Neeli Cherkovski, Poet Who Chronicled the Beat Generation, Dies at 78

Neeli Cherkovski, a prolific poet and denizen of beatnik cafes who chronicled the literary ethos of bohemian culture in biographies of Beat Generation writers, including his friends Charles Bukowski and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, died on March 19 in San Francisco. He was 78.

The cause of his death, in a hospital, was a heart attack, his partner, Jesus Guinto Cabrera, said.

Mr. Cherkovski arrived on the literary scene in 1969, when he and Mr. Bukowski started Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns, a magazine printed on a mimeograph machine that lasted three issues, had one subscriber, and rejected poems with terse notes that began, “These won’t do.”

In 1969 Mr. Cherkovski and Charles Bukowski started the magazine Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns. It lasted three issues.Credit…Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns

Typically dressed in a rumpled suit coat over an untucked shirt, with a string of amber beads hanging around his neck, Mr. Cherkovski was a fixture at Caffe Trieste and, around the corner, the City Lights bookstore, in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.

“You could not mistake him for anything other than a poet,” Raymond Foye, a writer who also hung out at Caffe Trieste, said in an interview. “He was the quintessential bohemian flâneur, just this extraordinary figure who you couldn’t miss walking up and down the streets.”

At the cafe, and at his nearby apartment, Mr. Cherkovski hung out with Mr. Ferlinghetti, a poet and the owner of City Lights, and with other Beat writers, among them Harold Norse, Bob Kaufman and Gregory Corso — “vagabond souls,” as he once called them.

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