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Description - Poet be Like God by Lewis Ellingham

Jack Spicer, unlike his contemporaries Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gary Snyder, was a poet who disdained publishing and relished his role as a social outcast. He died in 1965 virtually unrecognized, yet in the following years his work and thought have attracted and intrigued an international audience. Now this comprehensive biography gives a pivotal poet his due. Based on interviews with scores of Spicer's contemporaries, Poet Be Like God details the most intimate aspects of Spicer's life - his family, his friends, his lover - illuminating not only the man but also many of his poems. The resultant narrative of the San Francisco Renaissance and the emergence of the North Beach gay scene during the 50s and 60s will be indispensable reading for students of American literature and gay studies.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780819553089
ISBN-10: 0819553085
Format: Hardback
(229mm x 152mm x 36mm)
Pages: 461
Imprint: Wesleyan University Press
Publisher: University Press of New England
Publish Date: 31-May-1998
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - Poet be Like God by Lewis Ellingham

US Kirkus Review » Beat insider Ellingham and novelist Killian (Shy, 1989, etc.) have here embraced a most resistant, though not unworthy, subject in poet Jack Spicer. Spicer catalyzed the development of the Beat Generation in 1950s San Francisco. Though few literary tales have been told more often (or more tediously) than those pertaining to the Beats, Spicer's own has been at best ill served, and at worst wholly ignored, by the prevailing mythologies of the time. The authors have thus been admirably careful to keep their focus on the enigmatic Spicer, whose life and verse grew progressively more estranged, indeed bitterly so, from those of his more visible peers. In following Spicer's California odyssey - ending brutally in San Francisco, where he died from alcohol-induced liver failure in 1965, aged 40 - Ellingham and Killian tread too lightly on their subject's more troublesome personality traits, e.g., his entrenched anti-Semitism and boorish bad will toward those poets daring enough to court his approval This largesse would rankle less, however, had they not chosen to extend it to the poetry itself, which, while capable of startling effects and moving lyricism, frequently succumbs to the same narcissistic bloat that long ago rendered the Beat temperament cliche. Instead, the authors have provided, albeit in impressive detail, a cosmology of poetic egotism, with Spicer's now the origin. Ultimately, Spicer's legacy, like that of any devalued artist, must endure the trial of rigorous critical appraisal. Despite the current academic fashion, literary resurrections of this sort cannot be taken on faith, but rather require a proof that the authors, true believers both, fail to supply in this otherwise well-researched and readable biography. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Lewis Ellingham

LEWIS ELLINGHAM is a freelance editor and writer and author of The Jefferson Airplane (1972). Writer KEVIN KILLIAM's recent books are Little Men (1997), Arctic Summer (1997), and Argento Series (1997). Both live in San Francisco.