The Cubalogues:
Beat Writers in Revolutionary Havana

Todd F. Tietchen

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“As an early supporter of the original non-Communist Cuban revolution, I much appreciate this story of the involvement of American beat poets with the Fidelista cause. Dubbed the Cubalogues,’ their interaction with Cuban editors and poets is a unique part of Cuban cultural history, and it needs to be told to an American audience.”—Lawrence Ferlinghetti  
 
“Tietchen has done valuable research to bring the ‘Cubalogues,’ as a body of related texts, to our attention and to provide us with the necessary context for understanding their place in American political culture.”—Daniel Belgrad, author of The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America  
 
“An exciting, timely, and wide-ranging intervention which reassesses the Beat movement, the Beat canon, Cold War politics, and the Cuban Revolution. . . . A tight, lively, and skillful presentation of the topic.”—Sarah MacLachlan, author of The Cambridge Introduction to Chicano/a Literature and Culture  
 
Immediately after the Cuban Revolution, Havana fostered an important transnational intellectual and cultural scene. Later, Castro would strictly impose his vision of Cuban culture on the populace and the United States would bar its citizens from traveling to the island, but for a few fleeting years the Cuban capital was steeped in many liberal and revolutionary ideologies and influences.    
 
At the center of this cultural and intellectual history were the Cubalogues, an explicitly political subgenre of Beat travel narrative. Some of the most prominent figures in the Beat Movement, including Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Amiri Baraka, were attracted to the new Cuba as a place where people would be racially equal, sexually free, and politically enfranchised. Driven by a profound skepticism concerning the negative portrayal of Castro’s revolution within the mainstream U.S. media, each of the Cubalogue writers decided to witness the revolution firsthand, recording their experiences in works of autobiographical journalism which opened a revealing window into the earliest moments of revolutionary culture.    
 
What they experienced had profound and lasting literary effects both on their work and on the many writers and artists they encountered and fostered. Todd Tietchen clearly documents the multiple ways in which the Beats engaged with the scene in Havana and demonstrates that even in these early years the Beat movement expounded a diverse but identifiable politics. Ultimately, the Cubalogues configured Cuba as a transnational and collaborative laboratory—a site for experimenting with new and stranger notions of inter-American politics, and the documents themselves forwarded a vision of intellectual and cultural collaboration that refused to participate in the official discourses of neocolonialism and conquest.  
 
Todd F. Tietchen is assistant professor of English at Union County College in Cranford and Elizabeth, New Jersey.  
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"The author is particularly good on Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Amiri Baraka, and the little-known Mark Schleifer. This first rate book contributes to understanding US politics (both in the Cold War and after) as well as Bohemian writing. Tietchen writes concisely and clearly." CHOICE

“Tietchen’s book is well researched, smartly argued, and quite successful at rehabilitating an unfair popular image of the Beats as apolitical deadbeats. He situates the Cubaloguers skillfully and interestingly among the ideological and political battles of that time.” The Caribbean Review of Books

Only by expanding our conception of Beat canonicity, as Tietchen does, can we understand more deeply the initial allure of the Cuban Revolution in the shaping of New Left political conciousness in the United States. . . . Remind[s] us that the critical community's once-dominant conception of Beat writers is changing: it is no longer adequate to see the Beats as mere hipsters who emerged sui generis in the 1950s without a recognizable literary-historical lineage.-- American Literature

A tightly-focused, compelling narrative about the encounter between mid-century American radicals and the intense, blossoming of promise in the political landscape of revolutionary Cuba.-- Journal of Modern Literature

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