Portrait of a Rebel Poet:

General Characteristics / Roles

by Larry Smith, director Bottom Dog Press
professor BGSU Firelands College

American Poet-Fiction Writer-Artist
Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)

General Characteristics of the Rebel Poet in America
(Note: None of these are absolute requirements,
but they do represent a composite model)

Has working-class youth by birth or shared experience

Rejects family values of religious rule and quest for wealth

Rebels against Educational and Social Institutions

Seeks well guarded independence, with a strong will, vivid imagination

Is reborn—Finds identity through Writing and Art

Often sees self as a social outsider—observer-critic role

Witnesses social injustices and war

Attains vision that writing and art matter—can change the world

Experiences need to reinvent the language of expression to fit a broken inner-reality
Creates new forms outside boundaries of poetry

Works to “get the word out”—for self and others:

by writing, printing, and publishing, promoting public readings

Risks censor— Stretches social norms—Becomes a target

Sacrifices for vision—passionate and engaged

Censorship may come from society (courts)—publishing world—

other groups of writers—academia

May join with others in revolt:

Bohemians—Leftists—Beats—Underground Mimeograph Revolution
Suffers losses yet persists toward developing a new world order

Some Examples

 Zen Rebel Poets: Han-shan (Cold Mountain), Ikkyu (Crazy Cloud), Taigu Ryokan (Great Fool)
William Blake
—Oscar Wilde
Charles Baudelaire
Arthur RimbaudJean Cocteau—Antonin Artaud
Pablo NerudaCesaer VallejoBertolt Brecht

French Surrealists—Andre Breton/ Benjamin Peret/ Paul Eluard
*   *   *
Ralph Waldo EmersonMargaret FullerHenry David Thoreau
Walt WhitmanEmily Dickinson

Kenneth RexrothKenneth Patchen—William Everson
Jack Conroy
Edwin Rolfe
Ezra Pound
William Carlos Williams—Charles OlsenLangston Hughes

Meridel Leseur –Muriel Rukeyser—Tillie OlsenDenise Levertov
June Jordan
—Audre Lorde—Nikki Giovanni

Allen Ginsberg / Lawrence Ferlinghetti / Bob Kaufmann/ Gregory Corso
Michael McClure—Philip Lamantia—Ted Jones—Charles Bukowski
Gary SnydersDiane diPrima—Michael McClure
Hetti Jones & Leroi Jones
(Amiri Baraka)Anne Waldman—Joanne Kyger
Ted Berrigan
Daniel Berrigan
Ed Sandersd.a.levy—Daniel Thompson—Charlie Potts—Jack Micheline

Others Rebel Spirits: Henry Miller, Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, Woody Guthrie
Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Jackson Pollock
John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Anni DeFranco...

d.a.levy   /    Anne Waldman   /      Ed Sanders

Revised November 2008
[Send other suggestions to: Lsmithdog@smithdocs.net
Thanks to the contributions of Katie Dailey, Bree, Douglas Manson,
David Shevin, others.
Smith Blog on Rebel Poet Portrait
Bottom Dog Press Homepage