Thursday, December 31, 2020

2021 Kerouac-olutions and a report on 2020's

 

Before I address Kerouac-olutions for the new year, here is an update on how I did with 2020's.

2020 New Year's Kerouac-olutions UPDATE

1. Drink a bottle of 14-year-old Glenlivet single malt scotch (with help from Crystal)
SUCCESS
2. Read Be Here Now by Ram Dass (who just died)
SUCCESS
3. Use the treadmill at least twice a week, preferable three times (30 minutes per)
FAIL
4. Lose some more weight
FAIL
5. Stay off anti-depressants (which I recently weaned myself from)
SUCCESS
6. Buy Crystal flowers at least 6 times
SUCCESS (if you count grocery store flowers she may or may not have paid for)
7. Read Kerouac (no particular titles or amounts)
SUCCESS
8. Continue blogging in remembrance of the birth and death dates of real-life characters in Kerouac's world and works
SUCCESS
9. Fulfill my 200-hour commitment to Crisis Text Line
SUCCESS
10. See the California Dales in person
FAIL (thanks to COVID)

2021 New Year's Kerouac-olutions

In 2021, I hereby resolve to:

1. Stay alive one more year (this item partly inspired by COVID)
2. Drink a bottle of 21-year-old Bushmills and 18-year-old Tullamore Dew (with help from Crystal)
3. Use the treadmill at least 2 times per week
4. Lose 10 pounds
5. Be able to do 25 pushups in a row
6. Continue blogging in general and specifically about Kerouac-related births and deaths
7. Read a bunch of books, including some John LeCarre -- who just died (hard to quantify, I know)
8. See the California Dales in person (COVID may prevent this)
9. Read Kerouac (no particular amounts or titles)
10. Buy Crystal flowers at least 6 times

Nothing too heady or difficult here. Just keeping up a tradition of posting resolutions. What are yours?



Saturday, December 26, 2020

Remembering Al Hinkle

 

Al Hinkle (R) with Jack Kerouac

We remember Al Hinkle today, who died on this date -- December 26 - in 2018 (bonus trivia: wrestler Gorgeous George died on this date in 1963). He was represented in Jack Kerouac's works as follows: Big Ed Dunkel in On The Road; Slim Buckle in Desolation Angels and Visions of Cody; Ed Buckle in Book of Dreams; and, Al Buckle in Lonesome Traveler. Al was a childhood friend of Kerouac muse Neal Cassady, and was along for the ride on certain legs of the cross-country Cassady-Kerouac road trips made famous in On The Road.

Al was one of the last living original Beat Generation characters, and one of the only ones I met/saw in person (David Amram and Michael McClure being the only other two I can think of -- I haven't ever seen Gary Snyder). I interviewed Al in 2012 for The Daily Beat. Click here for my post on the occasion of his death -- there you can find links to my interview and our meeting. A little Googling will reveal several sources of info about this well-known Beat Generation figure where you can read up on his interesting life.

RIP, Mr. Hinkle.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Merry Christmas Eve Eve

 


I remember how, as a boy, I would get so excited about Christmas that I could hardly stand it. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, I was beside myself.

I still get a sense of anticipatory joy, but it's not the same thing. And this year, the holiday will be bittersweet as we are not gathering with anyone outside our household. Our celebration will be different. We will chat by video with distant loved ones, and this year we decided not to get a tree. Instead, we have a small topiary-like tree with lights. Not doing stockings, either. Plus, our menu is completely different, leaning toward special treats and hors d'oeuvres instead of ham or turkey and all the fixings.

A COVID Christmas, indeed.

However or whether you plan to celebrate, I hope it's safe and as joyous as possible given the circumstances. HERE is a link to my 2016 post on whether Jack Kerouac said, "Merry Christmas."

Merry Christmas Eve Eve to all.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Joan Anderson Letter: The Holy Grail of the Beat Generation by Neal Cassady

 


For my reading pleasure, my great friend Richard Marsh recently sent me his copy of Neal Cassady's The Joan Anderson Letter: The Holy Grail of the Beat Generation. This is one way we socialize during the pandemic in lieu of sitting together and reading Kerouac aloud.

Serendipitously, I just received an e-mail from Jami Cassady, Neal's daughter, asking me if I would provide information to The Daily Beat readers on how to acquire a signed copy of the book. Of course, I said I would do that.

You can contact Jami by e-mail at jamicassady@gmail.com and she will be glad to arrange the transaction.

This is essential reading for any Kerouac or Beat Generation fan, and in case you've read some of it before (on-line or in The First Third), the book also includes a 35-page introduction by A. Robert Lee plus scanned copies of the original letter in its entirety. Additionally, there is a copy of a (naughty) typewritten page that was included at auction but it's uncertain if it was part of the original letter.

Give Jami a shout-out for The Daily Beat if this inspires you to order a book from her.



Happy birthday to Kenneth Rexroth

                                     


Poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth was born this date -- December 22 -- in 1905. We have opined about him several times here on The Daily Beat (e.g., click here).

Most notably for Jack Kerouac fans, Rexroth was portrayed as Rheinhold Cacoethes in The Dharma Bums, my favorite Kerouac novel. To wit, a couple of excerpts (Penguin Books, 1976):
We got to his little shack as it grew dark and you could smell woodsmoke and smoke of leaves in the air, and packed everything up neat and went down the street to meet Henry Morley who had the car. Henry Morley was a be­spectacled fellow of great learning but an eccentric himself, more eccentric and outré than Japhy on the campus, a librar­ian, with few friends, but a mountainclimber. His own little one-room cottage in a back lawn of Berkeley was filled with books and pictures of mountainclimbing and scattered all over with rucksacks, climbing boots, skis. I was amazed to hear him talk, he talked exactly like Rheinhold Cacoethes the critic, it turned out they'd been friends long ago and climbed mountains together and I couldn't tell whether Morley had influenced Cacoethes or the other way around. (p. 39)
"My Buddhism is nothing but a mild unhappy interest in some of the pictures they've drawn though I must say some­ times Cacoethes strikes a nutty note of Buddhism in his mountainclimbing poems though I'm not much interested in the belief part of it." (p. 46)

Rexroth and Kerouac were not each other's fans, but we will leave that drama behind in honor of Rexroth's birthday. Click HERE for a brief bio and some of Rexroth's poetry. 

Happy birthday in heaven, Mr. Rexroth.


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Remembering Denise Levertov

 


Poet Denise Levertov died on this date -- December 20 -- in 1997. She appeared in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels as Alise Nabokov. We recently wished her a happy birthday in heaven and posted some additional information about her (click HERE).

RIP, Ms. Levertov.

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A post about nothing (TV show reference there)

 It's been over a week since we had a Kerouac-related birth or death date to post about (the next one is December 20), plus I've been a little down and out after having surgery on my nose to remove a basal cell carcinoma. FYI, that's the good kind of skin cancer in that it doesn't metastasize.

So . . . what shall we post about? I say we as in the royal "we," since there's just little old me behind this blog enterprise. That's a movie reference, by the way, to one of the best movies ever made: The Big Lebowski. Which reminds me that I made this video back in 2008 to hawk my book. It's got a lot of "inside baseball" references from the movie, so it works best for fans of the film. You can still buy my book on Amazon thanks to print-on-demand technology. You could probably order one today and have it in hand by Saturday (or delivered to anyone with a mailing address as a gift). Or, if you want a signed copy you can e-mail me at thebeathandbook@gmail.com. We'll arrange a price that includes shipping in the U.S. Foreign orders are more complicated. 

Oh, I should tell you that my 65th birthday is this Friday, December 11. That means I became Medicare-eligible on December 1. Yay for socialized healthcare. I am saving about $600/month compared to my ACA (Obamacare) plan that I paid for out-of-pocket since retiring in 2017.

But enough about me. How are YOU doing during this pandemic? I hope you're being safe and doing things for your mental as well as physical well-being. For the former, meditating like Jack Kerouac did is a great idea; for the latter, a good walk outside (or inside on the treadmill) can work wonders for both attitude and physical well-being.

I'll leave you with this thought -- with which the the great man himself would likely agree: it's all about compassion, for yourself as well as for others. That includes not being hard on yourself for not writing the great American novel while you've been sheltered in place since March. Just surviving this thing is an accomplishment. However you do that still goes in the win column no matter how productive you've been (or haven't been, as the case may be). 

Peace out.



Monday, November 30, 2020

Remembering Natalie Jackson

 

Natalie Jackson

24-year-old Natalie Jackson died on this date -- November 30 -- in 1955. She was Rosie Buchanan in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums and Rosemarie in Desolation AngelsBig Sur, and Book of Dreams.

Jackson, who was a model of Robert LaVigne's, gained Beat notoriety from having an affair with Kerouac's muse, Neal Cassady. She killed herself by slitting her throat and throwing herself off the roof of 1051 Franklin Street (reached from her apartment's roof at 1041) in San Francisco, supposedly over her fear of the consequences from having impersonated Neal's wife, Carolyn, to help Neal get money from the bank for a race track betting scheme. Kerouac describes Jackson's death in The Dharma Bums Chapter 15 thus:
The musicians and I drank up all the wine and talked, till about midnight, and Rosie seemed to be all right now, lying on the couch, talking, even laughing a bit, eating her sand­wiches and drinking some tea I'd brewed her. The musi­cians left and I slept on the kitchen floor in my new sleeping bag. But when Cody came home that night and I was gone she went up on the roof while he was asleep and broke the skylight to get jagged bits of glass to cut her wrists, and was sitting there bleeding at dawn when a neighbor saw her and sent for the cops and when the cops ran out on the roof to help her that was it: she saw the great cops who were going to arrest us all and made a run for the roof edge. The young Irish cop made a flying tackle and just got a hold of her bathrobe but she fell out of it and fell naked to the sidewalk six flights below. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 112)

Note that I reported she cut her throat but Kerouac said wrists. I depended on Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac for the throat detail (University of California Press, 1994, p. 499). And it seems Natalie didn't necessarily throw herself off the roof, but may have accidentally fallen off while backing away from the police officer who attempted to grab her. It's hard to say if she would have survived cutting herself had the police been successful in preventing her fall.

Jack wrote about Natalie in Some of the Dharma:
(About this time Natalie Jackson committed suicide----I tried to tell her everything was empty, including her paranoiac idea that the cops were after her & all of us---she said O YOU DON'T KNOW! then the next day she was found dazed on the roof and when a cop tried to catch her she jumped, off Neal's tenement roof) (Penguin Books, 1999, p. 346)
Regardless of specifics, Natalie died tragically and too young, one of several Beat figures to do so (e.g., Bill Cannastra and David Kammerer).

RIP, Ms. Jackson.


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Kerouac post #1,900 since July 15, 2008

 


Like the Energizer bunny, this blog just keeps going and going and going.... We published a test post on July 15, 2008 (click HERE), and since then we have posted 1,899 times. That makes 1,900 posts about Jack Kerouac for your reading pleasure. That's 4,519 days (helped out there by a Days Calculator at https://www.timeanddate.com/date/duration.html). According to my limited math skills, that's .42 posts per day, or about one post every 2 days (1,900/4519 = .420447).

1,900 posts with something to do with Jack Kerouac! Not bad for someone who doesn't have a clue what he is doing most of the time (me, not Jack).

Serendipitously, today I received an e-mail request out of the blue for a signed copy of my book. I don't sell many books that way, but if you're interested, e-mail me at thebeathandbook@gmail.com with your request and I'll send you a PayPal link for payment. It's $15.00 including postage in the U.S. -- foreign orders are more, depending on where you live.

Happy 1,900 posts and cheers to many more. We'll have to do something special when we hit 2,000. Maybe we'll give away a book?


Friday, November 27, 2020

Kerouac favorite book survey update #5

 


                                                                      

We initiated a survey back in 2018 where participants chose their favorite Kerouac book from a list. It's time to again revisit the results as we have 66 responses (for the last update, on December 15, 2018, we had only 44).

The results shown above break down as follows:

The Dharma Bums           28.8%   (19 responses)
On The Road                    16.7%   (11)
Desolation Angels            15.2%   (10)
Big Sur                             15.2%   (10)
The Subterraneans             9.1%   (6)
Visions of Cody                  4.5%   (3)
Tristessa                             3.0%   (2)
Dr. Sax                               1.5%   (1)
Maggie Cassidy                 1.5%   (1)
The Town and the City       1.5%   (1)
Visions of Gerard               1.5%   (1)
Other                                  1.5%   (1)

This was a non-scientific survey with no attention paid to sampling. Plus, Google Forms allows individuals to vote more than once. Still, it does yield some insights. I wonder what book the single response to Other refers to -- Vanity of Duluoz? As in past updates, The Dharma Bums retains first place, a result with which I personally agree (as regular readers know).

If you didn't already respond, click HERE for the survey link (within the original post). Please only respond once.


Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

 I'm not going to  belabor the point with a long post (it's time for potato peeling), so Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who reads this. And remember to take note of what you're thankful for at some point in the day.

Here's a bonus for stopping by today: Charles Laughton reading from The Dharma Bumshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ct6WJlimDsg



Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Kerouac-related birthday: Joanne Kyger

                                                             


On this date -- November 19 -- poet Joanne Kyger was born in 1934. She was an acclaimed poet in her own right who was associated with the Beat movement but never considered herself part of any particular poetry movement, having borrowed from many. She moved to San Francisco in 1957 and became part of the literary scene anchored by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure et al. To my knowledge, Kyger did not appear in any of Kerouac's works. She married Gary Snyder (Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums) in Kyoto, Japan on February 23, 1960.

Kerouac mentioned Kyger in several published letters (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969). In a December 6, 1959 letter to Gary Snyder, Kerouac wrote:
We missed [Philip] Whalen by a day. At that thumping mad 1713 Buchanan house where Joanne K. clobbered Jay Blaise with a half-gallon jug of port which decided us not to wait for Thanksgiving turkey there but take off. However I must say in very honesty with absolutely no bullshit that Joanne is the most sensitive woman I've met since Joan Adams (Bill Burroughs' dead wife). But Joanne needs a good man to put her in her place, in the sack. (Ibid, p. 259)
I'm only reporting what Kerouac wrote, not endorsing misogyny.

Read more about Kyger and some of her poems by clicking here.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Ms. Kyger.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

I provide a Jack Kerouac quote and you figure out the book (9th in a series)


This is the 9th in a series of posts where I provide a quote from one of Jack Kerouac's books and you figure out which one. Post your answer as a comment. Here's the passage:

Yessir, boy, the earth is an Indian thing but the waves are Chinese. Know what that means? Ask the guys who drew those old scrolls, or ask the old Fishermen of Cathay, and what Indian ever dared to sail to Europe or Hawaii from the salmon-tumbling streams of North America? When I say Indian, I mean Ogallag,


Good luck! But don't be fooled -- part of this language appears in at least two of Kerouac's books (he was a great recycler of language).

Oh, and remember our policy on comments (over there on the right).



Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Happy 90th Birthday to David Amram

 

Trading books with David in Lowell in 2011

Musician and Jack Kerouac close friend David Amram turns 90 years old today. David (I call him that having met him and talked with him a number of times at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! and having traded books with him there -- click HERE) wrote a book titled Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac (curated HERE) and was an intimate acquaintance of Jack Kerouac's, yet I don't think he appears in any of Kerouac's works, under pseudonym or otherwise. He did appear in and write the music for the Beat film narrated by Kerouac, Pull My Daisy, which you can watch HERE and read David's thoughts about in an Evergreen Review piece HERE.

There is an official David Amram website with a ton of information -- click HERE

If you know David or know about him, you know that he is an amazing force of nature, consummate musician, and all-around nice guy. It's good that such a fine human being has enjoyed such a long life and I wish him many more years.

Happy 90th, David!



Monday, November 16, 2020

Review of The ragged promised land: Jack Kerouac's America by Gregory Stephenson

 


Gregory Stephenson retired from the University of Copenhagen in 2017, so his 2020 book -- The ragged promised land: Jack Kerouac's America -- is expectedly academic in tone. But don't let that dissuade you from getting a copy and devouring it: it's gratifyingly accessible and thoroughly engaging. Note that certain of these pieces appeared previously in Eclectica or Empty Mirror

Published by Ober-Limbo Verlag, The ragged promised land . . . comprises 8 essay-type pieces described on the back cover as follows:

Travels in a holey holy land, sojourns in a skid row hotel, larceny & poetic license, a secret Victorian stoner, raptures of an impoverished consumptive young poet, the strange resurrection of old engravings, a gathering of far-flung fragments, moving a ton of weed.

This accurately summarizes what you'll encounter in this book, starting with the essay, "THE RAGGED PROMISED LAND: JACK KEROUAC'S AMERICA" (obviously the source of the title of the book). In this essay, the author explores the theme of America as expressed in Jack Kerouac's writings (fictions, essays, letters, journals). Stephenson describes the aim of his essay thus:

My aim is to inquire into the author's response to and reflections upon the people and places of his [Kerouac's] native land as they are expressed in his novels and other writings.

This is a 58-page essay with 5 pages of endnotes, and it is a substantive analysis and exploration of Kerouac's thinking and feelings about the America he so elegantly writes about. Along the way you'll encounter the occasional word you'll need to look up, like impercipient (p. 30), and discussions of the dichotomies of East v. West and urban v. rural; however, it is worth the effort to stay with Stephenson's thesis, which in turn analyzes The Town and the City, Visions of Cody, Book of Sketches, On The Road, The Dharma Bums, "The Rumbling, Rambling Blues" (a short story I have not read!), Maggie Cassidy, Lonesome Traveler, the introduction to Robert Frank's The Americans, Desolation Angels, Big Sur, Vanity of Duluoz, and Pic.

Stephenson discusses how Kerouac's views on America have antecedents in Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman, and even Mark Twain.He further compares Kerouac's disapproval of certain American societal norms to the writing of various social critics, including Sloan Wilson, author of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

I'll conclude with the author's own words:

The particular expressions of the [American] Dream affirmed in Kerouac's writing include, of course, that over-arching foundational dream "the pursuit of happiness," as well as the dream of personal freedom, of independence and agency, the dream of self-reliance and self-actualization, the dream of personal transformation and the living out of religious ideals, and -- according to Kerouac's own subjective understanding of the terms -- the dream of the self-made man and the dream of success . . .  . (pp. 64-65).

Kerouac saw America, with all its faults, as "ragged" and "tumbledown" but nevertheless "the promised land" and "holy" (p. 67). Stephenson supports this with numerous examples throughout the essay, which accounts for nearly half the 154-page book.

The second piece, "POETIC LICENCE [sic]: The Crime and Hard Time of Gregory Corso, or A Portrait of the Poet as a Young Felon,"delves into the various conflicting stories about Corso's criminal past. The conclusion? He spent time in prison as a young man but the exact dates are in dispute as are the crimes, with some of the confusion caused by Corso's own words.

Next it's back to Kerouac with "BEFORE AND AFTER DESOLATION: TWO SOJOURNS BY JACK KEROUAC AT THE HOTEL STEVENS." This piece includes interesting historical information about the Hotel Stevens and Seattle at the time, as well as analysis of Kerouac's time on Desolation Peak and how his two stays at the Hotel Stevens bookended that experience.

Fourth is "MUTINOUS JESTER: THE COLLAGE NOVELS OF AKBAR DEL PIOMBO." The pen-name for Norman Rubington, Del Piombo produced fantastical verbal/visual novels that were precursors to the modern graphic novel. Stephenson discusses six of these novels, the most well-known being Fuzz Against Junk (1959), about cops disguising themselves as beatniks to infiltrate the San Francisco junk scene. Much of Del Piombo's work was satirical and dealt with dystopian futures.

Next is "CURIOUS AND NON UN-POETICAL IMAGININGS: A Forgotten Specimen of Victorian Cannabis Writing," a discussion of an 1884 anonymous pamphlet titled Confessions of an English Hachish-Eater

Sixth is "A FEW FAR-FLUNG FRAGMENTS OF FORGOTTEN KEROUACIANA," in which Stephenson, with acknowledgments to noted U.K. Kerouac scholar Dave Moore, presents a number of uncollected writings of Kerouac such as autobiographical statements to accompany published works and letters to editors. Like other pieces, this essay includes pictures of relevant media (in this case, e.g., Escapade magazine covers and tickets to Seattle's burlesque theater).

Finally, the seventh and eighth pieces are reviews of re-issued books, one a collection of poetry by little-known Samuel Greenberg, and the other Jerry Kamstra's Weed: Adventures of a Dope Smuggler. Both reviews made me want to get my hands on a copy.

Alone, the title essay in this collection is worth the price of admission. The other seven pieces are equally well-written and serve as icing on the cake.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book, especially to Kerouac/Beat Generation fans. It's available through Amazon (click HERE).


Remembering Alan Watts

                                             


Spiritual entertainer and philosopher/writer Alan Watts died on this date -- November 16 -- in 1973. He appeared in two Jack Kerouac novels: as Arthur Whane in The Dharma Bums and as Alex Aums in Desolation Angels.

I've read and listened to Watts a lot, and he continues to impress me with his ability to make Eastern spirituality understandable. We are lucky that we have his books, videos (see YouTube), the official website (alanwatts.org), and even phone apps where we can access his unique ability to entertain and teach at the same time. Click HERE for one of my favorite Watts short lectures animated by the creators of South Park

I posted about Kerouac and Watts on July 24, 2011 (click HERE). We remembered Watts last year on this date HERE.

RIP, Mr. Watts.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

 

Alan Ansen in 1973

Writer Alan Ansen died on this date -- November 12 -- in 2006. He appeared in several of Jack Kerouac's works: as Rollo Greb in On The Road; Austin Bromberg in The Subterraneans; Irwin Swenson in Book of Dreams and Visions of Cody; Amadeus Baroque in Doctor Sax; and, Allen Ansen in Book of Sketches. HERE is a nice remembrance of Ansen along with a sample of his poetry.

Jack talks about Ansen (Rollo Greb) in On The Road as follows:
Everything happened. We found the wild, ecstatic Rollo Greb and spent a night at his house on Long Island. Rollo lives in a nice house with his aunt; when she dies the house is all his. Meanwhile she refuses to comply with any of his wishes and hates his friends. He brought this ragged gang of Dean, Marylou, Ed, and me, and began a roaring party. The woman prowled upstairs; she threatened to call the police. "Oh, shut up, you old bag!" yelled Greb. I wondered how he could live with her like this. He had more books than I've ever seen in all my life--two libraries, two rooms loaded from floor to ceiling around all four walls, and such books as the Apocryphal Something-or-Other in ten volumes. He played Verdi operas and pantomimed them in his pajamas with a great rip down the back. He didn't give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the New York waterfront with original seventeenth-century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a big spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light. He rolled his neck in spastic ecstasy. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out, he was so excited with life. Dean stood before him with head bowed, repeating over and over again, "Yes . . . Yes . . . Yes." He took me into a corner. "That Rollo Greb is the greatest, most wonderful of all. That's what I was trying to tell you--that's what I want to be. I want to be like him. He's never hung-up, he goes every direction, he lets it all out, he knows time, he has nothing to do but rock back and forth. Man, he's the end! You see, if you go like him all the time you'll finally get it."
          "Get what?"
"IT! IT! I'll tell you-now no time, we have no time now." Dean rushed back to watch Rollo Greb some more. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 127)

Notice, in particular, that Ansen had "IT," which I write about in my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, on Day 85 (click here for a post about that particular entry).

Understanding what IT is can be a challenge, but it's important and I hope the below excerpt from my book helps:
Dean and Sal are sitting in the back of a travel bureau car at the beginning of their way back East. Dean has been going on about IT. What is IT? I can't explain it with concepts and even if I could you couldn't understand it with your mind. Maybe it's that state where you find yourself and you lose yourself, like Bodhi talks about in the movie, Point Break. Or maybe it's the state Mihaly Csikszentmihaly calls "flow" (1991). Or maybe it's the state of no mind, beginner's mind, where you know everything and you know nothing and you know that this moment is everything and nothing at the same time and words don't matter at all. It is understanding without words, without thought, like when you and a friend both experience something and look at each other and words are unnecessary. 
But what's the Kerouaction, you ask? Be fully present every moment. Experience everything like you were going to die tomorrow. See, feel, smell, hear, and taste with reckless abandon whatever is in the moment. Things are fine just like they are, right this minute, right now. And there is no need to label what is. As Alan Watts pointed out, the sound of the rain needs no explanation. (p. 187)

I may be off-base on IT, but then it's an ineffable concept so even if I fully understood it, I would be incapable of defining it adequately.

So be IT.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Kerouac birthday

 

Jack and Stella

Jack Kerouac's third wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, was born this date -- November 11 -- in 1918. She appeared once in Kerouac's works under pseudonym: as Stavroula Savakis in Vanity of Duluoz.

We noted her birthday and said a little more about her one year ago HERE.

Happy birthday in heaven, Mrs. Kerouac!


P.S. We neglected to observe photographer Robert Frank's birthday on November 9. You can visit our previous birthday wish to him HERE. Belated birthday wishes in heaven, Mr. Frank.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Remembering Arthur Rimbaud

 

French poet Arthur Rimbaud died on this date -- November 10 -- in 1891 at the young age of 37. He influenced many other poets, including a young Jack Kerouac and the other early Beat figures like William S. Burroughs, Alan Ginsberg, and Lucien Carr. You can read a bio of Rimbaud and some of his poetry HERE.

RIP, Mr. Rimbaud.


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Let's help out Shakespeare and Company

 

Shakespeare and Company, one of the world's best-known independent bookstores and which has a history with the Beats, is hurting because of the Trump virus. You could help them out by ordering something from them on-line. I've made it easy with this link to Neal Cassady's The Joan Anderson Letter (click HERE).

Your support would be appreciated.



Friday, November 6, 2020

A Kerouac-related birthday: Bill Cannastra


 

Recently, on October 12 (click here), we noted that it was the date when William "Bill" Cannastra died in 1950. Today -- November 6 -- we celebrate his birthday in 1921.

Cannastra was apparently a "wild man" figure* in the early Beat days, and he appeared in Jack Kerouac's works as follows: Finistra in Visions of Cody; Cannastra Finistra in Book of Dreams; and (probably) Charley Krasner in The Subterraneans. We have mused previously (click here) that without Cannastra in the Beat story, we may not have had the same Kerouac we love and we may not have had Jan Kerouac at all (Jack married Jan's mother, Joan Haverty, a few weeks after Cannastra's death and she had been the latter's girlfriend).

Of further import, Kerouac supposedly got the paper from Cannastra on which he (Jack) typed On The Road. You can read more about that and other things Cannastra by clicking here (it's a link to a piece by Brian Hassett).

Happy Birthday, Mr. Cannastra.


*Cannastra's antics are well-documented in Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. There you can read about Bill appearing at a party dressed as a palm tree wearing only a jockstrap and enormous headdress, or the time he and Jack ran around the block naked.



Thursday, November 5, 2020

The mystery that is the Internet

 


In the past we have delved into the all-time top posts on The Daily Beat as measured by number of pageviews. For the longest time, "Kristen Stewart topless in On The Road movie" was at the top of the list. Now a new top pageview getter has emerged: "Full text of On The Road" plus." The rest of the top ten hasn't changed much. Here are links to all 10 posts:

Full text of On The Road" plus

Kristen Stewart topless in On The Road movie

How to pronounce "Cannes"

Jack Kerouac: The Duluoz Legend

A Kerouac favorite word: fellaheen

Jack Kerouac, On the Road, and vocabulary

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 16 in one sentence

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 17 in one sentence

The joys and pitfalls of blogging

On The Road movie official website


HERE is a link to a post showing the top-ten list as of February 2018. You can compare them and see that some posts have been replaced, but a number are the same. I'm sad that my free write post, "Dimetapp dream: Bottomless from bottom of the mind," is no longer in the top ten.

It strikes me that I cannot explain the reasons all of these posts are top-ten pageview getters. Kristen Stewart topless makes sense (lots of prurience). As does the full text of On The Road (lots of cheapskates). The rest have words that just as likely appeared in other posts of mine over the years, and I'm not sure what distinguishes these other than the possibility that some other blog or website linked to them -- something I seldom know about unless the linker lets me know.

Chalk it up to the mystery that is the Internet.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Jack Kerouac makes the Sunday crossword

 

Today in one of Maine's major newspaper's (Kennebec Journal) Sunday crossword, our hero -- Jack Kerouac -- made an appearance. In case you can't read it in the photo, the clue for 48 down was "'On the Road' novelist Jack." The answer was "Kerouac."


Thursday, October 29, 2020

A reminder: Gift-giving season is coming

 


This is your annual reminder that gift-giving season is coming and one idea is to order a copy of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, for that Kerouac or Beat Generation fan on your gift list. They'll learn the answer to "What would Kerouac do?" 100 times over based upon passages from On The Road and The Dharma Bums.

You can even be COVID-safe throughout the process because you can ship direct from Amazon to the gift recipient!

And you'd be helping the economy! 

Think of it! COVID-safe economy boosting right from the comfort of home. Who could ask for anything more?

And speaking of getting things done early, don't forget to vote -- safely and on-time. It's too late to mail in a ballot and be assured it gets there on time, so if you're in that situation you can always drop your ballot off in person at the city office or in a secure drop box by the end of election day or before.




Remembering Edie Parker, notable Beat Generation figure

 


Edie Parker died on this date -- October 29 -- in 1993. She appeared in several of Jack Kerouac's works: as Marie in The Subterraneans; as Elly in Visions of Cody; as Edna in Book of Dreams; as Edna (Johnnie) Palmer in Vanity of Duluoz; and as Judie Smith in The Town and the City.

You may have fallen into the trap of thinking of Edie Parker as simply Jack Kerouac's first wife, and you would be wrong. Indeed, her apartment shared with Joan Vollmer around Columbia University in the 40s was the hub for gatherings of early Beat Generation figures and she was an active participant in the literary conversations with Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, et al.

Read her excellent memoir, You'll Be Okay: My Life With Jack Kerouac, to learn more about this influential Beat Generation figure. Click HERE for a brief bio.

RIP, Ms. Parker.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Book Review: Circus of the Sun by J.Macon King

 

Circus of the Sun is a rollicking novel by J.Macon King, publisher of Mill Valley Literary Review. It begins:

Would she feel better knowing that it haunts me still? I didn't want to leave her. I had to. Yet, I betrayed her. Her final request to me, I refused. 

From the Haight Ashbury, the vast green expanse of Golden Gate Park stretches to the endless Pacific. San Francisco's ultraviolet spectrum had beckoned dreamers like me who were eager for a new life. Free of restrictions, boundaries and repressions--free of the past. I lived in the Haight, birthplace of 1960's hippies and Flower Power, where Peter Pans and Tinkerbells preserved Neverland in a patchwork community. (p. 3)

An intriguing story develops from there, with plenty of San Francisco-specific geographic and architectural descriptions that will delight those familiar with the city. Set in 1978-80 California, this is indeed "a Novel of San Francisco," as the subtitle indicates. It is written in memoir style, first person, as told by the protagonist Jack, who has been or is -- among other things -- a library burglar, porn actor, bookstore employee, drug dealer, motorcyclist, pinball fanatic, punk musician, martial artist, and circus worker. There are strong themes of abuse, violence, and suicide throughout, so let that be a trigger warning to those who need it.

But mostly, this is a love story gently woven into a memoir detailing Jack's personal history, with frequent sidebar flashbacks of his time growing up in a dysfunctional family situation that ended up causing him to run away -- literally -- and join the circus, where he learned valuable life lessons. Jack's love for Bretta is overwhelming at times, and King captures the ups and downs of an intense relationship deftly. There's plenty of sex, but it is handled maturely.

King's descriptions of the bar scene in San Francisco with Bretta and her "entourage" reminds me of Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans with its poetry-leaning prose and rich dialogue. Speaking of Jack Kerouac, I counted no less than 8 different references to Kerouac spanning pp. 43 to 267. In one scene, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Richard Brautigan make an appearance. In another, the author yearns for Jan Kerouac to return and become his "new soul mate."

There are plenty of cultural references, especially musical ones (as evidenced by the 2-page "discography" at the end). I caught a nod to Star Wars on p. 329: when an unwelcome bar patron is ejected, Jack waves his hand and whispers, "'This is not the bar you are looking for.'" Earlier in that scene Jack and Bretta learn of John Lennon's killing from Howard Cosell, who interrupted football coverage to announce the tragic event.

There's a twist at the end that I will mercifully not spoil, and a clue to the title is on p. 17, but you will need to get a copy and read Circus of the Sun to figure out the secret. And you will want to do that, as King's novel is engagingly honest and sets forth a story-within-a-memoir so skillfully that you forget this is a work of fiction (only sort of, I'm guessing). It is available on Amazon.


P.S. I met the author in 2013 at a Beat event at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley that I detailed HERE. Below is a picture of Mr. King reading at that event.


I provide a Jack Kerouac quote and you figure out the book (8th in a series)

 


This is the 8th in a series of posts where I provide a quote from one of Jack Kerouac's books and you figure out which one. Post your answer as a comment. Here's the passage:

And as far as I can see the world is too old for us to talk about it with our new words--We will pass just as quietly through life (passing through, passing through) as the 10th century people of this valley only with a little more noise and a few bridges and dams and bombs that wont [sic] even last a million years--The world being just what it is, moving and passing through, actually alright in the long view and nothing to complain about--


Good luck! Remember our policy on comments (over there on the right).



Monday, October 26, 2020

We lose another notable poet: Diane di Prima

 


It seems like we just wished poet Diane di Prima a happy 86th birthday on August 6 and now we learn that she died yesterday, October 25, 2020.

If you click HERE, you will arrive at that birthday post -- it includes links to several other posts we've made about di Prima.

If you haven't read any of her poetry, it's great stuff and it would honor her if you sought some out to read today. That birthday post above includes a link to some.

I don't think she appeared in any of Kerouac's works, but Jack appeared in a graphic sex scene in her book, Memoirs of a Beatnik. I liked that book a lot despite her admission that she wrote it to pay the bills and the sex was intentionally gratuitous.

We're running out of Kerouac contemporaries. 

RIP, Ms. di Prima!


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Happy birthday to Jack Kerouac's sister and a belated one to poet Denise Levertov

 

Caroline, in uniform, with Jack Kerouac and their parents, Gabrielle and Leo

Jack Kerouac's sister, Caroline ("Nin"), was born this date -- October 25 -- in 1918. She appeared in several of Jack's works: Nin Duluoz in Doctor Sax and Visions of Gerard; Nin in Book of DreamsMaggie CassidyVisions of CodyVanity of Duluoz; Ruth Martin in The Town and the City; and, Carolyn Blake in Book of Sketches. The excellent Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend lists her twice for Maggie Cassidy (as Nin and Jeannette Bissonette). I asked Kerouac scholar and keeper of the key, Dave Moore, about that little wrinkle and he said (shared with permission):

Yes, it's weird. Both names are used in MC. In the first part, Jack wrote about his sister Nin, but later, when he's writing about the surprise birthday party, Nin is described as arranging it, but the hosts are described as Jeannette and Jimmy Bisssonette. (Nin married Charles Morisette in 1937.)

Happy birthday in heaven, Nin.


Denise Levertov

We also owe a one-day-belated birthday in heaven to poet Denise Levertov, who was born on October 24, 1923. She appeared in Kerouac's Desolation Angels as Alise Nabokov. You can read a brief bio and some of her poetry HERE.



Friday, October 23, 2020

Happy birthday to Philip Lamantia

 


Poet Philip Lamantia was born on this date -- October 23 -- in 1927. He appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Francis DaPavia in The Dharma Bums and as David D'Angeli in Desolation Angels. Lamantia read at the famous event at the Six Gallery in 1955 that many point to as kicking off the San Francisco poetry renaissance. (He didn't read his own work, but rather that of his dead friend, John Hoffman.)

Reading some of Lamantia's poetry would be a Beat thing to do today in honor of his birthday. A brief bio and some of his poetry can be found HERE.

Happy birthday, Mr. Lamantia.


P.S. It's the 11-year anniversary of my mom's death, so this date has special significance for me.



Thursday, October 22, 2020

Don't tell me who to be friends with and I'll do the same



I have this problem. It's called "giving a shit what people think of me." Call it vanity, if you will. Whatever it's called, it's been a lifelong problem. I think it stems from being raised pretty strictly by parents who taught me that a prime directive of life was not to get them upset. I generalized that to avoidance of upsetting anyone.

So, to this day, when I feel like I have displeased someone, it weighs on me mightily. Even when I did nothing "wrong," even when the upset person is an asshole, I suffer mentally at the thought of someone thinking ill of me. Even sending a dish back in a restaurant stresses me out to no end. I wish I could change.

I was thinking about this the other day in the context of displeasing others (or being judged by them) because of who I choose to be friends with. I know that happens. As I was thinking about and reading about that phenomenon, I came across this cartoon: http://culture-is-meant-to-be-shared.tumblr.com/post/147097018026/rabbittiddy-lmaruchartista-purplekecleon

As the cartoon concludes, it is unhealthy and abusive to think you have the right to decide who your friends are friends with. Read that last sentence again, especially the underlined words. This is particularly so if you are not suffering any harm because of a friend's friendships.

Now what, you may ask, does any of that have to do with Jack Kerouac?

I'm not going to be explicit about that, but there is a connection. Suffice to say that I and I alone have the right to choose my friends, and if you are going to judge me or think ill of me for my choices in that regard . . . you are being unhealthy and abusive. And I hope that is not something you aspire to.

On reflection, I have to admit that I have in the past and still do fall into this very trap in regard to how I view others. It's hard not to judge people by the company they keep. But isn't the hard road often the right road? That's been my experience.

Thanks for tolerating my thoughts on this matter. I mainly wanted to share the above cartoon because I think it contains some really important wisdom, and it's especially relevant in our culture and politics today. Regardless of what you think of my own explanation, I hope you'll visit the link above and read it thoughtfully.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Jack Kerouac: Back to the garden

 

Me at Kerouac's grave in 2016

Each year I try to opine about Jack Kerouac's death on this date, October 21, in 1969 at the young age of 47. So much has been said already that it becomes hard to find new words with which to remember the person without whose life this blog would not exist, nor would my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions.

So I owe that guy a lot, for a lifetime-and-then-some's worth of reading, for friends made, for opportunities given and taken. 

I haven't been to Lowell or to his grave there since 2016. It just hasn't been in the cards, and -- because of the Trump virus -- this year, of course, they (wisely) didn't hold an in-person Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! event to draw me there.

Given his love for the world -- as evidenced in his writing -- I wonder what Jack would have thought of the situation we are in, with half the country hating the other half and almost a quarter million Americans dead. Would he wear a mask? Would he practice social distancing? We can only guess, but what I'm sure of is that, were he still around, he would shake his head at all the hate.

Someone famous once said, "Love one another." Keeping in mind that the hardest people to love are the ones who need it the most, I think we need to get back to the garden on this one or we're fucked as a species.

Enough for today. We remember you, Jack Kerouac. RIP.


P.S. For past musings on or about this date, see my blog post from last year HERE.



Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A three-fer Kerouac date UPDATED

 

      Poet #1                         Poet #2               Poet #3

This is a red-letter day in Kerouac-dom. Three well-known poets with Jack Kerouac connections were born on this date, October 20. The first two were in part identified as Beat poets and were contemporaries of Kerouac, while the third was an important Kerouac/Beat influencer. Poet #1 was born in 1932, Poet #2 was born in 1923, and Poet #3 was born in 1854.

Poet #1 appeared in several Kerouac works: as Ike O'Shay in The Dharma Bums; McLear in Big Sur; and, Patrick McLear in Desolation Angels. Poet #2 appeared in several Kerouac works: as Warren Coughlin in The Dharma Bums; and Ben Fagan in Desolation Angels and Big Sur. Poet #3 died in 1891, before Kerouac was born, and thus was not fodder for a Kerouac character.

Your job today is to be first to identify all three poets and name them in a comment on this post.

If you give up, you can click on the below for biographical information and sample poetry:

Poet #1

Poet #2

Poet #3


UPDATE: I just realized that today is V.P. candidate Kamala (COMMA-la) Harris' birthday. She was born in 1964. I hope you voted already or have a plan to vote so that your voice is heard. I voted absentee last week.



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Remembering Lenore Kandel

 


Poet Lenore Kandel died on this date - October 18 - in 2009. She appeared in Jack Kerouac's Big Sur as Romana Swartz. We provided some details about her last year on this date (click HERE).

RIP, Ms. Kandel.


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Kerouac dates while I was away camping

 We were away for a week at a campground and I missed three Kerouac dates of note.

Gabrielle Kerouac, Jack's mother, died on October 12, 1973. She appeared as Angie in Vanity of Duluoz and Desolation Angels; Ma in Book of Dreams; Angy in Maggie Cassidy; Angy Duluoz in Doctor Sax; Ange Duluoz in Visions of Gerard; Marguerite Martin in The Town and the City; and, Sal's Aunt in On The Road.

Bill Cannastra, who had been the boyfriend of Kerouac's second wife, Joan Haverty, died on October 12, 1950. He appeared in Jack Kerouac's works as follows: Finistra in Visions of Cody; Cannastra Finistra in Book of Dreams; and (probably) Charley Krasner in The Subterraneans.

Bea Franco, one of Jack's paramours, was born on October 13, 1920. She was represented as Terry, "the Mexican girl," in Jack Kerouac's 1957 classic novel, On The Road.

If you want to see pictures of any of the above three, check out previous posts on this blog or do a little Googling. I didn't have time today to post any but wanted to note these dates before too much time elapsed. For example, click HERE or HERE.

Of course, we have a significant October date coming up next week. Stay tuned for that....

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Happy Birthday to Amiri Baraka

 

Noted writer Amiri Baraka was born on this date -- October 7 -- in 1934. He appeared under his actual former name, LeRoi Jones, in Lonesome Traveler.

Baraka led a fascinating life and I encourage you to read up on him. He was an accomplished poet and activist, sometimes polarizing -- click HERE for some biographical info as well as some of his poems.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Baraka.


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Happy Belated Birthday to Gore Vidal

 


Gore Vidal was born October 3, 1925 we missed wishing him a happy birthday yesterday. Vidal appeared in Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans as Arial Lavalina and in Old Angel Midnight as Gore Bedavalled.

We discussed Vidal and Kerouac having a sexual encounter in our post from one year ago yesterday (click HERE).

I have yet to read any of Vidal's work. Any suggestions on where to start?

Happy belated birthday, Mr. Vidal.



Monday, September 28, 2020

Happy Belated Birthday to Joyce Johnson

 

Joyce Johnson was born September 27, 1935. She is a noted and award-winning author and appeared as Alyce Newman in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels. Joyce wrote about her firsthand knowledge of Kerouac in Minor Characters and in The Voice is All, both mandatory reads for any true Kerouac fan.

Happy Belated Birthday, Ms. Johnson.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Some recent Kerouac-related dates of note

I've been "on the road" and thus missed the below Kerouac-related dates:

Poet and Kerouac influencer William Carlos Williams was born September 17, 1883.

Jack Kerouac's sister, Caroline ("Nin") died on September 19, 1964.

Kerouac's first wife and Beat Generation inner circle member, Edie Parker, was born September 20, 1922 (well, I didn't officially miss this one but I'm grouping it that way)

We've opined about each in the past and detailed their appearance in Kerouac's works:

William Carlos Williams

Caroline Kerouac

 Edie Parker


That's it -- that's the post....


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Remembering Robert Frank (belatedly)

 


Famed photographer Robert Frank died one year ago yesterday. We wrote about his death HERE and his birthday HERE.

Frank appeared in one Kerouac work (under his own name) -- an essay about their trip to Florida that appeared in the January 1970 Evergreen Review.

RIP, Mr. Frank.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

I provide a Jack Kerouac quote and you figure out the book (7th in a series)

 


This is the 7th in a series of posts where I provide a quote from one of Jack Kerouac's books and you figure out which one. Post your answer as a comment. Here's the passage:

That's because death,
Void, bleak,
And all those gray 
Worries I had
Are now my luminous
Love
& there's nothing
to say
PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES Fuck you all


Good luck! Remember our policy on comments (over there on the right).


P.S. For bonus points, name the other Kerouac work in which you will find the phrase, "Pretty girls make graves."



Sunday, September 6, 2020

September 6: A macabre date in the Kerouac saga

 

Natalie Jackson (L) and Joan Vollmer


To find out why today -- September 6 -- is a macabre date regarding the above women in the Kerouac saga, click HERE.

That's it for today as I am "on the road."





Saturday, September 5, 2020

Happy 63rd Anniversary to On The Road

My dog-eared copy of On The Road with tabs for readings
in the college class I taught on Kerouac


By my count (2020 - 1957), Jack Kerouac's On The Road was published 63 years ago today (September 5). We said more about this occasion last year (click HERE). For this year, as I am "on the road," that link will have to suffice.

63 years. Not currently quite as old as me but it will keep going ad infinitum and I most assuredly will not.

Yair!


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Without this birthday boy, there'd be no Jack Kerouac (as we know him)

 

On this date -- September 3 -- Justin W. Brierly was born in 1905. Brierly appeared in several Kerouac books: as Denver D. Doll in On The Road, Justin G. Mannerly in Visions of Cody, and Manley G. Mannerly in Book of Dreams.

Brierly is particularly noteworthy in the Kerouac saga as he was instrumental in grooming a young Neal Cassady during his Denver years. Brierly was a Columbia University graduate, and it is no stretch to say that he was responsible, at least in part, for Cassady and Kerouac connecting at Columbia (where Jack also attended). Another Columbia student, Hal Chase, was a Brierly protégé and he (Chase) introduced Cassady to Kerouac.

No Cassady-Kerouac connection, no On The Road, and so . . . no Brierly, no Kerouac. At least as we know him....


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Today's Kerouac-related birthday

 


On this date -- September 2 -- in 1911 was born the famous Beat Generation figure pictured above. He appeared in Visions of Cody as Dave Stroheim, Vanity of Duluoz as Franz (Swinburne) Mueller, The Town and the City as Waldo Meister, Ramsey Allen in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, and Alfred in The Haunted Life.

We wished this person a happy birthday on this date one year ago HERE. Without looking at that link or Googling, can you name this person? Let us know in a comment.


Monday, August 31, 2020

Review of BEAT SCRAPBOOK by Gerald Nicosia: So good it gave me the chills

 

Cover of Beat Scrapbook, Coolgrove Press, (c) 2020

I recently received a review copy of Gerald Nicosia's new and soon-to-be-published work, Beat Scrapbook. In short, I knew it would be good, but indeed it surpassed my expectations.

Readers of The Daily Beat need little introduction to Nicosia, but suffice to say that he is the renowned author of one of the first and best biographies of Jack Kerouac, Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, as well as the author of several other books (including two about Jan Kerouac, one focused around Lu Anne Henderson -- Marylou from On The Road -- one about the last 25 years in Kerouac history, and one on the history of the Vietnam veterans' movement). This is not to mention at least 6 books of poetry, counting this one. 

Nicosia moved to San Francisco in 1979 and became part of a circle of Beat poets including Jack Micheline, Harold Norse, Gregory Corso, David Meltzer, Jerry Kamstra, Howard Hart, Joanna McClure, Lenore Kandel, and Janine Pommy Vega, many of whom appear in this new book.

Nearly each of the 42 poems in this book is focused on bringing to life -- through masterful poetic descriptions -- people Nicosia knew and loved over the past years. Almost all of these portraits are people with whom Nicosia had an in-person relationship, and they are heavily focused on Beat and post-Beat figures that are familiar names to anyone into Kerouac or the Beat Generation. A few are more personal to Nicosia; for example, a couple are about his family (DADDIO PETE is a haunting tribute to his father, whose death reminded me of Leo Kerouac's), one is about growing up in Illinois (MIDWEST RHAPSODY) and one of my favorites is about an old flame, THIS IS YOUR LIFE: to Charmaine (it evokes shades of Kerouac's Tristessa).  

Tributes to lesser-known poets include ones to Paul Carroll (THE BEAT FATHER OF CHICAGO POETRY), to Jack Mueller (POEM FOR JACK MUELLER (1842-2017)), and to Jack Micheline (FOR JACK). One of my favorites is a poem built around the items on a grocery receipt Ted Joans used to write down some info for Nicosia on because it's the only paper he had in his pockets (A POET'S GROCERY LIST: for Ted Joans (1928-2003)).  

There are the expected entries about Kerouac, Corso, Burroughs, Ferlinghetti, and Gary Snyder (for whom Nicosia expresses sincere anticipatory grief for his inevitable passing -- "Your endangered self which/As you say/Will soon be no more" (p. 23 ). Death is a strong theme in this set of poems. I particularly liked FOR JOHN--NOW THAT HE IS NO MORE: in memoriam John Montgomery (1919-1992). This poem helped me better know John Montgomery, with whom I fell in love from his portrayal in The Dharma Bums (as Henry Morley), my favorite Kerouac work.

Not all the subjects could be seen as Beat figures (there's one on Bukowski), but they have their Beat characteristics. To wit, one poem is about a Pennsylvania death row inmate (DEATH ROW PENNSYLVANIA: for Robert Lark and "the childred"), and another is to veterans' rights activist Bobby Waddell (BEAT THE HEAT: for Bobby Waddell).

The piece that gave me chills* was THE GHOST OF KEROUAC, whose opening lines did it to me again as I was re-typing them here (from p. 23):

Every time I walk the streets of Lowell
And the leaves are drifting through the early dark of October
And the poor teenage school kids are hurrying home
Past the eternal drugstores and cheap food places
On ancient cobbled Merrimack Street
And the damp air of fall gets in my bones
And the smell of car exhausts rises and 
Disappears in the low grey murk
Of Massachusetts heaven
I think of you Jack
Maybe it's because I've walked those very same streets and thought of Jack, but I got chills nonetheless. Unlike some Beat tribute writers, Nicosia does not fall into the trap of only writing about male figures as he includes poems to or for Jan Kerouac, Lenore Kandel, Ntozake Shange, and of course, Charmaine mentioned earlier. One poem is dedicated to Janine Pommy Vega (THE BEAUTIES OF MY GENERATION).

One thing I appreciate about Nicosia's poetry is that it is accessible and straightforward while at the same time being -- well, poetical. He rarely drops obscure literary references, and he can be forgiven for going "inside baseball" and dropping the phrase "Stan and Lil out in Northport" with no further explanation in IN MEMORIAM JAN KEROUAC. We insiders know he is talking about painter/Kerouac friend Stanley Twardowicz and his wife, Lillian. 

I really enjoyed the two poems Nicosia wrote at the Mill Valley Book Depot. Perhaps that is because I can vividly picture him sitting there taking in the "scenery" and writing down random thoughts and observations that became these poems. Crystal and I met him for lunch there a few years back on our way from L.A. to Oregon and it was a great place for a poet/writer to hang out.

Because much of this work is from personal experience, we learn things about these people that can only be gleaned from Nicosia himself. Like the time Ferlinghetti took him to get a better microphone than the one he showed up with to interview the famous Beat book publisher and co-founder of City Lights in San Francisco.

Beat Scrapbook is a gem. Nicosia shows great insights into human character and an outstanding ability to put such insights to verse. He captures the true heart of the people he describes, and you get the sense that you're privy to something real about these intriguing and unconventional characters.

Highly recommended.

NOTE: The release date for Beat Scrapbook is November 15 by Small Press Distribution. If you want a signed copy in advance, contact the author at gnicosia@earthlink.net.


*There's a name for that spine-tingling feeling you get up and down your spine: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).