Saturday, July 31, 2021

A Kerouac three-fer date

 

Gore Vidal, Elise Cowen, and Ruth Weiss (L-R)

Writer and bon vivant Gore Vidal died on this date -- July 31-- in 2012, Beat poet Elise Cowen was born on this date in 1933, and Beat poet Ruth Weiss died on this date in 2020. Vidal appeared in Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans as Arial Lavalina and in Old Angel Midnight as Gore Bedavalled. Cowen appeared as Barbara Lipp in Desolation Angels. I could not verify that Weiss appeared in any of Kerouac's works.

I said a little bit more about Gore and Cowen on their birth and death dates HERE and HERE. Gore was born 8 years before Cowen but outlived her by many years (86 v. 28). Weiss's obit has details on her life HERE

Given my personal history with depression, I should note here that Cowen ended her own life (not dissimilarly to Natalie Jackson) by throwing herself out of her parents' 7th floor window.

If you are thinking about suicide or just need someone to talk to about emotional distress in your life, you can text Crisis Text Line at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

RIP, Mr.* Vidal and Ms.* Weiss, and Happy Birthday, Ms.* Cowen.



*These are guesses at preferred pronouns. If I'm wrong, let me know.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Happy Birthday to Chandler Brossard

                                                             


On this date -- July 18 -- in 1922, American writer Chandler Brossard was born. He would have been 99 today. Brossard appeared as Chris Rivers in Jack Kerouac's and William S. Burroughs' And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Some claim Brossard's Who Walk in Darkness (1952) was the first Beat novel. Brossard was not pleased with being associated with the early Beat writers, but given the content of Darkness it is hard to dismiss the connections. I wrote about that book here.

So Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Brossard!



Thursday, July 15, 2021

Happy Birthday to Robert Lavigne

                             



On this date, July 15, artist and Jack Kerouac friend Robert LaVigne was born in Idaho in 1928. He was Guy Levesque in Kerouac's Desolation Angels.

We said a bunch about LaVigne back on February 20 (click HERE ), so there is no need to repeat ourselves today. Don't believe what Ginsberg said in the above picture about LaVigne being Robert Browning in Big Sur. See my February 20 post for an explanation.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. LaVigne.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

A double Kerouac birthday

 

Stanley Twardowicz (L) and Peter Orlovsky

Two important Kerouac figures were born on this date -- July 8: Painter Stanley Twardowicz in 1917 and long-time Allen Ginsberg partner Peter Orlovsky in 1933. Twardowicz appeared in one Kerouac novel, Satori in Paris, under his own name. Orlovsky appeared in several Jack Kerouac works: as George in The Dharma Bums, Simon Darlovsky in Desolation Angels, Simon in Book of Dreams, and Paul in Beat Generation.

You can read more about each in our recent remembrances HERE (Twardowicz) and HERE (Orlovsky).

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Messieurs Twardowicz and Orlovsky.


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

 


A few days ago, I received a check for nineteen dollars and change as an Amazon royalty payment for The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions. Not to spill too many beans, but that translates to about 5 books given what I typically earn per book in Amazon sales. It's the 4th biggest royalty check I've ever received. I can't explain the sudden surge and would sure like to know the reason behind the bump in sales. If you bought a copy (or copies) in the last couple of months, leave a message and tell me why.

If you wish to buy a copy, click HERE.

P.S. The Shadow-y title of this post was just what came to mind when I thought of a fitting title for a post that seeks an answer to a question. Plus Jack Kerouac was into "The Shadow."*


* For an explanation of The Shadow influencing Kerouac as well as Sylvia Plath and Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, click HERE.


Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy Birthday to Ted Joans

                                                 


Jazz poet and trumpeter Ted Joans was born this date -- July 4 -- in 1928. He appeared in one of Jack Kerouac's works, The Subterraneans, as John Golz.

Joans moved to NYC in 1951, where he met and became friends with Kerouac, Ginsberg, et al. Click HERE for a website dedicated to Joans. He is credited with saying, "Jazz is my religion, and Surrealism is my point of view." HERE is a link to an obit in SFGate. In that obit you'll find this gem of a story:

Mr. Joans was born July 4, 1928, in Cairo, Ill. His father was a musician who worked aboard the riverboats of the Mississippi River, and he instilled in his young son a strong work ethic and love of jazz.

"The story goes that he gave Ted a trumpet when he was 12 years old and dropped him in Memphis with the words, 'OK, son, go make a living,'" recalled Gerald Nicosia of Corte Madera, a friend of Mr. Joans' for 40 years.


According to editor Ann Charters in a note on page 211 of Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 (1999, Penguin Books), Joans was present at the poetry reading on February 15, 1959, at the Artists Studio in Manhattan where Fred McDarrah took the famous picture of Kerouac reading from On The Road, standing on a stepladder, arms outstretched (see below).



Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Joans.


Friday, July 2, 2021

Review of Marjorie J. Levine's Road Trips

 

Marjorie J. Levine is a masterful poet. Her haunting words take you to places both familiar and unfamiliar and evoke deep-seated emotions. The power of her verse sneaks up on you as you find yourself compelled to re-read whole poems and sections of poems to glean every drop of meaning.
 
In her new book, Road Trips, Levine explores themes of memory, love, aging, film, color, light, place (often NYC) and weather as she gives us an extended glimpse of herself through 60 poems in 4 parts. As the back cover states:
The poems in NAP TIME unfold as fantasies and reveal how memories shape a life. In DELINEATIONS, pieces of lucid dreams push life along through time. SIX POEMS is a personal perspective next to views of other lives from different angles. The last part, STREET POEMS, comes from a place of reality which brings all roads to one place.
Levine takes the bold step of using recurring phrases across poems -- like "pristine gown clinging like translucent second skin" in "NAP TIME" and "DAWN ON SEVENTH AVENUE" or "she shares ambrosia with gods" in "SPINSTERS AND GHOSTS" and "OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER." At first read I honestly thought this was an oversight, but soon realized that she was deliberately playing with the notion of forgetfulness, challenging the reader's memory as her own memories play out before our eyes. Indeed, she includes a couple of poems that are nearly identical -- "TWO DAYS TAKE ONE" and "TWO DAYS" describing time at Long Beach and in Westhampton and "BORDENTOWN" and "REVISITED" about visiting aunts "on old Burlington Street." But there are subtle differences, with phrases substituted here and there and meanings slightly altered via small changes in wording. The repetition of words and phrases and even longer passages serves to emphasize the importance of various symbols in the author's experiences.

There are several poems I connected with strongly. "MURMURS IN THE DARKNESS" is a heart-breakingly drawn portrait of loneliness and memory. "BLOOD RUMINATIONS" hopefully advises the reader to "go paint in blended watercolors a new picture" despite the "tangled mess" life ends up being. My own lost loves were brought to mind by "THE DISTANT LEFTOVER." "WHAT GROUNDS A TOWN" is hauntingly melancholic, and I loved "THE WAY HE LOOKED AT HER." It literally brought a tear to my eye in its straightforward acknowledgement of loss.

I learned a new word or two from Levine: pentimento and aldehydic and charientism and gongoozler and entelechy and triptych all sent me scrambling for a definition. I thought I knew some of them but needed confirmation. She uses these words in just the right ways and not just to impress -- they are necessary.

One theme struck me savagely: aging. My father was 51 when I was born and I remember him oft-repeating the phrase, "Don't get old -- it's bad business," and other colloquialisms about the endless losses associated with becoming old. In "ON 82ND STREET" Levine states, "What a monster aging is." Ouch. She deals with aging in several other poems, notably "INVOLUNTARY PASSAGES" and "BENDING TO ENTLECHY." I found myself thinking, "my dad would dig these poems," despite him being more inclined to read Raymond Chandler than poetry.

I get the feeling that writing poetry is cathartic for Levine, and I'm glad she took the brave step of sharing her personal and penetrating abreactions with readers of her book. Road Trips will linger on your mind long after you finish reading it, and you will want to revisit it again and again to experience the exquisite way words can trigger your innermost feelings and bring you face-to-face with an author's life journey.  


NOTE: Levine was the winner of the Beat Poetry Contest we held in 2009 (click HERE). Her winning entry, "WHAT WAY TO GO TODAY," opens Road Trips.




Saturday, June 26, 2021

Remembering Philip Whalen

 

Philip Whalen (L) & Jack Kerouac


Today we remember Beat poet Philip Whalen, who died on this date -- June 26 -- in 2002 at the age of 78. He appeared in several Jack Kerouac works: as Warren Coughlin in The Dharma Bums; and Ben Fagan in Desolation Angels and Big Sur.

Whalen was a force behind the San Francisco poetry renaissance of the mid-50s, and was one of the poets who read at the famous Six Gallery reading on October 7, 1955.

To get a sense of Whalen's place in Kerouac's world, I highly recommend reading John Suiter's Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen & Jack Kerouac in the North Cascades. This is my favorite Kerouac-related book of all time (a gift from my great friend, Richard Marsh).

Whalen was a Buddhist, close with Lew Welch and Gary Snyder (who all met at Reed College in Oregon), and a much greater piece of the Beat Generation puzzle than he gets credit for, especially the West Coast aspect. You can read a brief bio and some of his poetry HERE. Whalen and Kerouac were also close, evidenced by the more than two dozen letters from Kerouac to Whalen included in Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 (Penguin Books, 1999).

RIP, Mr. Whalen.


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Happy Belated Heavenly Birthday to Helen Weaver

 


Yesterday -- June 18 -- would have been Helen Weaver's 90th birthday. We noted her passing on April 13 of this year HERE. Weaver appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Ruth Heaper in Desolation Angels and as Eileen Farrier in Book of Dreams (expanded edition).

Weaver granted me an interview in 2009 that you can read HERE.

This was your first heavenly birthday and we hope it was a good one, Ms. Weaver.













Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Our Beat Poetry Contest winner publishes a book!

 


I thought Daily Beat readers would be interested in Marjorie J. Levine's new poetry book since she was the winner of our Beat Poetry Contest back in 2009 (click HERE to read her winning entry).

Her book is titled Road Trips: Poems and is available on Amazon HERE.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Happy Birthday to Hettie Jones

 

Hettie Jones

Today is poet/writer Hettie Jones' 87th birthday. She never appeared in a Jack Kerouac work, but her husband, LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka), appeared in Lonesome Traveler under his own name.

Jones published many of the Beat writers, including Kerouac, in her poetry magazine, Yugen, established with her husband. She went on to publish others in Totem Press. A brief bio and one of her poems can be read HERE. More of her poems appear HERE. In addition to her poetry, Jones published a couple of memoirs and several children's books.

Happy Birthday, Ms. Jones.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Remembering Stanley Twardowicz

Stanley Twardowicz

Jack Kerouac's Northport friend, painter/photographer Stanley Twardowicz, died on this date -- June 12 -- in 2008. He appeared in one Kerouac novel, Satori in Paris, under his own name. To wit --

Spend most of the time talking to big corpulent Breton cabdrivers, what I learned in Brittany is "Don't be afraid to be big, fat, be yourself if you're big and fat." Those big fat sonumgun Bretons waddle around as tho the last whore of summer war lookin for her first lay. You can't drive a spike with a tack hammer, say the Polocks, well at least said Stanley Twardowicz which is another country I've never seen. You can drive a nail, but not a spike. (Satori in Paris & Pic, 1988, Grove Press, p. 108)
In January 1968, Jack wrote to Twardowicz, thanking him for a Christmas gift.
Dear Stanley:
When your fruitcake arrived as usual, as wd. be expected from a fruitcake, Stella said to me: "Now who is it that remembers you at each Christmastime?" I said: "Gordo?" She said: "Guess again?" I said: "Lucien? Allen? Peter? John the Baptist?""Awright," I shouted, "Ho?" She said "Stanley." Thank you, will eat, it, and love to "Blondie" too.
                                                                                                        Jack

The Bishop orders you not to beat it too much. (Beat the Bishop)

 (Source: Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 507)

I don't know if Jack intended that comma after eat or if it's a typo.

RIP, Mr. Twardowicz.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Remembering Kenneth Rexroth

 


Kenneth Rexroth

Poet and critic Kenneth Charles Marion Rexroth, who we wished a happy birthday in December (click HERE), died on this date -- June 6 -- in 1982. Rexroth appeared in only one of Jack Kerouac's books, The Dharma Bums (my favorite), as Rheinhold Cacoethes.

Rexroth and Kerouac were not chums. As Gerald Nicosia points out in Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, Rexroth often put Jack down with snide remarks (1994, University of California Press, p. 491). Jack returned the favor by naming him "Cacoethes," which means "the irresistible urge to do something inadvisable."

Notably, Rexroth was the master of ceremonies at the famous Six Gallery poetry reading in October 1955. You can read more about him HERE as well as some of his poetry.

Random thought: I rather think the younger Rexroth looks like actor Steve Zahn.


A young Rexroth

Actor Steve Zahn


RIP, Mr. Rexroth.


Belatedly remembering Jan Kerouac

                                                 



Writer Jan Kerouac, Jack's only child, died on yesterday's date -- June 5 -- in 1996. We wished her a happy birthday and provided some info about her back in February. You can access that post HERE.

A fitting book to check out today, in addition to any of Jan's own novels (Baby DriverTrainsong, and Parrot Fever (unpublished but a chapbook is available from Gerald Nicosia) would be Nicosia's The Last Days of Jan Kerouac (Noodlebrain Press, PO Box 130, Corte Madera, CA 94976-0130). Click HERE for a European Beat Studies Network interview with Nicosia about this book.

Like her father, Jan died too young (age 44) and had a promising writing career cut short, most likely from similar lifestyle choices involving intoxicants. To which I say: Life is short. Live every minute of it.

RIP, Ms. Kerouac.



Thursday, June 3, 2021

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Allen Ginsberg

 

Allen Ginsberg

Poet and core Beat Generation member Allen Ginsberg was born on this date -- June 3 --  in 1926. He appeared in a number of Jack Kerouac's works: as Carlo Marx in On The Road; Alvah Goldbook in The Dharma Bums; Adam Moorad in The Subterraneans; Irwin Garden in Big SurDesolation AngelsVisions of CodyBook of Dreams, and Vanity of Duluoz; Leon Levinski in The Town and the City; Allen Goldbook in an early draft of Beat Generation; Bleistein in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; Allen Ginsberg in Pull My Daisy; and Leo in Orpheus Emerged.

The influence of Ginsberg on the other Beat writers, including acting as their agent/promoter, and his impact on the culture from the 50s to the 90s cannot be overstated. One need only read the above list of appearances in Kerouac's works to imagine his importance to Jack. You can read a short bio and some of his poetry by clicking HERE.

In honor of his birthday, Allen would dig it if you read some of his poetry, especially aloud. Even better, read along while listening to him read his own work. It's all out there on the interwebz.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Ginsberg.


NOTE: This is basically a repost of last year's post on this date. Hey, I'm allowed to plagiarize myself!



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A "two-fer" Kerouac date

 

Gerard Kerouac (left) and Albert Saijo

On this date -- June 2 -- two important figures in Jack Kerouac's world died, his brother Gerard in 1926 and his friend Albert Saijo in 2011. Gerard appeared as Gerard Duluoz in Visions of Gerard, Doctor Sax, Visions of Cody, and Book of Dreams; and as Julian in The Town and the City. Albert appeared as George Baso in Big Sur and co-authored Trip Trap: Haiku on the Road with Kerouac and Lew Welch based on a road trip across America in Welch's Jeep.

In honor of Gerard, here's a passage from Visions of Gerard (Penguin Books, 1991, pp. 32-33):
"Ainsi soit-il," amen, none of them knowing either what that meant, "thus it is," it is what is and that's all it is--thinking ainsi soit-il to be some mystic priestly secret word invoked at altar--The innocence and yet intrinsic purity-understanding with which the Hail Mary was done, as Gerard, now knelt in his secure pew, prepares to visit the priest in his ambuscade and palace hut with the drapes that keep swishing aside as repentent in-and-out sinners come-and-go burdened and dismembered as the case may be and is, amen--

In honor of Albert, here's a haiku of his from Trip Trap (City Lights/Grey Fox, 1998, p. 32).

    Grain elevators on 
                Saturday lonely as
Abandoned toys


It is a mystical synchronicity that both of the above passages come from page 32 in their respective sources. First of all, 32 is 23 backwards, and we all know the mystical significance of the number 23 (see my post HERE). Plus, I randomly picked Albert's selection first and then thumbed through Gerard to look for a section that'd been underlined (by the previous owner of the book in this case) and this was the first one I saw.

RIP, Master Kerouac and Mr. Saijo. We remember you on this day.


NOTE: For careful readers, this is indeed a re-print of a previous post.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Thinking about death today (again)

 

Jack Kerouac's grave in Edson Cemetery, Lowell, MA

Today I find myself again thinking about death* (see my April 21 post). My own, that of others I've known, others I haven't known (it's Memorial Day, after all, so one should remember the fallen** on this day especially). Jack Kerouac was no stranger to thoughts of death. He lost his older brother when the latter was only 9 years old and his father at the young age of 56. Jack himself only made it to 47. He frequently opined about death in his works, most notably saying he wrote Visions of Cody because "we're all going to die" and longing in Mexico City Blues (211th Chorus) to be "free of this slaving meat wheel."

I was pondering the time I have left when I happened on The Death Clock, which lets you input basic data about yourself and then tells you the date you will die. I don't know how scientific it is, but it is based on age and Body Mass Index (it includes a BMI calculator) and smoker status, so there's that. You can tell it to calculate in Normal, Pessimistic, Sadistic, or Optimistic  mode. For me that translated to:

Normal            =     September 22, 2029 (dead at 73 years old)

Pessimistic      =     July 8, 2013 (dead already)

Sadistic           =     September 21, 1992 (dead already)

Optimistic       =     November 28, 2041 (dead at 85 years old)

I'm 65 now, so a normal mode gives me a whopping 8 years to go. In the pessimistic and sadistic modes I already would have died (I wonder what I was doing on those two dates and whether I unknowingly "dodged a bullet"). Optimistic mode gives me till I'm 85 (20 years to go), which I will note is exactly how old my mom and dad were when they died. I'll plan on 85 but have to admit that, no matter what, it's been a good run.

If you give the calculator a go, don't blame me if it puts you in a low mood. I like to think of it as a perspective adjuster.

Remembering Linda, Charlie, Tom, mom and dad, brothers Jim and Billy, grandma and grandpa, and too many others to mention today.


*    FYI, I am not having suicidal ideations.
**  Which reminds me of a favorite toast: "To the fallen."


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Remembering Peter Orlovsky

 

Famous Ginsberg photo of Orlovsky (Left), Kerouac (Middle), and Burroughs (Right) on a Moroccan beach in March 1957
(c) Allen Ginsberg

On this date -- May 30, in 2010, Peter Orlovsky died. The obvious Kerouac connection here is that Orlovsky was a longtime partner of central Beat Generation figure Allen Ginsberg. Orlovsky appeared in several Jack Kerouac works as follows:

Character Name           Book

George                            The Dharma Bums
Simon Darlovsky           Desolation Angels
Simon                            Book of Dreams
Paul                               Beat Generation


Here are a couple of links for more information:

NY Times obit

Rebellious Love: Allen Ginsberg & Peter Orlovsky

You can also check out his brief bio on friendsofkerouac.com, which features a great picture of Orlovsky with Ginsberg.

Below is an entire letter that Kerouac wrote to Orlovsky in September 1956. I include this as it is the only letter in the two collected letters volumes edited by Ann Charters that Jack wrote just to Peter (as opposed to Peter and Allen et al.).

Dear Peter,

    I went  home to rest & work--I'll meet you and Allen here on Saturday night unless you change plans by phoning me. Tell Allen the piece of Burroughs I suggest for Black Mountain [Review] would be the whole vision of the Yage City. 
                                                                                                                         Jack 

(Source: Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 586)

 



Sunday, May 23, 2021

Dark day in Kerouac history

 

Alan Harrington (left) and Lew Welch

Despite our experiences with COVID-19 deaths, we should not become inured to the tragedy and significance of the date when someone takes the "night train to the big adios" (movie reference there -- for those who'd like to guess the film, please comment with your answer). To wit, today's date brings us to remember novelist Alan Harrington and poet Lew Welch, two friends of Jack Kerouac who shuffled off this mortal coil (or in Welch's case, disappeared) on this date, May 23 (Harrington in 1997, Welch in 1971).

We opined about this important Kerouac date previously and in that post we identify who Harrington and Welch appeared as in five of Kerouac's works, as well as provide some background on each. You can read that post by clicking HERE. That saves me repeating myself and unnecessarily using up bandwidth.


RIP, Mr. Harrington and Mr. Welch.

Happy Belated Birthday to Sebastian "Sammy" Sampas

                                         


On yesterday's date -- May 22 -- in 1922, Sebastian "Sammy" Sampas was born. 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). Here is how one 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. 

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.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Sammy!


Friday, May 21, 2021

Happy Birthday to Robert Creeley

 

Robert Creeley

On this date -- May 21 -- in 1926, the late poet Robert Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts. Here's a link to a bio that contains a link to some of his poems:
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/robert-creeley. I particularly love Creeley's poetry, but that is not why we are honoring him on his birthday on The Daily Beat. It is because -- of course -- there is a Kerouac connection.

Creeley appeared as "Rainey" in two Kerouac books, Desolation Angels and Book of Dreams (expanded edition) (see Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend). The two first met at Creeley's request of Allen Ginsberg to arrange a meeting. That meeting took place in 1956 at The Place, a North Beach bar in San Francisco frequented by the Beats. Creeley and Kerouac had a lot in common other than poetry, including drinking and jazz but also having grown up not far from each other in Massachusetts (from Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, 1994, University of California Press).

In his published letters, Jack mentions Creeley a number of times. Here is his first mention (from a letter to John Clellon Holmes on May 27, 1956):
There's a new writer called Robert Creeley who went to Harvard and knew Roger Lyndon but doesnt [sic] remember Harrington, out here, lonely, sad, restless, one eye, tragic Spanish dark, just spent 4 years in Mallorca Spain printing his Black Mountain Review, is reading his poems tonight nervously before a disapproving audience of women because Kenneth Rexroth's wife is going to run away with him somewhere. I am Creeley's friend and Rexroth has conceived a great hatred for me and thrown in poor Neal too who hasn't even done anything. (Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 579)
Creeley talked about Kerouac as part of a panel at the 1982 (the referenced page says 1981 but I think that is incorrect) Kerouac Conference at Naropa -- you can read the transcript here.

So Happy Birthday to Robert Creeley, not considered a Beat Generation writer but certainly an accomplished and celebrated poet who hung out with the Beats and was a friend of Jack's.


Monday, May 17, 2021

Remembering Leo Kerouac, Jack's father

                                             


Joseph Alcide Léon Kirouack, known as Leo, died on this date -- May 17 -- in 1946 at the age of 56 in Ozone Park, Queens, New York. Leo appeared in several of his son Jack's books: Emil Alcide Duluoz in Visions of Gerard, Emil (Pop) Duluoz in Doctor Sax/Visions of Cody/Vanity of Duluoz, George Martin in The Town and the City, Emil in Maggie Cassidy/Desolation Angels, Pa in Book of Dreams, Charlie Martin in The Sea is My Brother, and Joe Martin in The Haunted Life and Other Writings.

Leo's death greatly affected Jack, who promised Leo on his deathbed that he'd look after his mother, Gabrielle (and did -- some would say to a fault -- for the rest of his life). Jack tenderly and tragically describes his father's death at home from stomach cancer in The Town and the City (Chapter 3 of Part 5).

Leo is buried in the St. Louis de Gonzague Cemetery in Nashua, New Hampshire.

RIP, Mr. Kerouac.


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Happy 91st Birthday to Gary Snyder

                                                 


Regular Daily Beat readers know that acclaimed poet and environmentalist Gary Snyder was immortalized in Jack Kerouac's best novel*, The Dharma Bums, as Japhy Ryder (he also appears once as Gary, an editing error). He appeared as Jarry Wagner in Desolation Angels and Big Sur, and as himself in Vanity of Duluoz.

Snyder turns 91 today! He is the only reader left alive from the famous 1955 Six Gallery poetry reading, and he's also one of a small number of close friends of Kerouac who are still around.

Click HERE for a brief bio and some of his poetry.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Snyder. And many more....


*Regular readers likewise know that I am just trolling them by calling The Dharma Bums Jack's best novel. It is, indeed, my favorite, but I would hesitate to argue that it's his best work.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Remembering poet Michael McCLure

 

Michael McClure in 2004
(c) Gloria Graham

Poet Michael McClure died a year ago today -- May 4, 2020. He was one of the longest-living central Beat Generation figures, and appeared in several Jack Kerouac novels: Ike O'Shay in The Dharma Bums; McLear in Big Sur; and, Patrick McLear in Desolation Angels.

It would be an appropriate remembrance to read some of his poetry today, which you can easily do via some Googling. Or if you're so inclined, click HERE.

RIP, Mr. McClure


Monday, May 3, 2021

"Jack Kerouac: Basking in the Golden Eternity" by Catherine De Leon

 


My friend, Cat -- who knows a lot about Jack Kerouac and the Beats -- recently had a piece on Kerouac published at Please Kill Me. I think Daily Beat readers would enjoy reading her thoughts on our boy. 

Click HERE to access the article.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Remembering Kerouac friend, Ed White

                                             


Ed White, close friend of Jack Kerouac, died on this date -- April 29 -- in 2017. He appeared in several Kerouac works: as Tim Gray in On The Road; Ed Gray in Visions of Cody; Guy Green in Book of Dreams; and, Al Green in Book of Dreams (expanded edition).

It was White who originally suggested the practice of sketching in words to Kerouac. We discussed that when we wished White a Happy Birthday HERE in February.

RIP, Mr. White.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Happy Birthday to Carolyn Cassady

                                                 


On this date -- April 28 -- in 1923, Carolyn Cassady was born. She appeared in several of Jack Kerouac's works: as Camille in On The Road; Evelyn Pomeray in Book of DreamsBig SurDesolation Angels, and Visions of Cody; and, Cora in Beat Generation.

Cassady was married to Neal Cassady, famous as Kerouac's muse and a major subject of On The Road and the titular focus of Visions of Cody. We curated my copy of her book HERE.

I am afraid I have fallen into the trap of marginalizing Beat Generation women in my last paragraph, making it sound like Cassady's only claim to fame was being married to the Holy Goof. One need only Google her name for biographical details to see that she was a complex and talented person in her own right (e.g., writer, painter, theatrical designer, MA from U. of Denver), but was treated in a one-dimensional fashion in Kerouac's works (as was his approach to women in general). I'm not saying it was right for Kerouac to do that -- it just was.

So Happy Birthday in Beat heaven to Carolyn Elizabeth Robinson Cassady, who would have been 98 today!


Monday, April 26, 2021

Belatedly remembering poet Ted Joans

 


Because of a family emergency, we missed remembering poet Ted Joans, who died on April 25, 2003. He appeared in one of Jack Kerouac's works, The Subterraneans, as John Golz.

Joans moved to NYC in 1951, where he met and became friends with Kerouac, Ginsberg, et al. Click HERE for a website dedicated to Joans. He is credited with saying, "Jazz is my religion, and Surrealism is my point of view." HERE is a link to an obit in SFGate. In that obit you'll find this gem of a story:

Mr. Joans was born July 4, 1928, in Cairo, Ill. His father was a musician who worked aboard the riverboats of the Mississippi River, and he instilled in his young son a strong work ethic and love of jazz.

"The story goes that he gave Ted a trumpet when he was 12 years old and dropped him in Memphis with the words, 'OK, son, go make a living,'" recalled Gerald Nicosia of Corte Madera, a friend of Mr. Joans' for 40 years.

RIP, Mr. Joans.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

On death

 

Screen grab from the Alan Watts lecture mentioned below

My partner Crystal's sister, Linda, died after a sudden illness on Monday night. I lost a good friend, Charlie, on March 13. I just learned about a high school classmate dying. Death is a constant companion these days. It comes with the territory of growing old. Death is on my mind, and I was thinking about Jack Kerouac's obsession with death and his statement in Visions of Cody, "I'm writing this book because we're all going to die (1993, Penguin Books, p. 368). Writing about death seems like the thing to do right now, so here goes.

My thoughts on death have changed over the past few years. It seems like I once dreaded it, and now it’s not that big of a deal. I see it as part of the way things are: we’re born, we live, we die. It’s the great equalizer. The rich die, the poor, the powerful. No one escapes it.

I do have some fear about the manner of my death. That is, I would prefer to avoid a painful death, and I would prefer to avoid a slow, agonizing one, especially if quality of life were poor. But that is about dying, not death itself. Finally, I would like death to come in due time, not prematurely. I don’t really know what I mean by prematurely. I’ve noticed that old age is always 15-20 years older than I currently am. Sixty-five used to seem old to me, but not any more.

On a practical note, it’s good to think about death from both a metaphysical (as we are doing here) and a practical perspective. That is, make your death easy on those left behind. Have your affairs in order and make sure those left behind have a clear idea of your wishes, where to find important information (bank account numbers, passwords, etc.). Having a legally executed will is very important. Now, back to the metaphysical.

Alan Watts poses the question: What would it be like to go to sleep and never wake up? If you ponder that deeply, it is a comforting question because we’re not afraid of sleep (well, most of us at least). He goes on to ask: What would it be like to wake up after never having gone to sleep? That is what happens when we are born. It’s another worthwhile question to frame our notions of death. Whatever we are – our essence – arises from emptiness and returns there. And it’s not a problem for us unless we make it one.

One thought about death that I want to convey is captured in the country song about living like you were dying. What would you do, how would you live if you knew you had one day left or one week or one month or one year? Using that as a guide, you are less likely to arrive at death’s door with a bunch of regrets. I’ve always said we regret more what we don’t do (missed opportunities) than what we do (behaviors we’re not proud of). The lesson here is to focus on living. Hunter S. Thompson is credited with saying:
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”
Finally, as Alan Watts points out in his lecture on music and life, the point is to experience life as a musical thing and remember to dance all along the way versus thinking of it as a race to some finish line in the future. There is no future. There is only now. Be present and make the best of each moment.

Let death take care of itself.

And rest in peace, Linda, Charlie, Greg, and too many others. Too. Many. Others.




Sunday, April 18, 2021

Happy Birthday to Beat poet, Bob Kaufman

                                     


Beat poet Bob Kaufman, was born on this date -- April 18 -- in 1925.  He appeared as Chuck Berman in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels.

We said the following about Kaufman when we remembered him back on January 12 and it's worth repeating:
You can read Kaufman's bio and some of his poetry by clicking here. Kaufman took a vow of silence the day President Kennedy was assassinated and didn't speak until the end of the Vietnam War. That's an impressive feat. 
Kaufman was part of the Beat poetry movement in San Francisco. He started the journal, Beatitude, with Allen Ginsberg and others. His most recent collection of poetry was published by City Lights in October 2019 (available here). 
Interestingly -- to me at least -- the couple of times that he is mentioned in Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, Kaufman is partying with Jack at significant transition points: once right after Gary Snyder leaves for Japan, and once right after Jack leaves Ferlinghetti's cabin in Big Sur. 
I get the sense that Kaufman is generally underestimated as a poet -- you would do well to check out his work.

Happy Birthday in Beat heaven, Mr. Kaufman.



Wednesday, April 14, 2021

RIP, Helen Weaver

 


According to reports on-line, Helen Weaver, who we interviewed for The Daily Beat in November 2019 HERE, died yesterday, April 13. She appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Ruth Heaper in Desolation Angels and as Eileen Farrier in Book of Dreams (expanded edition).

Ruth was a prolific literary translator and we reviewed her excellent memoir about her time with Jack Kerouac (yes, they were paramours), The Awakener: A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifties, HERE.

I always greatly appreciated that she granted me an interview for this blog (making her one of two people who knew Kerouac that I've interviewed, the other being Al Hinkle). I hope her soul is flying on the wings of angels as she enters the great unknown.

RIP, Ms. Weaver.


Friday, April 9, 2021

Happy Birthday to Al Hinkle

                                         


Al Hinkle was born on this date -- April 9 -- in 1926. 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.

Regular readers need no introduction to Hinkle. We remembered him on December 26 -- click HERE.

Happy Birthday in Beat heaven, Mr. Hinkle.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Buddhism-inspired poetry - UPDATED 4-11-21

 


Jacob Rabinowitz, whose book -- Blame it on Blake: a memoir of dead languages, gender vagrancy, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso & Carr -- we reviewed HERE in May 2019, has had two poems published in BUDDHIST POETRY REVIEW (click HERE). Check them out.

The connection to Jack Kerouac? Jack studied and knew a lot about Buddhism, referencing it frequently in his works. Four of his books are specifically about or are heavily influenced by Buddhism: Some of the DharmaWake Up: A Life of the Buddha; The Scripture of the Golden Eternity; and, The Dharma Bums (my favorite Kerouac work).  And that's not counting Desolation Angels, which has lots of Buddhist themes. The only book he took with him for 2+ months on Desolation Peak was Dwight Goddard's A Buddhist Bible and Jack had a practice of re-reading sections of "The Diamond Sutra" daily. That's according to John Suiter in Poets on the Peaks, but Thomas Holloway pointed out in a comment that Jack references in Desolation Angels another book he had up there, The God That Failed (see comment below). So it may be that Jack had more than A Buddhist Bible at hand. Maybe A Buddhist Bible was the only book he took with him, but there were other books awaiting him that had been left there by previous occupants? What do you think?

UPDATE 4-11-21
I've learned since posting this (never too old to learn) that Jack had a number of books at his disposal on Desolation Peak. How they got there is a mystery to be solved. Below is a list of books he had up there:

1. A Buddhist Bible by Dwight Goddard (ed.)
2. A John Barrymore biography (Good Night, Sweet Prince)
3. Devils in Baggy Pants by Ross Carter
4. A Kathleen Norris novel (title?)
5. The God That Failed
6. A "cowboy book" (title?)
7. A medical book (title?)
8. A synopsis of Shakespeare's plays (Tales from Shakespeare ed. by Charles and Mary Lamb)


Monday, April 5, 2021

Remembering Alan Ginsberg

 

Alan Ginsberg (left) with Jack Kerouac

Poet and core Beat Generation member, Alan Ginsberg, died on this date -- April 5 -- in 1997. Ginsberg needs no introduction to understand the Kerouac connection. He appeared in too many Kerouac works, under aliases of course, to mention here, but you can determine what those were by visiting the excellent Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend. I will point out that in the two Kerouac novels -- On The Road and The Dharma Bums -- that inspired my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, Ginsberg appeared as Carlo Marx and Alvah Goldbrook, respectively.

Allen would be honored if you read -- or listen to him read -- some of his poetry today. You can find it in several places on-line. Here are a couple of links to get you started:

Poetry Foundation

Ginsberg reading "Howl"

It is an instructive exercise to read along while listening to Ginsberg read "Howl."

Despite his living until 1997, when I was 41, I never saw Ginsberg in person. I came into the Kerouac fold late in life, around 2002, 5 years after Allen passed.

RIP, Mr. Ginsberg. I'm sorry I never got to meet you.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

It's my son's birthday!

 

Today is my son Jason's birthday! Yes, he was born on April Fool's Day. That's the handsome devil up there with his lovely wife, Adri.

What does this have to do with Jack Kerouac, you ask? Not a whole lot, but then this is my blog and I can post about whatever I like. Beside, anyone connected to me is connected to Kerouac by default. So there's that. And there's this --

In January 2013 we visited The Beat Museum in San Francisco and Jerry Cimino took this picture of us in the car used in the On The Road film.

Rick, Crystal, Adri, Jason (L-R)


Today I'm thinking about a special day 41 years ago and wishing my son a Happy Birthday, health and happiness, and a long life.

Love . . . . Dad


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A 3-for-1 date in the Kerouac world

 

John Clellon Holmes, Robert Creeley, Carl Solomon (L-R)

Today is a "3-for-1" date in the Kerouac world.

Jack Kerouac's "soul brother, " writer John Clellon Holmes died on this date in 1988. He appeared in a number of Kerouac's works: as Ian MacArthur in On The Road; Mac Jones and Balliol MacJones in The Subterraneans; Wilson and John Watson in Visions of Cody; James Watson in Book of Dreams; Clellon Holmes in Maggie Cassidy; and, Eugene Pasternak in Doctor Sax.

Poet Robert Creeley died on this date in 2005. He appeared as Rainey in two Kerouac books, Desolation Angels and Book of Dreams (expanded edition).

"Howl" muse Carl Solomon was born on this date in 1928. He appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Carl Rappaport in Visions of Cody and as Carl Solobone in Book of Sketches.

Want more info? We last wished Holmes and Creeley happy birthday HERE and HERE, and remembered Solomon HERE.

March 30! Who knew?


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Review of Is Baseball Holy? Jack Kerouac and the National Pastime

                                                     

We reviewed Gregory Stephenson's The ragged promised land: Jack Kerouac's America back on November 16 HERE. Now comes his latest foray into Kerouac, Is Baseball Holy? Jack Kerouac and the National Pastime (2021, Ober-Limbo Verlag).

Stephenson's book is an extended essay, 39 numbered pages in length, 5+ of which are taken up by endnotes. He begins with a reference to the text for the film, Pull My Daisy, in which "'Peter the saint'" asks of "'the bishop,'" "'Is baseball holy?'" Stephenson then provides a synthesis of authors who have opined on the religious/spiritual nature of baseball. Until I read this synthesis I had no idea so many authors have written about the holiness of the national pastime, from its expression of the stages of the foundational Christian narrative to its mystical proportions. Stephenson's thesis appears on p. 12:
Baseball was for him [Kerouac], as I hope to show, a "sacred space" - a solace and a sanctuary, a source of insight and inspiration, a lost Eden and a promise of Paradise.
He then supports his thesis with examples from Kerouac's works. He rightfully avoids going into an in-depth description of Kerouac's self-invented fantasy baseball league, leaving that to Isaac Gerwitz in Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats. Kerouac has an epiphany watching New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson hit a "'miraculous homerun,'" and writing in his 1951 journal, "'There was . . . the sudden realization that winning is possible on earth'" (p. 17).

Stephenson proceeds to outline baseball references and their messages from a number of well-known Kerouac works, including On The Road, Doctor Sax, Maggie Cassidy, Desolation Angels, and Old Angel Midnight. I'll leave it to readers to discern those messages for themselves. Stephenson then suggests that Kerouac was the originator of the American baseball haiku and presents the following two with analysis:
Empty baseball field -
A robin,
Hops along the bench

How cold!
- late September
baseball -
the crickets

Stephenson goes on to analyze some short pieces that Kerouac wrote for Esquire and Escapade magazines in 1958 and 1959. At the end he summarizes nicely:
Played under open skies, on lush spring and summer grass remote from ever-running, rushing time and with outfields extending into infinity, baseball must have seemed to him [Kerouac] both the evocation of an unfallen world and a hint of heaven." (p. 33)

With my eyes now opened to the holy aspects of baseball and Kerouac's understanding of same, I'm motivated to go back and re-read a bunch of Jack's descriptions pointed out by Stephenson.

I think readers of The Daily Beat would dig this cool little book.

To get your own copy, click HERE.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Happy Birthday to Gregory Corso

 


Today is Beat poet Gregory Corso's birthday (born March 26, 1930). Corso appeared in a number of Jack Kerouac's works: Yuri Gligoric in The Subterraneans; Raphael Urso in Book of Dreams and Desolation Angels (also as Gregory in the latter); and, Manuel in Beat Generation.

We remembered Gregory back on January 17 (click HERE).

You can read a bio and some of his poetry HERE.

Happy Birthday in Beat heaven, Mr. Corso.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Happy Birthday to Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading in front of City Lights

Today -- March 24 -- would have been Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 102nd birthday (he died a little over a month ago on Feb. 22, 2021)! He appeared in Jack Kerouac's Big Sur as Lorenzo Monsanto. Click HERE for a brief bio. Click HERE for his official Facebook page. Click HERE for a remembrance at The Allen Ginsberg Project. 

Well-known for being the co-founder of San Francisco's City Lights Booksellers & Publishers and publishing Beat literature, Ferlinghetti was an accomplished writer and a well-regarded poet. To wit, here is an apropos example:


"PITY THE NATION"
(After Khalil Gibran)

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
   And whose shepherds mislead them
 Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
            Whose sages are silenced
  And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
 Pity the nation that raises not its voice
          Except  to praise conquerers
       And acclaim the bully as hero
          And aims to rule the world
              By force and by torture
          Pity the nation that knows
        No other language but its own
      And no other culture but its own
 Pity the nation whose breath is money
 And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
      Pity the nation oh pity the people
        who allow their rights to  erode
   and their freedoms to be washed away
               My country, tears of thee
                   Sweet land of liberty!


Click HERE for the source and for more poems.

Happy Birthday in Beat heaven, Mr. Ferlinghetti.