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Beats and Rhymes: The Best Minds of My Generation

"The Best Minds of My Generation" is the first catalogue poem I ever wrote paying tribute to authors and musicians. It is also the first poem I recorded with DJ Dave.

The piece synthesizes my wide range of influences, and also responds to the 2001 book "The Birth of the Cool" by Lewis MacAdams. The subtitle of the book is "Beat, bebop & the American Avant-garde." That phrase alone encompassed many of my influences. The book paid tribute to the Harlem Renaissance, San Francisco beats, and the 1960s New York art scene. Though he is now mostly known for his work with the Los Angeles River, MacAdams was one of the youngest members of the New York School of poets in the late 1960s into the 70s. He had close contact with the great poets Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, and Ted Berrigan, when they all gathered together in New York City. MacAdams was also published in Random House's seminal 1970 book, "Anthology of New York Poets."

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The line "I've seen the best minds of my generation" is from Allen Ginsberg's poem, "Howl." When I wrote this piece a decade ago I felt like I was seeing the best minds of my generation at the numerous poetry and live music venues I was hitting nightly. I had just met Saul Williams and did a few poetry gigs with him. I appreciated his intergalactic verse and cosmic delivery. Musicians like Gil Scott-Heron, Fela Kuti, the Roots, Bjork, Badu, 4Hero and DJ Shadow were on constant rotation.


I've seen the best minds of my generation
kickin' glorious incantations
retracing the Birth of the American avant-garde
Back to the days of playin' bebop
Jazz at the Village Vanguard.


And finally, I'm visiting New York City this weekend for a poetry gig and reconnecting with my old friend, the ultra-talented painter-poet Phillip Martin. Our ritual back in the day was to go perform poetry somewhere early in the night and close it out somewhere on a dance floor or at a dive bar.


The emerging superstars
of the new American Avant-garde
are visionary vanguards bringing headcharge
questing for satori
through Art, Music & Poetry.


Our friends of poets, painters, DJs and musicians are the emerging superstars of the new American Avant-garde serenaded in this poem.



Top: Allen Ginsberg marker in San Francisco commemorates his first public reading of "Howl." | Photo by bigoteetoe used under a Creative Commons license

About the Author

Third-generation Angeleno Mike "The Poet" Sonksen is a poet, journalist, historian, tour guide, and teacher.
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