Clausen, Andy

(1943– )
   The author of 10 books of poetry, Andy Clausen was consistently cited by the late allen ginsberg as one of the most important poets of the next generation. With a lively, oratorical voice that is unforgettable both on the page and in public readings, Clausen’s work extends the democratic and imagination-filled traditions of such writers as Walt Whitman, Ginsberg, gregory corso, the French surrealists, and the Russian Futurists, especially Vladimir Mayakovsky.
   Born in a Belgium bomb shelter on October 14, 1943, Clausen moved to Oakland, California, at age two, right after the end of the second world war. After graduating from high school, he became a Golden Gloves amateur boxer and joined the Marine Corps for a short time as a paratrooper. Clausen left the marines in 1966 after seeing Ginsberg on television read “Wichita Vortex Sutra.” The line from Ginsberg’s anti-Vietnam War poem that particularly caught Clausen’s attention and turned him away from militarism was: “Has anyone looked in the eyes of the dead?”
   Having read Ginsberg, Corso, and jack kerouac, Clausen became a writer after deciding that Beat poetry (rather than, say, computers) was going to be the wave of the future. He met neal cassady in 1967, in San Jose, California, when Cassady visited the house where Clausen was staying. The dynamic energy in Clausen’s poems would later remind Ginsberg of Cassady. Clausen met Ginsberg for the first time in 1968 after a poetry reading in San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church where Clausen had taken off his clothes. The following day, Ginsberg surprised Clausen by going to his apartment to ask where he had gotten the line in one of his poems, “The five senses are the five wounds of Christ.” When Clausen confirmed that he had made that line up, a lifelong friendship was forged. In later years, Clausen also became good friends with many of the others writers associated with the Beat Generation, including Corso, ray bremser, jack micheline, and janine pommy vega.
   Clausen married Linda Harper in 1968, and they went almost immediately on the road—to Denver and to Chicago, where they took part in the protests outside the Democratic Party convention. During their time together—until the mid-1980s—they lived in many cities and states throughout the United States and in several Canadian provinces. They had three children—Cassady, Mona, and Jesse—who currently live in the Northwest. In later years, Clausen also lived in Kathmandu and Prague, where he read for Vaclav Hável while Hável was president of the Czech Republic. Clausen has also traveled to India, Thailand, Nepal, eastern Europe, Greece, and Italy, and poems from those travels are included in his book, 40th Century Man: Selected Verse 1996-1966.
   Clausen has worked most of his adult life as a construction worker, a union-member hodcarrier. Numerous other jobs have included cab driver, tire warehouse worker, gandy dancer, and sawmill worker. Now in his early 60s, he is teaching poetry in New York schools and prisons and is currently living in upstate New York with the poet Janine Pommy Vega.
   When Clausen published his second book in 1975, called Shoe-Be-Do-Be-Ee-Op, Ginsberg wrote him a letter reviewing every poem in the book and telling him how much he enjoyed it. In 1991, Clausen published witHout douBt, and Ginsberg wrote in the book’s introduction: “His comments on the enthusiastic Sixties, defensive Seventies, unjust Eighties and bullying Nineties present a genuine authority in America not voiced much in little magazine print, less in newspapers of record, never in political theatrics through Oval Office airwaves. . . . Would he were, I’d take my chance on a President Clausen!”
   Other volumes of poetry through the years have included The Iron Curtain of Love and Festival of Squares. He has also released several recordings of his poetry, including Let It Rip. Among other literary credits: Clausen is the main subject of a short film by Vivian Demuth called Dinners with Andy; he is a coeditor of Poems for the Nation, a collection of contemporary political poems compiled by Ginsberg; he has been a coeditor of Long Shot literary journal; and he is currently completing a book of memoirs about his experiences with Ginsberg, Corso, Cassady, Bremser, and many other writers associated with the Beat Generation. When the current mayor of Oakland, Jerry Brown, was running in the Democratic Party primaries for president of the United States in 1988, Ginsberg introduced Clausen to Brown as Ginsberg’s political adviser. With an interest in Buddhism and in Left traditions such as anarchism and democratic socialism, Clausen’s dynamic, inventive poetry is deeply concerned with examining the varied ills and absurdities of our contemporary culture and exploring visions for a more humane future.
■ Clausen, Andy. Festival of Squares. Woodstock, N.Y.: Shivastan Publishing, 2002.
■ ———. 40th Century Man: Selected Verse, 1996-1966. New York: Autonomedia, 1997.
■ ———. The Iron Curtain of Love. New Brunswick, N.J.: Long Shot Productions, 1984.
■ ———. Shoe-Be-Do-Be-Ee-Op. Oakland, Calif.: Madness, Inc., 1975.
■ ———. Songs of Bo Baba. Woodstock, N.Y.: Shivistan Publishing, 2004.
■ ———. Without Doubt. Oakland, Calif.: Zeitgeist Press, 1991.
   Eliot Katz

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

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