The Beats (Brighton Creative Writing Sessions No. 3)

  • Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  • Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition 
  • Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better 
  • No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge 
  • Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind 

(from Jack Kerouac's Rules of Spontaneous Prose)


The theme of the third Brighton Creative Writing Sessions workshop was the Beats, and we had various activities based around the work of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs. To set the mood, Ellen and I started with a reading of Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl. We read the whole of part one, taking turns with the lines. Howl is a powerful poem, and an amazing thing to read out loud.


We warmed up by writing about morning routines, capturing those little details of life that are easily overlooked and forgotten. This was followed by discussing the impressions of the beats we came to the workshop with, and an outline of the group's history. 

We then picked the most mundane objects we could think of and wrote pieces casting them as Great Things, just as Ginsberg did with a soot-covered flower in Sunflower Sutra. We also looked at the Ginsberg and Kerouac's transformation of the rules of Haiku into English, and played with producing examples.


In the first part of the afternoon, everyone experimented with William Burrough's cut-up method. To set the mood I showed an excerpt from Towers Open Fire, an experimental film produced by Burroughs and Antony Balch. The group cut up newspapers and stories, making new texts from them. Some of the results were amusing, including a text made by slicing up the lonely-hearts ads from the Argus.

Ellen and I did a lot of work to prepare this session, including finding audio samples of Ginsberg and Burroughs discussing their working methods. Everyone was encouraged to consider writing in new styles and responded in interesting ways. I was pleased with how it went.

We have one more session in this season, One Sentence at a Time (tickets available here). We also have a very exciting workshop planned for December – more news soon!

Thanks to Jake Spicer and Tom Hume for providing photos (Tom's flickr set from the day can be seen here).




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