During the late 1950s, David Meltzer was an active poet in the San Francisco North Beach scene often reading with jazz musicians at various bars and coffeehouses. Beat Thing
is part poetry and part exposé, both tribute to the down in the street wildness and rant against the romantic commodification which surrounds the Beat Generation. Invoking real people as real history, Meltzer takes aim at the fantasy which Beat has become and juxtaposes simultaneously its still-needed legacy. He brings forth the original spirit of Beat in an encyclopedic cascade of details whose dense, deep, fierce, funny, raucous, free-associative jazz energy infuses every line. This is a grizzled hipster vision looking back at a period where the beast of war from Auschwitz to H-bomb to Joe McCarthy prevailed side-by-side with a cultural complacency while a wide-ranging constellation of writers and artists refused its numbing protocol. Beat Thing
rises up as an ecstatic chant of defiance and celebration.
David Meltzer is the author of many volumes of poetry, including The Clown, The Process, Yesod, Arrows: Selected Poetry, 1957–1992, and No Eyes: Lester Young. He has also published fiction, including The Agency Trilogy, Orf, Under, and book-length essays, including Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook. He has edited numerous anthologies and collections of interviews, including The Secret Garden: An Anthology in the Kabbalah; Birth: Anthology of Ancients Texts, Songs, Prayers, and Stories; Death: Anthology of Texts, Songs, Charms, Prayers, and Tales; Reading Jazz; Writing Jazz; and San Francisco Beat: Talking With the Poets. His musical recordings include Serpent Power and Poet Song.
“How easily narrative falls into place, realizes itself through a story-telling historian who sets out to frame a tangled constantly permutating chaos into a familiar & repeatable story w/out shadows or dead-ends; how impulsively memory organizes into a choir to tell a story of what it remembers symphonically, i.e., formally; even experimentalists practice w/in or against forms that have formed their relationship to writing & telling stories; history is the story of writing” —Epilogue from Beat Thing