"once again I wanted to get to San Francisco, everybody wants to get to San Francisco and what for? In God's name and under the stars what for? For joy, for kicks, for something burning in the night."
–Jack Kerouac, On The Road: The Original Scroll
Recently, I went on a walking tour of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood with some Museum colleagues to visit historical sites related to the Beat Generation. It was a fun way to prepare for the Museum’s exhibition Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg is currently on view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) through September 8.
|The Beat Museum: 540 Broadway|
|Beat Museum Founder Jerry Cimino | The Marconi Hotel: 554 Broadway|
|City Lights Booksellers & Publishers: 261 Columbus Avenue|
City Lights Bookstore is the epicenter of Beat History. Founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin in 1953, they published Ginsberg’s Howl and went to trial for selling subversive and pornographic books. The state of California charged Ferlinghetti with printing, publishing, and selling obscene and indecent works: Howl. At the end of a five month trial, the judge, Clayton Horn:
"ruled that a work could not be considered obscene if it had ‘the slightest redeeming social significance.’ This legal precedent was used in later years to publish classics like D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn, William Burrough’s Naked Lunch, and other works of previously banned articulations of the life force in action. The immediate effect of the trial and the accompanying publicity made Ginsberg’s epic poem an underground bestseller and launched a revolution of new ‘wide-open’ American literature." (Morgan, p 9)
|Two of Allen's Abodes: 440 Braodway, 1010 Montgomery Street|
Ginsberg wrote Howl while he was living at 1010 Montgomery Street.
|"Shig" Murao's place today, no sign of Allen's socks: 1367 Grant Street|
|Plaque at poet's corner: 1562 Grant Street|
Jack Kerouac, On the Road: The Original Scroll. (New York: Viking, 2007).
Bill Morgan, The Beat Generation in San Francisco: A Literary Tour. (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2003).
All photos by Melanie Samay.