Selections from The Beats Abroad by Bill Morgan

BeatsAbroadThe Beats Abroad: A Global Guide to the Beat Generation presents the fourth installment in Bill Morgan’s Beat Guidebooks, this time chronicling the travels of America’s greatest countercultures’ many international visits. While the Beat Generation claims its roots in New York and San Francisco during the 1940s and 50s, its writers traveled and lived all over the world, seeking inspiration from the different cultures and literary scenes.  Beat historian Bill Morgan traces both the influence that international epicenters such as Paris, Tangiers, and Mexico City had on the Beats and the influence they had on writers abroad. The book includes an introduction and postscript by Morgan, as well as extensive and detailed notes on the hundreds of entries included in the book.

Arranged geographically by continent, country, and city, Beats Abroad serves as a travel book that illuminates the lives of Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Corso, and others. Including addresses for a number of these places, Beats Abroad can provide an intimate sightseeing tour for travelers. It locates specific places like the hotel in Tangiers where Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch, the tiny Parisian hotel that became home to many of the less-than-wealthy writers, and the concert hall in London where Bob Dylan influenced Allen Ginsberg to hold a poetry reading for 7,000 attendees.

Here follows a sampling of the entries accompanied by a few of the hundreds of photos one can find in the book.

Allen Ginsberg in Jerusalem:

Late one night Allen disappeared and didn’t return to his hotel room. It turned out Allen had sneaked across the border into Palestinian territory and spent several days with boys who made a living collecting spent Israeli ammunition for scrap metal.  Allen found it sadly ironic when they showed him fragments of bombs made in America by the Bethlehem Steel company.

Gary Snyder in Kyoto, Japan

In May 1965, Gary Snyder arrived in Japan on the freighter Arita Maru, determined to pursue studies at the Shokoku-ji Zen Temple in Kyoto under the tutelage of Miura Isshu Roshi.  This was very unusual for a Westerner at the time.  Gary would remain in Japan off and on for the next decade, studying Rinzai Zen, writing, and translating poetry from the Japanese.  In the summers he went backpacking with friends, exploring the country’s wilderness areas, and he climbed many mountains in the north during his first year here.

snyder kyoto


Ted Joans in Timbuktu, Mali

No one besides Allen Ginsberg traveled the globe as much as the surrealist poet-artist Ted Johns. By 1961 he had decided to set up housekeeping in Timbuktu. In New York Joans had been a friend of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg but not many ever made the trip to visit him in what must have seemed like a remote outpost.  Ted Joans was often quoted as saying “Jazz is my religion and surrealism is my point of view,” and he wrote many poems that dealt with the experience of being a black man in America.  In one interview Joans suggested that “Africa should start sending missionaries out into the world. The missionaries would teach people how to be cool.”

Burroughs in Tangier, Morocco

Tangier is probably the city most associated with William Burroughs. An entire book could easily be written about the many years he spent in this ancient Moroccan port.  When Burroughs fled Mexico City following the death of his wife, no other place in the world seemed to offer him as much as Tangier – drugs, boys, balmy climate, and of course a chance to keep clear of the Mexican prison system.  Shortly after his arrival he discovered a cheap hotel called the Villa Muniria [1 Calle Magallanes], where he and many of his beat friends would live off and on in the coming years. It was at Villa Muniria that Burroughs began working on the prose routines that he called his Word Hoard, many of which would be collected in his most famous book, Naked Lunch.

burroughs tangier

The Beats Abroad is available for 30% off at You can also find it at City Lights Bookstore or at your local independent bookseller. Bill Morgan’s latest project is Wait Till I’m Dead: Uncollected Poems by Allen Ginsberg, just published by Grove and edited by Morgan.


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