“ruth weiss: the Beat Goddess” Documentary Chronicles the Life of "Beat Poetry" Legend.
Melody C. Miller’s documentary ruth weiss: the Beat Goddess sheds new light on one of the era's most creative and impressive Beat poets. This award-winning film is a tender tribute to the life and art of the beloved teal-haired pioneer who revolutionized and empowered the world of poetry to jazz during the 1950s.
In a life that spanned 92 creative years, ruth weiss is one of the most influential writers of the Beat Generation. Born to a Jewish family during the rise of Nazism, as a 10-year-old refugee, she escaped to the United States. ruth became a Jazz troubadour exemplifying the zeitgeist of Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco. In the 1950s, she opened up and organized the first poetry readings in North Beach cafes and bars, giving a platform to many poets.
The film further highlights ruth weiss' electrifying and intimate poetry with breathtaking images of exquisite modern dance, art, animation, and music to embody her oeuvre. This film documents not only weiss' gift to humanity but archives significant historical moments in our world's social and literary movements. As a contemporary of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Kerouac, she innovated poetry to jazz. Legend Herb Caen dubbed ruth weiss as "The Goddess of the Beat Generation" because of her contribution to the culture of North Beach and the Bay Area poetry scene.
I had a chance to sit down and talk with Miller to find out just how she met this legend and how the film was born. As it turns out, Miller happened to meet Ruth Weiss on a night out in North Beach with her friends. The stage was set with a bass player, a sax player and a man seated in front of a log. The room went still then, onto the stage, walked an older woman with blue hair that transported the audience through her words.
"Her words are so simple, yet, they have a lot of power and meaning" Miller said "I was transported to her world through her poetry and an hour later I had to know who this woman was".
Miller said that after the performance she introduced herself to Weiss and told her that she was a filmmaker and wanted to do a film of her life's story. Weiss invited Miller and her crew to her northern California home and after one, hours long, meeting, their relationship went from acquaintances to "Grandmotherly" and a documentary was born.
The documentary "ruth weiss: the Beat Goddess" is a mix or storytelling, moving paintings and "hipster" poetry that is a must see for lovers of spoken word. Weiss, who is in her 90's, is sharp and still speaks of her childhood with such vivid descriptions that you can visualize them with your eyes closed.
With the desire for spreading love and a helping hand to poetic artists in her memory, filmmakers, Miller and Elisabeth Montgomery have founded the ruth weiss Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to create opportunities for poetic artists through an annual grant to support their work. This year they are offering cash prizes that seek out works of verbal and stylistic originality. Applications close on August 1st and winners will be announced in early September at WritersCon. https://www.ruthweissfoundation.org/
Weiss held fast to her title of Queen until she passed away, peacefully of natural causes, in her cabin on July 31, 2020. She was 92. If you'd like to watch this wonderful exploratory documentary, you can catch it on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Tubi, Xumo, Plex, Google TV, Hulu, Kinema, Kanopy, and will be on PBS channels on August 28th, 2022.