg’s house. The applications’ navigation and narration would then direct visitors to the Trader Joe’s. During this walk from Milvia Street to University Avenue, the narration would provide a short biography of Allen Ginsberg and briefly explain the Berkeley Beat Generation. This explanation would touch on many important themes pertaining to the Berkeley Beat Movement – activism, free speech, anti-censorship, and personal expression. There would be audio clips from Ginsberg, such as one of him on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” in 1994 (this audio clip can be heard here), in which Ginsberg reflects on his role in the Beat Generation and fighting censorship.
When the visitor arrives at Trader Joe’s the narration would play a recording of Ginsberg reading his poem “A Supermarket in California” (this audio clip can be heard here), and visitors would be invited to compare the sights and sounds of the supermarket to the description in Ginsberg’s poem. The phone would provide pictures of the original U-Save Market, which stood in the place of Trader Joe’s during Ginsberg’s time in Berkeley.
Next, the narration would lead visitors to Sconehenge Café, and explain that this was the site of Ginsberg’s first recorded reading of “Howl.” On the walk to the café, there would be a discussion about the role of performance in beat poetry. The narration would introduce the slam poetry showcases that the Cafe hosts and invite users to attend or perform at the showcase. There would be an audio clip of Ron Loewinsohn, a professor of American Literature at UC Berkeley, providing an analysis of the literature of the Beat Generation (this audio clip can be heard here). Upon arriving at the Café, the app would discuss the lasting impacts of the Berkeley Beat Generation on American culture and poetry. The audio tour would close with a recording of Ginsberg reading “Howl.”
It is our hope that the tour would provide an interesting juxtaposition between the current state of the heritage sites and these same locations in the 1950’s . We expect that this audio-based tour would be used long-term, as there are few plans for the sites to change aesthetic or location. This app would attract tourists, local visitors, and community members who wish to learn more about the Berkeley Beat Movement through this audio tour.
Read about our Crowd Sourcing App
Berkeley Beats Poetry: Crowd Sourcing App – Interpretive Plan
This interpretive project is an iPhone/Android web-based application that allows visitors to collect text, audio, and pictures and post them to the shared forum. Conceptually it is a crowd-sourced model for collecting text, audio, and images generated by users at the physical locations. The content is user-moderated and will be accessible via application or web. An important aspect of this interpretive project is the multiple media incorporated into the app; ideally, being at a certain location would trigger the app to prompt the user to view previous users’ posts. Signage and push-notifications will prompt the user to contribute to the web-forum through picture or video capture, text posts, or audio recordings.
The themes of our project include living history, expression and performance, and free speech and anti-censorship movements; the concept of this app as a public forum for expression and digital performance (through video, photos, audio, and text) allows people to share their experiences in a less traditional manner across time. The ability of users to scroll through time on the app to view the content provided for their location allows them to occupy multiple times in history. The app also allows users to view historic photos, videos, audio clips, and text specific to the location, as well as add their own photos, etc., to the app’s “archive”. In addition to this, the app allows anyone with a smart phone or web access to view, contribute, and provide feedback on the content available. One of the primary audiences is teenagers and young adults, who nearly all own or have access to a smart phone or the web and generally enjoy using social media and crowd sourcing apps. However, due to the nature of the app’s attention to expression and performance, the content and contribution aspects are accessible and inviting to people of all ages. Stakeholders, including poets, writers, local artists, and aspiring artists will all find content of interest to them, in addition to having the ability to contribute their own thoughts and artistic material.
This interpretive project encourages users to document real-life performances, which engage all of their senses and synthesize these into user-friendly content. One of the main motivators of the project is cultivating multisensorial engagement with a place and its history. The digital nature of this archive-database makes it sustainable for long-term engagement between stakeholders and visitors. However, digital apps require consistent and long-term updating, de-bugging, and maintenance, which requires funding or volunteer dedication. The Estate of Allen Ginsberg is well prepared and able to maintain an app with these kinds of requirements.
Read about our Slam Poetry Showcase
Berkeley Beats Poetry: Slam Poetry Showcase – Interpretive Plan
For this interpretive project, our group thought it would be interesting to highlight the Beat History of Berkeley through a series of monthly (or semi-monthly, if the turnout is high and response is positive) poetry slam/creativity open-mic night showcases. This would initially take place at a single heritage location— the California College of the Arts, and then perhaps expand to set up another showcase at the Sconehenge Café. The poetry slam would be free of charge, although it could be possible to accept donations that could then be donated to a local school or organization supporting a good cause. The initial and focal intention is for this to be a poetry slam, but as a showcase as well, all forms of creative stage performance will of course be accepted. Participants, the performers, may also sing or play an instrument, do a stand-up comedy routine, perform a short skit or dance routine, etc. Local artists can also have the opportunity to have their art work (sculpture, painting, photography, etc.) put on display at the intended location of the showcase. Not only would people be able to learn about their own city’s local history, but this also creates an opportunity for them to share their own narratives with each other.
With the introduction of this poetry slam showcase, it could be a way to bring in a good source of people—local people to San Francisco and the surrounding areas, college, primary and high school students, and those within the arts community. This would be good publicity for the California College of the Arts and for the local area, and be a good way to get more people interested in their community and its history. If these poetry slams were to start occurring at the Stonehenge Café, it would also mean an influx of business (foot traffic and more people attending for the event meaning more customers), for the owners as well.
The concept of performance has the power to have a very moving and even spiritual effect on a person, whether they’re a witness to the performance or the performer themselves. Audience members (as well as the performers) will be able to evoke the past through experiencing (or being the one who incites the experience upon others) auditory and visual stimulation that can create a sense of comfort, discomfort, privacy, suppression or overload of the senses and emotions, and healing and meditation.
It would also be possible, to help better situate these open mic nights and to keep their contextualization, to have a theme for each night of the showcase that relates to something the Berkeley Beat poets stood for. The performers would be able to take these themed nights and incorporate their own emotions, memories, personal backgrounds, thoughts, and opinions and have a safe and supportive environment to express themselves. Due to the unique human-to-human interface of this interpretive project, in a way unlike any other, this project has the potential to be a valuable experience and exchange of teaching and learning for everyone.
Read about our Installation of Text into the Sites
Berkeley Beats Poetry: Installation of Text into Sites – Interpretive Plan
We hope to physically incorporate Ginsberg’s poems at the sites to showcase their cultural and historical value. This means informing the public about the wider Beat Movement by including additional text about how the movement affected free speech, the gay rights movement, activism, and censorship. Instructions on how to download the audio tour, the crowd sourcing app, and information about the poetry showcase will also be included to bring our interpretive projects together. This will evoke the senses of sight and touch for tourists and belonging for locals.
Specifically, the plan for Ginsberg’s home is to place a historical marker where the cottage used to be on Milvia Street. The base would be shaped like an open book with Ginsberg’s poem “A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley”, the information mentioned earlier, and point out the John Greenleaf Whittier Elementary School poetry garden across the street inside of it. This would stress the themes of local history, beat poetry, and the legacy of Ginsberg.
For the Greyhound Station, we hope to have a permanent poetry exhibit occupy the blank walls near the entrance of the college. His poem “In the Baggage Room at Greyhound” would be placed in the center along with a portrait of himself and the background information. Poems created by the surrounding community and the students would be displayed as well which would generate a sense of community, belonging, and accentuate the themes of poetry, Allen Ginsberg, and physical changes to the landscape.
The project at the old Town Hall Theater will be challenging since there are plans to turn it into a Honda showroom. But, if we can get the building classified as a historic structure, it’s possible to stop the construction. So, we believe the best course of action is to implement our interpretive project. This includes putting the text of Ginsberg’s “Howl” on the café tables along with signs that explain the background information. This would emphasize the themes of beat poetry, performance poetry, Ginsberg’s legacy, physical changes to the landscape, and local history.
At the U-Save Market, we hope to invite people to walk down the actual “Supermarket in California” and to experience the sounds Ginsberg describes in his poem. We could do this by writing the poem and the background information on the front windows which would highlight the themes of Ginsberg’s legacy; beat poetry, local history, and physical changes to the landscape.
Although these proposed changes would physically modify the sites, they have already been heavily altered. Because of this, our proposed changes will not damage any tangible heritage. They are also sustainable and won’t harm the environment since they are small permanent additions. Instead, they will bring context to Ginsberg’s poems, show the importance of the history at these locations, and sustain the cultural heritage at these sites. All stakeholders will also benefit from these changes since business owners will see more customers and everyone will be able to learn about Beat history.
Read about our Short Term Implementation
Berkeley Beats Poetry: Short Term Implementation
The first five years will need to focus on the actual execution of our various interpretive plans. Planning, implementing, and revising will be key steps during the first few years to successfully get the interpretive plans off the ground. There are bound to be numerous problems that we could encounter at the beginning, therefore troubleshooting issues, distributing surveys, and having an open communication of feedback with the users and visitors of our plans should be key practices to uphold.
For the implementation of the audio tour, we would want to be sure that not only the technical aspect of the app is in working condition (ensuring that the app works well, GPS location and navigation is accurate, narration stays up to date, etc), but also that our audience is understanding our main message and enjoying the experience. The production aspect of creating an audio tour needs to be emphasized when we begin implementing this project. Questions to focus on in regards to our own audio tour include: Why did we choose to place a certain piece of narration or other sound clip at this point in the tour? Therefore, what did we want to evoke by doing this? How are we using place to create a dramatic story—especially since the original buildings are no longer there/have been transformed into something else? What themes are we incorporating with this tour and how does it relate to Allen Ginsberg and the Beat movement?
With the crowd sourcing app we intend to encourage users to write their own poems and express what they are passionate about, so the app’s format and narrative must be open and free of expecting a presumed, singular-linear experience. The app should therefore not ever be a static piece of media technology but should be dynamic and change as the political and social culture in Berkeley changes. Typical updates, maintenance, and troubleshooting with such an app would need to be done as necessary to ensure the app continues to run properly without any serious performance issues.
For the poetry slam, it will be important to spread the word about the events and get a good following early on. This will help it gain popularity and momentum, and allow the slam to maintain a constant number of interested participants and audience members. The short term implementation plans of our sites seek to guarantee that these planned activities get off the ground, gain the attention of the public, and are constructively revised for their betterment so that they will survive into the future and create a lasting and meaningful impact.
For the execution of text installations of Ginsberg’s poems at the Berkeley Trader Joe’s, Ginsberg’s apartment on Milvia Street, Sconehenge Café, and the California College of the Arts, it is important that we take into account the selected piece of text and what and/or who we want its relevance to apply to. It would probably be best received if the various pieces of selected text retained its past significance to the Beat movement and socio-cultural aspects, while referencing today’s events and relating to the people of the local Bay area community as well. The specific location of these installations should be in a place that can be easily located and read.
Read about our Long Term Implemetation
Berkeley Beats Poetry: Long Term Implementation
After we implement our interpretive plan, it is our hope that these sites will remain in the same condition for the next 25 years. The audio tour could continue to be used as long as the sites did not drastically change their location, function, or exterior aesthetic. As most of the audio tour’s narration discusses the history of Ginsberg and his poems, small changes to the sites will not affect the narration as it mainly talks about the past. The pictures shown during the tour will all be from the 1950s, so they will always be relevant and will not need to be updated over time. The narration will have to be altered (ex: markers need to be modified) if a site changes enough that it no longer matches the description in the app. The application will also require a feature that allows it to update and sync with any changes in navigation and GPS, as well as general technology updates to stay current with the ever changing technologies and devices continuously changing and becoming obsolete.
The crowd sourcing app would ideally be used in concert with visiting each of these sites and being inspired by Ginsberg’s site-specific poems. If the sites remain in their current form, the app can continue to be used in this same manner, although regular updates with technology would be necessary. However, the app would still serve an important and effective function even if the sites were altered or destroyed. It will also encourage users to write their own poems and express what they are passionate about in different ways, which can be aroused by an ever-changing culture as much as by a dynamic place. Just as Ginsberg fought for free speech and personal expression through poetry in the 1950s, the app can be used to express support or opposition for whatever issue is currently facing users and their community. It could then be used as an interesting digital archive, documenting and digitally storing the thoughts and feelings of users over many decades.
Assuming that the Sconehenge Café and California College of the Arts remain in their current condition, the slam poetry showcases could continue into the long-term future, assuming a positive community turnout to the event occurs. As with the crowd sourcing app, the showcases’ content and forms of expression may change over time. However, regardless of how the political and social culture in the Bay area changes, the ability to express oneself in a manner similar to slam poetry will remain popular and important. If the Sconehenge Café is turned into a Honda showroom, it may be necessary to end the slam poetry showcases at this location and hold them only at the old Greyhound station.
Having text about Allen Ginsberg and his poems installed into these sites will only be effective in the long term if these sites do not change. Since most of the sites are not expected to change, we expect that installing text into these sites can be enjoyed for the next 25 years. For the old Town Hall Theater location, which might be reconstructed into a Honda Showroom, we hope that any installed text could be moved into a future renovated and repurposed building and stand as a symbol of the historic importance of the location. It is important that each of these sites retain a physical indication of their relation to Ginsberg and the Beat Generation so that locals, visitors, and tourists alike can understand and enjoy the location’s significance for decades to come.
Berkeley Beats Poetry: Works Cited
“1885 University Avenue Initial Study and Environmental Checklist.” (2006): Planning and Development Department Land Use Planning Division. City of Berkeley, June 2006. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.
2777 Shattuck Avenue Project Evaluation (2015): City of Berkeley Planning and Development Department, 14 May 2015. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.
“Allen Ginsberg Project.” AllenGinsberg.org. Allen Ginsberg Project, 2014. Web. 10 Oct 2015.
“Berkeley Home.” 1624 Milvia St APT 2 94709. Zillow, n. d. Web. 11 Oct 2015.
Dalzell, Tom. “Gone: Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.” Quirky Berkeley, 7 Oct. 2014. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.
“Executive Summary 1111 8th Street.” (2013): n. pag. San Francisco Planning Department, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.
Ginsberg, Allen, Mary Beach, and Claude Pélieu. Reality Sandwiches. Paris: C. Bourgois Editeur, 1972. Print.
Jones, Carolyn. “BERKELEY / Neighbors Say No to Popular Market / Trader Joe’s Project Hits Snag Over Traffic, Low-priced Alcohol.” SFGate. Hearst Communications, Inc., 3 Oct 2006. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.
Lawlor, William. “Life of Allen Ginsberg.” Beat Culture: Lifestyles, Icons, and Impact. N.p.: Google Books. ABC-CLIO Pubishers, n.d. 134-35. Print.
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.
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.