Helen Adam

Helen Adam

Helen Adam (b. December 2, 1909 in Glasgow, Scotland — d. September 19, 1993 in New York City) was an American poet, collagist and photographer who was an active participant in The San Francisco Renaissance, a literary movement contemporaneous to the Beat Generation that occurred in San Francisco during the 1950s and 1960s. Though often associated with the Beat poets, she would more accurately be considered one of the predecessors of the Beat Generation.


Adam attended Edinburgh University for two years. After leaving Edinburgh University she worked as a journalist in London. In 1939 she moved to the United States and eventually moved to San Francisco. In San Francisco she worked with such influential poets as Allen Ginsberg and Robert Duncan [ [http://speccoll.library.kent.edu/literature/poetry/adam.html Helen Adam Papers website] ] .

One of the oldest of the poets in the "San Francisco Renaissance", she worked closely with Duncan, Jess, Madeline Gleason, and Jack Spicer, among others. She also encouraged many of the Beat poets as they began to explore performance and writing as an art form. While her continued use of the ballad form “mystified” many of the poets more associated with the movement, the "magic and knowledge she brought to San Francisco startled the young wild sages of its Renaissance with a special kind of madness." [ [http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/prevallet/adam.html The Reluctant Pixie Poole ] ]

Helen Adam and her sister collaborated on a ballad opera entitled "San Francisco's Burning" which was published in 1963 and reissued in 1985 with score by Al Carmines and drawings by Jess. A collection of her poems was collected in a work titled "Selected Poems and Ballads". She was one of only four women whose work was included in Donald Allen's landmark anthology, The New American Poetry 1945-1960 (1960). Adam also acted in two films: "Death" and "Our Corpses Speak", both of which were filmed in Germany. Her life was a subject of a documentary film directed by experimental film maker Rosa von Praunheim.

A good example of Helen Adam's verse with its striking use of language is "Margaretta's Rime":

:Margaretta's Rime

:"In Amsterdam, that old city,":"Church bells tremble and cry;":"All day long their airy chiming":"Clavers across the sky."
:"I am young in the old city,":"My heart dead in my breast.":"I hear the bells in the sky crying,":"Every being is blest."
:"In Amsterdam, that old city,":"Alone at a window I stand,":"A spangled garter my only clothing,":"A candle flame in my hand."
:"The people who pass that lighted window,":"Looking me up and down,":"Know I am one more tourist trifle":"For sale in this famous town."
:"Noon til dusk at the window waiting,":"Nights of fury and shame.":"I am young in an old city":"Playing an older game."
:"I hear the bells in the sky crying":"To the dead heart in my breast,":"The gentle bells in the sky crying":"Every being is blest."

Selected publications

* "The Elfin Pedlar and Tales Told by the Pixie Pool", 1923
* "Charms and Dreams from the Elfin Pedlar's Pack", 1924
* "Shadow of the Moon", 1929
* "The Queen O' Crow Castle", 1958
* "Ballads", 1964
* "Counting Out Rhyme", 1972
* "Selected Poems and Ballads", 1974
* "Ghosts and Grinning Shadows" (a collection of short stories), 1977
* "Turn Again to Me and Other Poems", 1977
* "Gone Sailing", 1980
* "Songs with Music", 1982
* "The Bells of Dis", 1984
* (With Auste Adam) "Stone Cold Gothic", 1984.
* "San Francisco's Burning", 1985
* "A Helen Adam Reader. Edited with notes and an introduction by Kristin Prevallet", 2008.


* [http://speccoll.library.kent.edu/literature/poetry/adam.html] Overview of the Helen Adam Papers in James Broughton's archive
* [http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/prevallet/adam.html "The Reluctant Pixie Poole"] subtitled: "A Recovery of Helen Adam's San Francisco Years", this is an early essay by Kristin Prevallet

External links

* [http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/adam/index.html Helen Adam Author Page at Electronic Poetry Center] includes extensive links to online works and biography
* [http://www.heelstone.com/meridian/adam4.html "Helen Adam's Sweet Company"] essay by Kristin Prevallet

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