Six Gallery reading

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The Six Gallery reading (also known as the Gallery Six reading or Six Angels in the Same Performance) was a poetry-reading which occurred at the Six Gallery[1] on Friday, October 7, 1955, at 3119 Fillmore Street in San Francisco. (While many sources have erroneously reported the date of the reading as October 13,[citation needed] various documentary sources[which?] indicate October 7 is correct.)

Conceived by Wally Hedrick,[2] this event was the first important public manifestation of the Beat Generation and helped to herald the West Coast literary revolution that continued the San Francisco Renaissance.

At the reading, five talented young poets—Allen Ginsberg, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, and Philip Whalen—who until then were known mainly within a close company of friends and other writers (such as Lionel Trilling and William Carlos Williams), presented some of their latest works. They were introduced by Kenneth Rexroth, a San Francisco poet of an older generation, who was a kind of literary father-figure for the younger poets and had helped to establish their burgeoning community through personal introductions at his weekly salon.

Lamantia read poems by his dead friend John Hoffman. McClure read "Point Lobos Animism" and "For the Death of 100 Whales"; Snyder, "A Berry Feast"; and Whalen, "Plus Ca Change." Most famously, it was at this reading that Allen Ginsberg first presented his poem Howl.

Hedrick, a painter and veteran of the Korean War, approached Ginsberg in the summer of 1955 and asked him to organize a poetry reading at the Six Gallery. At first, Ginsberg refused. But once he’d written a rough draft of Howl, he changed his “fucking mind,” as he put it.[3] The large and exuberant audience included a drunken Jack Kerouac, who refused to read his own work but cheered the other poets on, shouting "Yeah! Go! Go!" during their performances. Still, Kerouac was able to recall much of what occurred at the reading, and wrote an account that he included in his novel The Dharma Bums.

Also in attendance was Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who telegrammed Ginsberg the following day offering to publish his work. Neal Cassady passed around the wine jug and a collection plate. Also there was Ann Charters, then a UC Berkeley college student. It was on this night that Charters first met Kerouac, the subject of her best known work, the biography Kerouac (1973).

The Six Gallery, founded by Hedrick, Deborah Remington, John Ryan the poet, Jack Spicer the poet, Hayward King, and David Simpson,[4] was previously known as the King Ubu Gallery, which was founded by artist Jess Collins in 1952. Before its association with art and poetry, it was an auto repair shop, and it is now a rug store.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ In 1954, Wally Hedrick co-founded The Six Gallery in San Francisco, California with David Simpson, Hayward King, John Allen Ryan, Deborah Remington and Jack Spicer -- and by 1955, had "become the official director". Smithsonian Archives of American Art: Oral History Interview With Wally Hedrick At His Home, San Geronimo, California, June 10, 1974, Interviewer: Paul Karlstrom: [1][dead link] See also: Artist and Professor Carlos Villa, in Remembering Wally Hedrick: "Wally Hedrick was a chief organizer of the Six Gallery..."[2][dead link] The Six Gallery functioned as an underground art gallery for the members and a meeting place for poets and literati alike.
  2. ^ Matt Theado ed., The Beats: A Literary Reference, The Beats in the West, pg. 61:

    Ginsberg recalled: "The Six Gallery reading has come about when Wally Hedrick. who was a painter and one of the major people there, asked Rexroth if he knew any poets that would put on a reading.

  3. ^ Jonah Raskin, American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and the Making of the Beat Generation.
  4. ^ Smithsonian Archives of American Art: Oral History Interview With Wally Hedrick At His Home, San Geronimo, California, June 10, 1974 [3][dead link]

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