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For immediate use

March 19, 2004 -- No. 152

Photo note:  Images are available.

Beat authors Ginsberg, Kerouac, more to be conference topic at UNC

By RUSSELL C. CAMPBELL III
UNC News Services

CHAPEL HILL Ė The term "Beat Generation" is typically credited to Jack Kerouac, from a conversation he once had with novelist John Clellon Holmes. Kerouac used the term while trying to define the post-World War II sense of existentialism; Holmes jumped up and shouted, "Yes, thatís it."

Nearly 50 years since the publication of Kerouacís "On the Road," arguably the most quintessential novel of the Beat movement, scholars and admirers still ponder the mystique of these individuals who were not afraid to swim against the cultural tide.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library will further illuminate the movement in writing and culture with a conference April 2-3, "The Beats in America: Alternative Visions, Then and Now."

Bill Morgan, a New York artist, archivist and bibliographer of Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, and Kerouac biographer Ann Charters will be among scholars speaking at the event. Musician David Amram and San Francisco poet Michael McClure will complete the cast of visiting experts.

In conjunction with the conference, the Rare Book Collection in Wilson Library will host the exhibit "Lines Drawn in the Sand: The Life and Writings of Allen Ginsberg," from March 24 to July 15.

Admission to all events will be free; all sessions will be in Wilson except an April 3 evening performance in Carroll Hall.  Those planning to attend the conference should call Liza Terll at 919-962-1301.

For the past decade, the library has collected Beat and American avant-garde literature, amassing a collection that is considered of national importance, said Dr. Charles McNamara, Rare Book Collection director. Among those represented is Beats publisher and author Ferlinghetti, a 1941 UNC graduate in journalism, who won a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the university in 1996.

"Literary fashions come and go and reputations wax and wane," McNamara said. "Our collection documents not only the individual writers but a cultural force in a period of history."

The Beat Generation defines a counter-cultural movement from obscure beginnings in the dorms of Columbia University to reaching out across the highways to the West Coast. The legacy of Williams S. Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg have continued to influence countless contemporary writers, artists and musicians.

The conference will include an opening reception for the Ginsberg exhibit, beginning at 5 p.m. April 2, with a talk by Morgan at 6 p.m. April 3 events will be:

A keynote address by Charters at 9 a.m.

A panel discussion of current Beat scholarship at 10:45 a.m. and alternative publishing at 1:30 p.m.

A viewing of the classic 1959 Beat film "Pull My Daisy" at 3:30 p.m., with an introduction by Amram, who composed the music for the film.

A performance by McClure and Amram at 7 p.m. in Carroll Hall auditorium.

Much of the exhibit is based on a collection the library acquired from Morgan, a longtime friend of the poet. The exhibit will trace Ginsbergís life from an early apprenticeship in New York, in the 1940ís, to publication of his poems "Howl" (1956) and "Kaddish" (1961) and into his leadership in the counter-cultural movements of the 60ís and 70ís.

Ferlinghetti founded and became editor of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers in San Franscisco, which published "Howl" as part of its Pocket Poets Series. The poem openly depicted Ginsbergís sexuality and helped to create the myths of the Beat generation.

The publication led to the arrest of Ferlinghetti and shop manager Shigeyoshi Murao in 1956 on charges of publishing and selling an obscene and indecent book. The ensuing trial established a precedent called "social redeeming value" that helped subsequent writers and artists claim protection under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

For a complete conference schedule and speakers go to http://www.lib.unc.edu/beatsconf/. For more on the exhibit and Morgan, visit www.lib.unc.edu/rbc/beats.

The conference is co-sponsored by the NC Writers Network.

Wilson Library opens from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.

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Photos:  For photos, please contact Russell Campbell at (919) 962-2091 or rcc3@unc.edu.

Media availability: David Amram will be available for interviews pre-conference. To arrange an interview, please call Russell Campbell at News Services, (919) 962-2091.

Contact: Charles McNamara at (919) 962-1143

News Services Contact: Russell Campbell at (919) 962-2091 or rcc3@unc.edu