When is National Beat Poetry Day? This day will take place on October 7 of each calendar year.
What is National Beat Poetry Day? October 7th commemorates the Halloween night in 1955 when a 29-year old Allen Ginsberg read his epic Beat Poetry manifesto, “Howl” for the first time to a sold out crowd at the now legendary Gallery 6 Reading in San Francisco. “Howl” became known as “The Poem that Changed America”. In 1957, U.S. Customs seized over 500 copies of Howl and Other Poems declaring the poetry collection “obscene.” Specifically, the obscene material in “Howl” refers to vulgar diction, drug and sexual references and sexuality. A short time later, two undercover police officers went into City Lights Bookstore to purchase “Howl and Other Poems,” and then immediately arrested the clerk for selling the obscene literature. A warrant was issued for the publisher & book store owner, who turned himself in. That man was Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The Book Store was City Lights in San Francisco. It was “The People of The State of California v. Lawrence Ferlinghetti”. And Lawrence Ferlinghetti won that case. The Judge noted that if these obscene words were substituted, the work would lose its meaning, and ruled that if this book were banned & deemed obscene, that it “would destroy our freedoms of free speech and press”. “Howl and Other Poems” was not deemed obscene—the charges were dropped. It was a win for Freedom of Speech. It was a win for sexual liberation. It was a win for creative expression. The poetry of the underground Beat Movement was a catalyst for the civil rights and social justice movements of the ’60’s, and which continues today.
This is why we celebrate October 7th as #NationalBeatPoetryDay
Why is this day being celebrated or observed? National Beat Poetry Day celebrates the American literary movement that began in the 1940’s, by what was to become known as The Beat Generation—a name that described the disillusionment felt by young people after WWII. Having seen unimaginable atrocities, both overseas and their own American streets, Beat Poets rebelled against the conventional norms of the so-called American Dream, and sought to explore beyond its boundaries in daring, shocking, and provocative ways. Beat Poets gave a voice to those fighting for equality, freedom, social reform, and inclusivity. They gave power to the people in the streets through spoken word, banned books, avant-garde films, and indecorous art. Beat Poets created an everlasting change in the course of spoken word, and poetry which now permeates the very fabric of our everyday lives.
How should this day be celebrated or observed? A few ways to celebrate National Beat Poetry Day include:
- Buy a Beat Generation book from an independent bookstore
- Host or attend a Beat Poetry spoken word or open mic event
- Post a video of yourself reading a beat poem
- Just start writing
- Share a video of a beat poetry performance
- Create art
- Make a Cut-Up poem
- Read “Howl”
- Support local artists & writers
- Celebrate Freedom of Speech
- Leave banned books in Little Free Libraries
- Buy a book of poetry from one of your internet poet friends
- Support indie & local music
- Try Found Poetry
- Listen to poetry podcasts
- Write an American Haiku
- Spread the word about poetry happenings
- Get a library card
- Get involved in community activism
Who created this day? This day was created in February 2021 by BLW McGrory.