Friday, February 20, 2015

New book about Gregory Corso

Rick Schober recently finished compiling and editing his first book, The Whole Shot: Collected Interviews with Gregory Corso, and has set up a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds to defray some of the costs associated with self-publishing it. The book is a collection of 13 interviews with Corso conducted between 1955 and 1982. Dick Brukenfeld, publisher of Corso's The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems (1955), wrote the introduction, which has some great anecdotes about Corso's early days in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and as a "stowaway" on the Harvard University campus.

Corso is an important figure in the Beat world and I think this is definitely a worthwhile endeavor. Please consider supporting it!

Calling All Poets

The other day on Facebook there was a question about whether Lucien Carr was a poet (if you don't know who that is, do some research - it's required knowledge for a Kerouac fan). I asked for a definition of "poet" because I often struggle with understanding that label. I have posted a lot of poems on my other blog, Words Are My Drug of Choice. Does that make me a poet? Does one have to be published to be a poet? Does self-publishing count? Does posting on a blog count as being published? What about being published in an obscure little print ? Once. Does that make you a poet? Does reading your original poems at an event make you a poet? Or does having a poetic spirit make one a poet, despite written output and public performances?

I often see poems in the newspaper's Thursday supplement and more often than not I think to myself: I've written poems that good! But, hey, dude: that's just like, uh, my opinion, man.

Bottom line: I don't know what makes someone a poet and I sure don't know if I am one. I know my friend, Charlie James, is a poet. It's an unassailable fact. Why? A number of reasons, but not the least being that he writes amazing poems. And his self-published book of poems won first place in the 18th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Award in the poetry category.

Anyway, for all "poets" near enough to make a trip to Waterville, Maine in April, check out this call for original poems by Maine Poetry Express (an initiative of Maine Poet Laureate Wesley McNair): click here.

I sent three along just for kicks (and joy and darkness). And to feed my fantasy that I'm a poet.

Whatever that word means....

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Grammy Awards and Jack Kerouac

Since the Grammy Awards are trending, I got to thinking about Kerouac and the Grammys. Some quick Internet research reveals that the CD, "Readings by Jack Kerouac on The Beat Generation," reissued by Verve Records in 1997, was nominated for a Grammy in 1999 for Best Recording Package.

So there you have it: a Kerouac-Grammy connection.

Here's a trivia question for Daily Beat readers: Did Jack ever write about the Grammy Awards? They started in 1959, so he definitely would have heard of them.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

CaSsAdY. NeAl. YoU. BiRtHdAy. HaPpY!

On Facebook I've taken to wishing people a happy birthday as follows:

YoU. BiRtHdAy. HaPpY!

The phrase is something I saw somewhere along the line and I added the interspersed capital letters. I think the latter gives it a whimsical quality. The phrase itself reminds me of how my French Canadian friends talk, putting "you" in front of sentences where it's grammatically unnecessary. For example, they might (lovingly) say, "You. Fuck you."

Given that Jack Kerouac was of that heritage, I can imagine him using this phrasing.

But I digress. The point of this post is that today, Neal Cassady would have been 89 years old. He was perhaps most well-known as the real-life role model for Dean Moriarty in On the Road, Kerouac's most famous work. Here's a quote about Dean from the 1976 Penguin version:
Dean was the son of a wino, one of the most tottering bums of Larimer Street, and Dean had in fact been brought up generally on Larimer Street and thereabouts. He used to plead in court at the age of six to have his father set free. He used to beg in front of Larimer alleys and sneak the money back to his father, who waited among the broken bottles with an old buddy. Then when Dean grew up he began hanging around the Glenarm poolhalls; he set a Denver record for stealing cars and went to the reformatory. From the age of eleven to seventeen he was usually in reform school. His specialty was stealing cars, gunning for girls coming out of high school in the afteroon, driving them out to the mountains, making them, and coming back to sleep in any available hotel bathtub in town. (Kerouac, 1976, pp. 38-39)
On Thursday I asked my first year college class for some adjectives to describe Dean after having read this part of the book. The first student answered, "player." There was general agreement about that.

Was Neal Cassady a "player"? I guess that fits pretty well.

In any event, I was thinking about the Holy Goof today and thought I'd post a little something in his honor. There's a weekend-long Neal Cassady "birthday bash" going on in Denver right now, so if you're in those parts I hope you partake.

How do you think Neal would be celebrating his 89th if the fates hadn't intervened in Mexico in 1968?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Neal, we hardly knew ye....

Neal Cassady, member of the Beat Generation and Jack Kerouac muse, died this date in 1968, four days short of his 42nd birthday. Con man, driver extraordinaire, hyperkinetic, charmer, car thief, father, writer, Casanova, thinker, hustler, husband, railroad man -- whatever labels you may apply to him, Neal lived a lot in his time.

Yet, when it comes to people I've never met, I'm never sure if I really have an accurate sense of the person. Granted, between Kerouac's roman a clef fictional accounts, Neal's own letters (note the recent discovery of the missing Joan Anderson letter), biographies, etc., we can say we know a lot about the man. But who was he, really?

Just a Catholic boy on a search for God (as Kerouac described his On the Road character)?

In honor of the anniversary of Neal's too-young demise, your task is to read some Visions of Cody today (Neal is the title character, appearing as Cody Pomeray). Or, if you please, read some of Neal's autobiographical The First Third, or any of Kerouac's various novels where he appears (most famously as Dean Moriarty in On the Road).

Dion sang, "it seems the good they die young." So sometimes do the rascals, it would seem.