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Ruth Weiss

Ruth Weiss (1928–2020), pioneering female beat poet

by Kirk Fox

Ruth Weiss was a pioneering female poet of the Beat Generation and one of the first people to perform jazz poetry. 

  • Died: Friday, July 31, 2020 (Who else died on July 31?) 
  • Details of Death: Died at the age of 92 at her cabin in Northern California.    
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The Beat Goddess 

Weiss was born in Germany and her family left shortly before the Holocaust. They ended up in Chicago where she first started to write poetry. It was there when she first read poetry while a jazz band played behind her. She moved to San Francisco and became an important part of the beat generation, writing poems and performing jazz poetry, some historians say she introduced jazz poetry to that city. She was close with Jack Kerouac, and they would often go up to the roof of her apartment building at night with a bottle of red wine. Her most recognized work is 1977’s “Desert Journal.” A documentary about her life, “Ruth Weiss, The Beat Goddess,” was released in 2019.

On introducing jazz poetry to San Francisco

“…other well-known poets, whose names I’m not going to mention because everyone knows them, ended up doing the same thing. Only they were very smart. They recorded them and got records out of them. So nobody knows that I did this, innovate jazz and poetry in San Francisco in 1956 at The Cellar.” —From “Breaking the Rule of Cool: Interviewing and Reading Women Beat Writers” 

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What they said about her

Full Obituary: San Francisco Chronicle

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