San Francisco Renaissance  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
The term San Francisco Renaissance is used as a global designation for a range of poetic activity centred around that city and which brought it to prominence as a hub of the American poetic avant-garde. However, others (e.g., Ralph J. Gleason, Alan Watts) felt this renaissance was a broader phenomenon and should be seen as also encompassing visual and performing arts, philosophy, cross-cultural interests (particularly those that involved Asian cultures), and new social sensibilities.

The Beats

Around the same time that Duncan, Spicer and Blaser were at Berkeley, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and Lew Welch were attending Reed College in Portland together. These three, along with Kirby Doyle, a native San Franciscan, were to form the nucleus of the West Coast wing of the Beat generation.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti had been studying for a doctorate at the Sorbonne and, while in Paris, he met Kenneth Rexroth, who later persuaded him to go to San Francisco to experience the growing literary scene there. Between 1951 and 1953 Ferlinghetti taught French, wrote literary criticism, and painted. In 1953, he and a business partner established the City Lights Bookstore and started publishing from City Lights Press two years later.

Snyder and Whalen, along with Michael McClure, were among the poets who performed at the famous poetry reading Six Gallery that Kenneth Rexroth organized in San Francisco in 1955. This reading signalled the full emergence of the San Francisco Renaissance into the public consciousness and helped establish the city's reputation as a centre for countercultural activity that came to full flower during the hippie years of the 1960s. A short fictional account of this event forms the second chapter of Jack Kerouac's 1958 novel The Dharma Bums. In the account he describes Allen Ginsberg's infamous reading of his poem "Howl". Kerouac and Ginsberg had attended the reading with some of their poet friends.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "San Francisco Renaissance" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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