- Purchase/rental options available:
The effervescent cultural scene of the West Coast in the 1950s—particularly regarding movements such as the San Francisco Renaissance and the Beat Generation—was influenced by Eastern thought and religious practices. These were disseminated by figures such as the Japanese scholar D.T. Suzuki and the Bay Area-based and self-proclaimed "philosophical entertainer" Alan Watts. Along with Watts, another influential figure for the West Coast poets—having even served as mentor to Allen Ginsberg—was William Carlos Williams. This essay argues that, influenced by Zen Buddhist principles, both Williams and Watts propose a vision of the imagination as a cosmological force capable of merging the material and transcendental dimensions of reality. This essay suggests that Williams's and Watts's concepts and their understanding of Zen Buddhist ideas deeply affected the works of the West Coast poets and laid the foundations for their cross-cultural interests as well as their experimentation with poetics and spirituality.