The Influence of Drugs on Early Beat Poetry

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Drug Influence on Early Beat Poetry
Kevin S. Connerty
Axia College at University of Phoenix

Drug Influence on Early Beat Poetry
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the Negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night . . .” --Allen Ginsberg, "Howl"

The evolution of beat poetry came shortly after World War II. The war had left certain literary minds questioning mainstream politics and culture. The literary minds concerned would soon be known as the Beat Generation, which was comprised of writers who went against the norms of conventional writing to express their interest in defying mainstream culture. Although beat poetry is known in the literary community as a radical approach to literary genius, there is evidence to show that early beat poets such as Allen Ginseberg, Neal Cassady, and William Burroughs may have been influenced and affected by marijuana, amphetamines, and opiates while creating the literature that is now considered the foundation of beat poetry. Marijuana

Marijuana may have played a part in the creative process for early Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg, one of the founding fathers of the Beat movement. Allen Ginsberg was a radical and was seen as a guru of his time. As a Columbia University graduate, Ginsberg wrote poems mostly commenting on his disapproval of middle and upper class morals. His use of profane and sexual language made him a staple in the early years of beat poetry.

Ginsberg was open about many things including his homosexuality and his use of the drug marijuana. At local public happenings, Ginsberg would smoke pot, chant, and read poetry (pictured below). In his poem “America,” Ginsberg states; “I smoke marijuana every chance I get.” Marijuana contains THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), a mild...
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