Trapped between graffiti'd walls and sidewalk borders : resistance, insistence and changing the shape of things
Rohde-Finnicum, Robyn Renee
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Beat poetics, specifically exemplified by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Alan Ginsberg, offer a political aesthetic voice of dissent within both the cannon and the nation. Creating their own fold of heterogeneity, these poets base their critique of the Western Enlightenment technocratic and logocentric philosophic tradition upon a performance of marginality. Separating themselves from this way of being in the world, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg use American institutions and industries as metaphors for a Moloch-like system of imprisoning and/or destroying individuality and excess, sacrificing difference--political, aesthetic, mystical and spiritual ways of knowing and operating in the world--in the name of efficiency and progress. In this strategy of dissent, however, the Beats set up a system of dividing authentic ways of participating in the dominant national sphere from inauthentic participation in a manner that may potentially trap meaningful dissent within the graffti'd walls and sidewalk borders of marginality.The Beat strategy of dissent sets the stage both literally and figuratively for Slam and Spoken Word dissenting poetic movements. The means by which Beat poets construct marginal positions as affording a truth based discourse garnered from the authentic experience of marginality both offers the possibility for a radically multicultural movement of dissent and threatens to force this movement to remain marginal within a wider social sphere. While Slam and Spoken Word threaten to continue this Beat paradigm based on uncritical notions of authenticity, the theatrics of performance found within these movements problematizes essentialized conceptualizations of identity, marginality, and the authentic confessional moment. The spectacle blurs the boundaries between the authentic and inauthentic, between the meaningful and meaningless, in a manner that allows for the possibility of dissent based on marginality to participate within a wider national, cultural, and political sphere.