Cover image for Beat thing
Beat thing
Meltzer, David.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Albuquerque, N.M. : La Alameda Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
154 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3563.E45 B43 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



During the late 1950s, David Meltzer was an active poet in the San Francisco North Beach scene often reading with jazz musicians at various bars and coffeehouses. Beat Thing is part poetry and part exposé, both tribute to the down in the street wildness and rant against the romantic commodification which surrounds the Beat Generation. Invoking real people as real history, Meltzer takes aim at the fantasy which Beat has become and juxtaposes simultaneously its still-needed legacy. He brings forth the original spirit of Beat in an encyclopedic cascade of details whose dense, deep, fierce, funny, raucous, free-associative jazz energy infuses every line. This is a grizzled hipster vision looking back at a period where the beast of war from Auschwitz to H-bomb to Joe McCarthy prevailed side-by-side with a cultural complacency while a wide-ranging constellation of writers and artists refused its numbing protocol. Beat Thing rises up as an ecstatic chant of defiance and celebration.

David Meltzer is the author of many volumes of poetry, including The Clown, The Process, Yesod, Arrows: Selected Poetry, 1957-1992 , and No Eyes: Lester Young . He has also published fiction, including The Agency Trilogy, Orf, Under , and book-length essays, including Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook . He has edited numerous anthologies and collections of interviews, including The Secret Garden: An Anthology in the Kabbalah; Birth: Anthology of Ancients Texts, Songs, Prayers, and Stories; Death: Anthology of Texts, Songs, Charms, Prayers, and Tales; Reading Jazz; Writing Jazz ; and San Francisco Beat: Talking With the Poets . His musical recordings include Serpent Power and Poet Song

"How easily narrative falls into place, realizes itself through a story-telling historian who sets out to frame a tangled constantly permutating chaos into a familiar & repeatable story w/out shadows or dead-ends; how impulsively memory organizes into a choir to tell a story of what it remembers symphonically, i.e., formally; even experimentalists practice w/in or against forms that have formed their relationship to writing & telling stories; history is the story of writing"--Epilogue from Beat Thing

Author Notes

David Meltzer was born on February 17, 1937. He was a poet and musician who created work that goes back to the Beat generation and San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s and 1960s. He wrote more than 40 volumes of poetry including Arrows: Selected Poetry 1957-1992, Name: Selected Poetry 1973-1983, Beat Thing, and David's Copy. His nonfiction work included Reading Jazz, Writing Jazz, When I Was a Poet, and Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook. He also wrote 10 novels. He taught in the humanities and graduate poetics programs at the New College of California in San Francisco from 1977 to 2007. In the 1960s, he was a singer-songwriter and guitarist for Bay Area bands that included the psychedelic folk-rock group Serpent Power. He died after suffering a stroke on December 31, 2016 at the age of 79.

(Bowker Author Biography)