6 POETS AT 6 GALLERY
Philip Lamantia reading mss. of late John
Hoffman-- Mike McClure, Allen Ginsberg,
Gary Snyder & Phil Whalen--all sharp new
straightforward writing-- remarkable coll-
ection of angels on one stage reading
their poetry. No charge, small collection
for wine, and postcards. Charming event.
Kenneth Rexroth, M.C.
8 PM Friday Night October 7,1955
6 Gallery 3119 Fillmore St.
Six poets at the Six Gallery. Kenneth Rexroth, M.C. Remakable collection of angels all gathered at once in the same spot. Wine, music, dancing girls, serious poetry, free satori. Small collection for wine and postcards. Charming event.
When Allen Ginsberg
moved west to San Francisco
, William Carlos Williams
penned a letter of introduction for the young poet to poet, critic, and translator Kenneth Rexroth
, the leader of the San Francisco literary scene. With that, the East Coast Beats Ginsberg, Gregory Corso
, and Jack Kerouac
met a group of San Francisco and Berkely poets and the San Francisco Renaissance
was born. It was, in the words of Lawrence Ferlinghetti
, "when poetry
went public in the city."
The Six Gallery was formerly an auto repair shop on corner of Union and Filmore
in the Cow Hollow
district. (Now, you can buy rugs and pillows from the Silkroute International
at that address.) As an experimental venture, it was recreated as a venue for art, poetry, music, and performance. It was beginning to create a following when over a hundred people crowded into the building on the night of October 7th, 1955
Or the 13th according to some accounts. So many recollections of this night were written that there are many contradictions. The most often cited accounts are Michael McClure
’s "Scratching the Beat Surface
" and Kerouac’s fictionalized account in The Dharma Bums
. Kerouac was invited to read, but declined. He collected money from the audience, brought three jugs of burgundy
, and made a general nusiance of himself.
, a surrealist
poet, started off the evening by reading the work of his late friend John Hoffman
, who had died overdosing on peyote
. Michael McClure read his "Point Lobos: Animism
" and "For the Death of 100 Whales
". Philip Whalen
read his "Plus Ça Change…
". Gary Snyder
was last with his "A Berry Feast
But the second to last reader, Allen Ginsberg, stole the show. Ginsberg was only 29, and had just finished his landmark poem "Howl
" a few weeks before. Though a few of his fellow poets had read it in manuscript, it was the first time anyone had ever heard it, and all in attendance were mesmerized. Kerouac, sitting at the edge of the stage, began chanting "Go! Go!" and beating on a wine jug like a drum. Rexroth was in tears.
The poets retired to Sam Wo
, a Chinese restaurant
, and The Place
, a favorite watering hole
. Rexroth boldly and prophetically declared to Ginsberg that "This poem will make you famous from bridge to bridge." The next day, the poets were already famous locally, and crowds flocked to repeat performances of the evening’s reading.
That night, Ferlinghetti, publisher of City Lights
books and the Pocket Poets
series, headed straight home (because at the time he was not part of Ginsberg's crowd and didn't hang out with them) and composed a telegram
to Ginsberg, copying the famous one sent to Walt Whitman
(a primary influence of Ginsberg’s) by Ralph Waldo Emerson
upon the publication of Leaves of Grass
: "I greet you at the beginning of a great career. When do I get the manuscript?"
"In all of our memories no one had been so outspoken in poetry before -- we had gone beyond a point of no return. None of us wanted to go back to the gray, chill, militaristic silence, to the intellective void -- to the land without poetry -- to the spiritual drabness. We wanted to make it new and we wanted to invent it and the process of it as we went into it. We wanted voice and we wanted vision." – Michael McClure