Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Remembering Sebastian Sampas

                                         


On this date -- March 2 -- in 1944, Sebastian "Sammy" Sampas died at age 21. Sampas was one of Jack Kerouac's closest and dearest friends, and it would be hard to overstate the significant influence one had on the other (especially in ways literary and intellectual). Jack's third wife, Stella, was Sebastian's sister. Sampas appeared in the following Kerouac works (Source: Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend):

Kerouac Work                                               Character Name

Doctor Sax                                                    Sebastian
Visions of Cody                                             Sebastian
Book of Dreams                                            Silvanus Santos
Vanity of Duluoz                                            Sabbas (Sabby) Savakis
Visions of Gerard                                          Savas Savakis
Atop an Underwood                                      Sam
The Town and the City                                  Alexander Panos
The Haunted Life and Other Writings           Garabed Tourian

There are some wonderful letters back and forth between Sebastian and Jack in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956 (1995, Penguin). In a November 1942 letter Jack calls Sampas his "mad poet brother (p. 31). (The original letter is on sale HERE for $12,500!)

Here is how a letter from March 1943 starts (p. 43):
Sebastian!
You magnificent bastard! I was just thinking about you, and all of a sudden, I feel
very Sebastianish,
very Bohemian!
very Baroque!
very GAY!                                                                                                         (TURN!)
I was thinking, in a flash of glory, about all the things we've done!!!--and all the others we're going to do!
AFTER THE WAR, WE MUST GO TO FRANCE AND SEE THAT THE REVOLUTION GOES WELL! AND GERMANY TOO! AND ITALY TOO! AND RUSSIA!
For  1. Vodka
        2. Love
        3. Glory. 
Alas, there was no "after the war" for Sampas -- he was killed by wounds received in the Battle of Anzio during WWII while serving as an army medic.

It would take an entire book to describe adequately the deep and loving friendship Sampas and Kerouac shared, so I won't attempt it here. Suffice to say that you can get a good sense of it from Kerouac biographies, letters between the two, and, of course, Jack's own words about Sampas in the above listed works.

RIP, Mr. Sampas,



Monday, March 1, 2021

Happy Birthday to Lucien Carr

 

(L-R) William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, and Allen Ginsberg
(for more photos see https://allenginsberg.org/2021/03/m-m-1/)

Proto-Beat Lucien Carr was born on this date -- March 1 -- in 1925. He appeared in a number of Jack Kerouac's works: as Damion in On The Road; Sam Vedder in The Subterraneans and Book of Dreams (expanded edition); Julien in Big Sur; Julien Love in Book of DreamsDesolation Angels, and Visions of Cody; Claude De Maubris in Vanity of Duluoz; Claude in Orpheus Emerged; Kenneth Wood in The Town and the City; Kenneth in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; and, Phillip Tourian in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks.

We remembered Carr a little over a month ago on January 28 (click HERE), so we won't repeat biographical details except to say that Carr was an influential member of the early Beat Generation whose name is too often omitted when speaking of same (see Catherine De Leon's eye-opening article about Carr HERE). Carr has a rather extensive entry on Wikipedia in case you want to read more about him. Wikipedia gets a bad rap all the time, but I often find it to be a useful tool in getting the sense of a person, concept, or event. 

Here is an excerpt from a February 24, 1956 letter from Jack Kerouac to Lucien Carr:
Are you reading your Diamond Sutra daily like a good boy?--I got it divided into days--that is the best thing you'll ever read, it is the only thing ever written that has any value. The Bible is for shits. The Diamond Sutra is for ding-dong Buddha gongs. The words and the paper of this letter are emptiness, the words and the paper of this letter aint different from emptiness, neither is emptiness different from the words and the paper of this letter, indeed, emptiness is the words & the paper of this letter. (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 564)
My copy of A Buddhist Bible

I've been in a Buddhist frame of mind of later, and that passage rang out to me. If you're a Kerouac fan, you must have a copy of this book. It is the only book he had with him on Desolation Peak. The Diamond Sutra starts on page 87 of my edition above. Happy reading...

...and Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Carr.


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Guest post by Robin Andrea: the 1982 Kerouac Conference in Boulder and more

 

Abbie Hoffman, Johanna Lawrenson, Gregory Corso and Timothy Leary (L-R) on the deck
of one of the little cabins Naropa had rented for the 1982 Kerouac Conference
(c) Gregory Mansur

I received the below e-mail (between the *******) from Robin Andrea and got her permission to publish it as a post here on The Daily Beat. She also sent me the above picture taken by her ex-husband, Gregory Mansur, at the famous 1982 Kerouac Conference at Naropa in Boulder, CO.

HERE is a link to Robin Andrea's blog -- check it out. Thanks for reaching out, Robin. Fascinating stuff! It's unexpected e-mails like this that make my blogging efforts worthwhile!


*******

Hello Rick Dale,

I found your blog today while googling around for some information about Lawrence Ferlinghetti and CU Boulder. After reading the sad news about Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s death, I was trying to remember if I had taken my parents to see Ferlinghetti reading poetry there back in 1982. Turns out it wasn’t Ferlinghetti but Gary Snyder, who I had taken them to see. Snyder was supposed to be at the conference but couldn’t make it. Your blog showed up during my search, and the very first image I saw on it was the poster from the Kerouac Conference of 1982. I was the Volunteer Coordinator at that conference. I wrote this on my blog about it several years ago:


"The closest I ever got to Jack Kerouac in spirit was to place flowers on his grave in Lowell, Massachusetts. The closest I ever got to him in life was to be with his dearest friends at a gathering in his honor back in 1982, during the 25th anniversary celebration of the publication of On the Road. It was a week-long celebration at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Naropa has a Writing and Poetics Department called the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (begun by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman in 1974), so a gathering of this sort was absolutely essential to the curriculum. I had just moved to Boulder and was looking to do something before I started classes at CU, so I volunteered to be the volunteer coordinator for this event. For months many of us joyously labored to gather all the old beat authors and bring them together to do readings, hold workshops, teach classes, and celebrate the life of Jack Kerouac. Quite a gathering it was-- Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ken Kesey, Gregory Corso, Abbie Hoffman, Tim Leary, even the obscure characters from Kerouac's books like Herbert Huncke, Carl Solomon (to whom Ginsberg's Howl is dedicated) came. Jan Kerouac, Jack's daughter, was there, as well as Neal Cassady's widow, Carolyn. What an occasion. Kerouac was truly honored by those who knew and loved him. They read his words, they sang his praises, and we raised our glasses in his honor."

I have a copy of that Kerouac Conference poster as well signed by almost all of the attendees, even by some whose names are not on the list— like Jack Micheline and John Clellon Holmes. It’s been almost 40 years, and some of the signatures have faded with time.

As the volunteer coordinator I matched other volunteers with conference participants. Volunteers picked up people at the airport and took them to the places where they were staying during the conference. If I remember correctly we booked a place in a state park that had cabins. I chauffeured Abbie Hoffman and his partner Johanna Lawrenson. I have a photo of them with Tim Leary and Gregory Corso. If I remember correctly, one evening I drove William Burroughs back to where he was staying. On the way back, he said in the most gravelly cryptic voice, “Please stop at the store so I can get some strawberries.” The way he said strawberries has stayed with me all these years!

I was fortunate enough to do an apprenticeship with Allen Ginsberg that summer. He read my poetry ( I am embarrassed to admit! ) and I filed away some of his paper work at his home in Boulder. He had a filing cabinet with many folders labeled “Faded Yellow Newspaper Clippings.” 

It was a wonderful summer back then in 1982. I love remembering it even on a sad day as this. Here is a link to a blog post I did about running into Lawrence Ferlinghetti a couple of years ago. 

I’m also a little embarrassed that my husband and I chose to call our blog The New Dharma Bums back in 2004. We are both such fans of the beats, we couldn’t resist. 

I hope you don’t mind me sharing these stories with you. I’m hoping you enjoyed them.

A fellow Kerouac fan,
Robin

*******


Remembering Beat poet Elise Cowen

                                     


Beat poet Elise Cowen died on this date -- February 27 -- in 1962. She appeared as Barbara Lipp in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels and was a close companion to Allen Ginsberg (indeed, it is reported that they were lovers for a brief time). The bulk of her work, tragically, was destroyed after her death by suicide, but some of it survives, including the two poems here (after the bio -- which starts with an enlightening quote from Gregory Corso about the lack of women representation in the Beat movement).

Here's an excerpt from Kerouac's Desolation Angels
We stayed together for an awful long time, too, years—Julien called her [Alyce] Ecstasy Pie—Her best friend, the dark haired Barbara Lipp, happened by circumstance to be in love with Irwin Garden— Irwin had steered me to a haven. In this haven I slept with her for lovemaking purposes but after we were done I’d go to the outer bedroom, where I kept the winter window constantly open and the radiator shut off, and slept there in my sleepingbag. Eventually that way I finally got rid of that tubercular Mexican cough—I’m not so dumb (as Ma always said). (1995, Riverhead Books, pp. 329-330
Click here to read an interesting article about Cowen and her connection to poetry giant Emily Dickinson.

RIP, Ms. Cowen.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Sunday 2-28-21 online event to remember Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 


Click HERE for info on an online event to remember Lawrence Ferlinghetti happening Sunday 2-28-21 from 11 AM - 2 PM EST. It's being held by London's Bookmarks, The Socialist Bookshop.


Remembering Carl Solomon

                                     


Carl Solomon died on this date -- February 26 -- in 1993. He appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Carl Rappaport in Visions of Cody and as Carl Solobone in Book of Sketches.

Allen Ginsberg met Solomon in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently dedicated his famous poem, "Howl," to Solomon. Solomon worked as an editor for Ace Books, owned by his uncle A. A. Wyn. There are several published letters from Jack Kerouac to Solomon discussing Ace possibly publishing On The Road. The latter never happened, but Ace did publish William S. Burroughs' Junkie; Solomon wrote the Publisher's Note in one version and the Introduction in another. Here's an excerpt from an April 7, 1952 letter from Kerouac to Solomon:
But here's my main idea in this note (and apart from fact that I feel you're okay and wish you'd like me more), I have an idea we could publish ON THE ROAD regular hardcover and papercover, extracting 160-page stretch for 25c edition (the sexy narrative stretch, I'll designate it when I mail in full manuscript some time soon). (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 342.
Click here to read a 1973 interview with Solomon by John Tytell titled, "Carl Solomon On Not Publishing Jack Kerouac." Oops.

RIP, Mr. Solomon.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

RIP, Roger Brunelle

 
Roger Brunelle

I learned last night that our friend, Roger Brunelle, died on February 10 at age 86. The last time I saw Roger was in October 2016 at the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac event in Lowell, MA.

Roger explicating about the Lonesome Traveler quote at the Kerouac Commemorative during
Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, October 2016

Roger was a longtime Lowellian and founding member of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac. He gave Kerouac tours of the city for 35 years. I often referred to him in blog posts as a Kerouac docent.

Roger loved Jack and he loved Lowell. He was of French-Canadian heritage and spoke and taught French, which connected him to Jack in an intimate way. A fond memory of Roger is from March 2016 during the annual celebration of Jack's birthday in Lowell. My great friend, Richard Marsh, and I had lunch at the Worthen and Roger had a beer while we ate. When Roger said he was going up to pay for his beer he surprised us and paid for our lunches, too.

Roger had a quick wit and I always got the impression that he did not suffer fools gladly. I used to love going on his Lowell tours -- he had deep Kerouac and Lowell knowledge -- and listening to him read sections from Jack's books that were relevant to where we were, using his 3x5 notecards that he lovingly prepared in advance.

I'm very sad to learn of Roger's death -- sad for myself and for his loved ones and friends, sad for Lowellians, and sad for future generations of Kerouac fans who will never benefit from Roger's  Lowell-Kerouac knowledge.

HERE is a link to Roger's obituary in the Lowell Sun.

Say hi to Jack for us, Roger, and rest in peace.