John Clellon Holmes  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

John Clellon Holmes (March 12, 1926 - March 2, 1988), born in Holyoke Massachusetts, was a writer, poet and professor, best known for his 1952 book Go. Go is considered the first "Beat" novel, which depicted events in his life with friends Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsberg. He was often referred to as the "quiet Beat," and was one of Kerouac's closest friends. He also wrote what is considered the definitive jazz novel of the Beat Generation, "The Horn."

Holmes was more an observer and documenter of beat characters, (the likes of Ginsberg, Cassidy and Kerouac). He asked Ginsberg for "any and all information on your poetry and your visions' (shortly before Ginsberg's admission into hospital) saying that "I am interested in knowing also anything you may wish to tell...about Neal, Huncke, Lucien in relation to you..." to which Ginsberg replied with an eleven page letter detailing, as completely as he could, the nature of his 'divine vision'.

The origin of the term "beat" being applied to a generation was conceived by Jack Kerouac who told Holmes "You know, this is really a beat generation." The term beat later became part of common parlance when Clellon Holmes published an article in The New York Times Magazine entitled "This is the Beat Generation" on November 16, 1952 (pg.10). In the article Holmes attributes the term to Jack Kerouac. Kerouac in turn had gotten the idea from Herbert Huncke. Holmes came to the conclusion that the values and ambitions of the Beat Generation were symbolic of something bigger, which was the inspiration for Go.

Later in life, Holmes taught at the University of Arkansas and lectured at Yale and gave workshops at Brown University.


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