Beatitude, perhaps the quintessential “Beat” publication, was originally published in mimeograph at the Bread and Wine Mission on Grant Avenue in San Francisco’s very hip North Beach. The Bread and Wine Mission was the creation of a Congregationalist minister, incongruously called “Father,” Pierre Delattre, on a mission of social action among the Italian Catholics of North Beach. Beatitude was originally planned as a weekly newsletter, “designed to extol beauty and promote the beatific life among the various mendicants, neo-existentialists, christs, poets, painters, musicians and other inhabitants and observers of North Beach,” as Bob Kaufman (quoted by Lawrence Ferlinghetti) put it in the Beatitude Anthology (1960).
The first issue, the brainchild of Ginsberg, Bob Kaufman, and John Kelly, was published in May of 1959; thereafter, Beatitude was never anything like weekly, but it was vital. The magazine was a very local North Beach Beat phenomenon; although it did have a longer reach in its later years, it still retained the look and spirit of the San Francisco coffeehouse literary scene. The magazine included work by its legendary founders, and by Jack Kerouac and Michael McClure as well, but its flare and power are perhaps better represented by the haunting work of the jazz poet ruth weiss, a frequent contributor, or by the spectacularly outrageous Lenore Kandel, whose “First They Slaughtered the Angels” nearly jumps off the pages of the Beatitude Anthology.
Bill Margolis, Eileen Kaufman, and Bob Kaufman printing the first issue of Beatitude at the Bread and Wine Mission, San Francisco, April 1959. Photograph by Fortunato Clementi (from Beatitude 17).