How Antonin Artaud Came to Influence the Beats

24 Apr

Antonin_Artaud_jeune_b_SDAntonin Artaud had great fashion sense.

Bronx-born writer Carl Solomon joined the United States Maritime Service in 1944 and traveled overseas to Paris, where he was encountered Surrealism and Dadaism. When he came back to the US, he voluntarily admitted himself to a New Jersey psychiatric hospital as Dadaist expression of being beat, being conquered, being overpowered. There, he received shock therapy instead of the lobotomy he requested. He wrote about the experience in Report from the Asylum: Afterthoughts of a Shock Patient.

At the psychiatric hospital, Solomon met Allen Ginsberg. (You can read about how Ginsberg ended up there in Burning Furiously Beautiful.) He introduced the young poet to the poetry of Antonin Artaud, a French poet of Greek ancestry (his parents were from Smyrna) whom he had seen give a screaming poetry reading in Paris. Artaud had written the first Surrealist film, The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928), and produced Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Cenci in 1935. The year after that, he went to Mexico, living with the native Tarahumara people and experimenting with peyote, before Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs would pack their bags for Mexico. Another year passed and Artaud was found penniless in Ireland, where he was arrested and deported. Back in France, he was sent to various psychiatric hospitals, where he was subjected to electroshock therapy. Notably, in his earlier years, Artaud had spent time in a sanatorium, where he read none other than Arthur Rimbaud.

Solomon wrote Report from the Asylum with Artaud in mind, while Ginsberg wrote “Howl” with both Artaud and Solomon in mind.

Once again, I could not find any of his poems in public-domain English translation. So, here’s a quote I found interesting and relevant from Artaud’s prose piece The Theater and Its Double:

“I cannot conceive any work of art as having a separate existence from life itself.”

You can read one of his poems, “Jardin Noir,” here.

*4/24/14: The subject’s name was originally misspelled and has now been corrected. Thanks to my reader for pointing that out!


7 Responses to “How Antonin Artaud Came to Influence the Beats”

  1. tomgeorgearts April 24, 2014 at 8:48 am #

    wow! thank you. An intriguing look into one of the beats’ formative influences…i’d never heard of him.

    • Stephanie Nikolopoulos April 24, 2014 at 9:57 am #

      Thanks for reading and for your encouraging comment! I’ve been really excited delving into some of these perhaps lesser-known Beat influences.

  2. Corentin April 24, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    Hi ! I’m French, my English is bad sorry, but the name of this French author is “Artaud” (pronounced “Arto”), not Artuad ! Nice article !

    • Stephanie Nikolopoulos April 24, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

      You are right! Thanks for notifying me of the misspelling.

      • Corentin April 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

        Artaud has influenced the Living Theatre and Jim Morrison too, by the way.

      • Stephanie Nikolopoulos April 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

        Bukowski was also influenced by him.


  1. Happy 88th Birthday, Allen Ginsberg! | Stephanie Nikolopoulos - June 3, 2014

    […] How Antonin Artaud Came to Influence the Beats (hint: Ginsberg) […]

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