NC Literary Hall of Fame



Beats Me: Love, Poetry, Censorship, from Chicago to Appalachia by Maryrose Carroll

Big Table Books
$12.99, paperback / $4.99, e-book
ISBN: 978-0692369920
February, 2015
Available from

"This is a wonderful book. It's a fascinating account of some of some of the most vibrant, stormy, and controversial times in American literature. In fact, for any student of twentieth-century poetry, it's downright mesmerizing."
—Joseph Bathanti, seventh poet laureate of North Carolina

"Maryrose Carroll has written an important book for anyone who is interested in the Beat Generation. It reads as if you were sitting at the table with Paul Carroll and Maryrose. Insight into not only the end of censorship in literature, but about bravery in the face of an intolerant and threatening Government during the McCarthy witch hunts. It is also a lesson on love and facing death with dignity. Simply a great book."
—Earl LeClaire, poet

"Beats Me will cement Paul Carroll's importance in a literary movement I know and love so well. As an undergraduate at the time of the Big Table controversy, I remember bits and pieces of what took place at distant University of Chicago. Paul Carroll is my hero. It is so wonderful to read this personal story of one who was near and dear to him."
—Frank Thomas

Beats Me is quintessentially a love story and a "fascinating account of some of the most vibrant, stormy, and controversial times in American literature." Combining literary history with very personal drama, Maryrose Carroll tells the tale of her husband, Paul Carroll, and his exploits with the censorship of his little magazine, Big Table, by The University of Chicago and the attempted censorship the U. S. Post Office in 1959. His stories, told to his wife nightly, progress like Scheherazade’s through the course of the last year of his life when he learns he is dying from cancer.

His wounded friendship with Allen Ginsberg evolves over the course of three decades. Allen is pivotal in the first publishing of excerpts of Naked Lunch in Big Table but dictatorial in his directions of how Paul should write his poetry. Paul’s poetry evolves over thirty years from the highly structured Sicilian Sestet of "Winter Scene" published in 1958 in the New Yorker to the immediacy of late lines as: "We walk inside the heart of God all day."

The history continues in 1968 with Paul’s partnership with Follett Publishing Co. to produce Big Table Books, including The Poem In Its Skin and Young American Poets which Kenneth Clarke, when director of the of Chicago Poetry of Chicago founded by Paul, called "the Bible." A great friendship starts, in 1959, with James Dickey who described his visits with Paul in Chicago as "I do sincerely believe that was the happiest I ever was in my life. The happiest." Dickey’s and Paul’s friendship involved a mutual appreciation and respect for each other’s poetry and his last letter, written after Paul’s death said to me "I hope you will continue to stay in touch so that we may be with Paul on both sides of the shadow line. One can do such things, as you know." Well, I didn’t know that at the time of his letter but I was to find out he was correct. Communication can continue after a loved one’s death.

Maryrose Carroll was, and is, a clearly defined presence of her own, "a figure of central interest and importance in the great efflorescence of American sculpture," as one of her bios states. Her massive public sculptures tower in North Carolina cities like Charlotte, Hickory, and Fayetteville. They are also in Illinois and California, in museums in Chicago and Springfield, in Hartford and Dayton. She has taught at Northwestern University and Appalachian State University.

Her first book was a collection of her photographs with verse by Lewis Carroll, titled Alice's Book. Images from Alice's Book and her sculpture can be seen at A video presentation of her transition from art to writing can be seen here.

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