Professor David Calonne Releases Book 'The Spiritual Imagination of the Beats'
The Eastern Echo sat down to have a chat with Professor David Calonne who teaches in the English Department at EMU and has recently had some of his works published. The discussion began with the question of how Calonne got his inspiration to write his book .
“I was born in Los Angeles, California, and I feel maybe unconsciously I have been pursuing this perhaps back to my childhood. My first book was about William Saroyan who was an Armenian. I’m half Armenian, my mother was Armenian and my father French. Saroyan grew up in a place in California called Fresno, so I was very familiar with that area. His stories talk about the under-class of America, the people who were oppressed. He does it in a very encouraging way and life affirming, sometimes people would say sentimental. I was touched by his stories,” said Calonne.
“Any way long story short, I wrote my dissertation and it was published and then I went on to read the writers of the 40s and 50s, Kerouac, William Burroughs, and they were called the Beat writers and I discovered that Kerouac had been influenced by Saroyan,” said Calonne.
From then on Professor Calonne became more and more invested in his studies of the Beat writers. He began to become interested in his findings that the Beat writers were very in tune with knowledge of Buddhism, Hinduism, Gnosticism and more. He found it fascinating and decided to dedicate a Literature course at Eastern about the Beat writers and to write a book about them. The book was released this past September and is available for purchase on Amazon.
The book includes 11 Beats writers plus two writers who influenced the Beats writers. “They were interested in Buddhism, Tarot cards, and Native American themes and the spirituality of the Native Americans” said Professor Calonne. “I tried to develop these themes of the Beat writers which were: preserving the environment, their spiritual interests, they were pacifists, and in the book I sort of link these interests and how they discussed these things with one another,” said Calonne.
Professor Calonne also had a book released in September focused on about 50 years-worth of interviews of Gary Snyder, one of the Beat writers, which is titled .
"For me, [Snyder] represents a positive side of the Beats and he’s a very disciplined man, he lived in a Zen monastery for years, he was a mountain climber and an American outdoorsman, a very well-rounded man. I admire that about him,” said Calonne.
The professor’s most recent collection of interviews will be coming out in May, titled . It is a collection of interviews, stories and essays of Charles Bukowski. Also Calonne has been recently informed that his book on another of the Beat writers, Diane Di Prima, will be published by Bloomsbury -- the same company that publishes Harry Potter.
“She is very interesting because she was very smart, I think, genius level. She lived in New York City and wanted to be a writer and a poet, then met Ezra Pound who influenced her. Then she got very involved in all these spiritual/esoteric things, Hinduism and Kabbahla. She translated ancient Latin and was interested in the occult. She was interested in doing séances and magic. I didn’t know much about any of this but I had to explore it, but she took it very seriously,” said Calonne.
Be looking out for Professor Calonne’s latest book on Diane Di Prima, soon to be released within the next year or so, and take a look on Amazon for his three titles mentioned previously: , , and .