Mariah Proctor is a junior at BYU who has only written one beatnik poem about a sage grouse.
Since the first paper I got back in Biology (that let me know it was going to be a rough go grades-wise in this class), I’d been planning this elaborate, crowd-pleasing, incomparably creative extra credit assignment to save my biology grade from almost inevitable degradation. I’ve been planning since that early January day to make either a music video or an “E! True Hollywood Story” about one of the three blind mice that lost his family members to various famous scientific studies that we’d covered in class.
It was going to be great, perhaps set to a parody of “There are no Cats in America” with scientists instead of cats, and I had a whole slew of people lined up to be in it. Then, it was suddenly 10:30pm before the final day of biology, and I hadn’t taken a single second of footage or written a single note of parodied music. I had no choice. I had to be just as dramatic on a 16th of the time. Being a beatnik for the day was my only option.
Beatniks are so easy to make fun of. Anyone who takes themselves that seriously is prey for mockery, but I found as I was adopting that persona to write the presentation, that I did find a sort of catharsis in the vacuous beatnik form of expression. My snapping finger was sore, but my emotional gut felt a little relieved.
Saying things from my belly (even if the subject matter was a mountain bird) felt so good. Letting my voice wander in the lower regions and say in rhythm the things of my make-believe heart. It’s such an audience based art form and even letting out that bit about Daddy missing my baseball games (which is completely untrue by the way) felt like I’d shared some important part of my made-up childhood for this character, and I could see why some people appreciate this outlet for expression.
Our final for Musical Scene Study is to perform an obscure musical theatre number as a monologue before doing the version set to music. Obscure or not, our instructors chose a lot of really beautiful pieces. The one that touches me the most is called Doatsy Mae, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that is moved by it. I feel like it shouldn’t mean so much to me because it is a song about a traditional, respectable girl who has a secret dream to wear more revealing clothes and be considered to be more beautiful than respectable.
That’s not exactly a lesson or a desire to take home to the kids, but at the heart of it is someone who has never had a venue to express what’s truly in her heart. And I think that this world is chalk full of people who have lots to say, but no place or words to say it. Beatnik poetry may seem a little ridiculous (having experienced a day of beatnik life fairly recently, I can still admit that), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid or that what’s being said isn’t really important to that person.
With all this heated discussion about how much arts funding schools should be given, or if degrees in art are even worth offering, may I just say that I have learned more from my study in the area of the arts and expression than any number of Biology 100 classes could ever teach. I frequently attend an open mic night and each time someone gets up to perform someone will yell, “teach us the truth!” Music, poetry, tears, art are powerful sources of truth. I love the kind of truth you can dance too, and “[learning] more from a three minute record, than [I] ever learned in school.”