After seeing several of my open mic friends get accepted to the 2022 New Generation Beats Anthology, I was relieved and grateful to get the news yesterday that Editor Deborah Tosun Kilday also liked my submission, “I Always Knew It Would Be This Way; I just didn’t expect it to be so soon,” enough to put it, too, in the anthology.
I have never exactly considered myself a new generation Beat poet. I like Allen Ginsberg‘s Howl but could never make my way through Kerouac‘s On the Road. Also, my dad took a dim view of countercultural aesthetics, and I was brought up feeling that they ushered in the decline of his career. Still, my poem about being a poll watcher, which helped garner my recognition as a featured poet in the erbacce-prize contest, harked back to the spontaneous anger and despair of “Howl,” and I had a feeling there might be more where that came from.
At the time my open mic friend, Generalissimo Bryan Franco, shared the call for submissions to the anthology with me, I was upset by the Supreme Kangaroo Court’s decisions in Dobbs and West Virginia v. EPA, as well as by gun violence, the bullying of teachers and students by school boards and other fascist busybodies, the prospect of climate apocalypse, and Democrats’ chances in the midterms. I still am upset by these things, but the Kansas referendum gave me hope. Also, we finally found someone to start fixing up our house–thereby launching operations MOHGA (Make Our House Great Again) and EFA (Escape From Alabama)–which has cheered me a bit. Anyway, I was upset back then, with no such happy prospects in sight, when, shortly after I glanced at the call, a poem came to me.
I had often thought of what might happen in climate apocalypse. Diseases, of course, but also many tried and true resorts of desperate people–especially the consolations of fundamentalisms and violence (often combined). As I contemplated our post-1/6 reality, I thought how odd it was that a version of my apocalyptic vision was unfolding right now, within my living memory of an early- to mid-sixties nuclear family lifestyle (complete with mental instability, but that didn’t count as long as no one talked about it). I had always pictured brutish attacks proliferating at a later stage in the downfall of civilization. Neither had I realized that people in power would be so oblivious to their own welfare that they would calmly take steps certain to hasten and worsen the apocalypse. Those people remind me of (and probably in some cases descended from) the businessmen on the train from Manhattan to Westchester who used to try to pick me up when I was a teenager on my way home from my violin lessons.
So a poem that harked back to the culture the Beats rebelled against while also trying to shake up contemporary culture from a feminist standpoint was born. I felt it was in the Beat spirit, but perhaps it was not on the nose enough to be suitable for the anthology. Luckily, Editor Kilday thought it was. I can’t wait for the anthology to come out so I can read the other poems, especially my friends’, and share mine.