Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Bea Franco ("the Mexican girl in Jack Kerouac's On The Road)

 

Bea with son Alberto
Photo/Beatrice Kozera estate

On this date -- October 13 -- in 1920, Bea Franco was born. She was represented as Terry in Jack Kerouac's 1957 classic novel, On The Road. An excerpt about Terry, titled "The Mexican Girl," was published as a stand-alone short story in Paris Review in 1955; you can read it here. Bea also appeared in Book of Dreams as Bea.

Also of note, author Tim Z. Hernandez found Bea alive in 2010 after a multi-year search and as a result wrote the award-winning novel about her life, Mañana Means Heaven, which we reviewed here at The Daily Beat (click here). We also curated the book twice (click here and here), and featured a guest blog by the author (click here).

Happy Birthday in heaven, Ms. Kozera.



Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A Kerouac "two-fer" date

 

(L-R) Jack Kerouac, Caroline (Nin) Kerouac, Gabrielle Kerouac, Leo Kerouac, Bill Cannastra

Today's date in Kerouac history is a "two-fer." Jack's mom, Gabrielle (Mémère) died on this date -- October 12 -- in 1973, and early Beat scene member Bill Cannastra died on this date in 1950.

Mémère was an omnipresent and potent force in Jack's life. He lived with her off and on throughout his life, and thus she often was the anchor for his footloose wanderings. That is, he always had a home to which he could return. Jack made a deathbed promise to his father that he'd look after Mémère, and in his own way he did that right up until his death in 1969. She was a strong influence on his Catholicism. Gabrielle Kerouac appeared in a number of Kerouac's works: 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 died young and in a tragic manner, which you can read about here. More about Bill's life is accessible here. He appeared in Kerouac's works as follows: Finistra in Visions of Cody; Cannastra Finistra in Book of Dreams; and (probably) Charley Krasner in The Subterraneans.

RIP, Mrs. Kerouac and Mr. Cannastra.



Monday, October 11, 2021

Pics of Greenfield, MA -- where Jack Kerouac played high school football

Jack Kerouac was a star football player for Lowell High School (Massachusetts) and got a football scholarship to Columbia University. In Vanity of Duluoz, he describes his football career, mentioning a game his senior year against Greenfield High. We can only assume he meant Greenfield, MA.

So I started the first game of the year against Greenfield Hi [sic] (and here's the record I spoke of, the whole year) (game by game) and made two touchdowns that were called back, actually made five of the seven first downs in the whole game, averaged about 10 yards a try, and made a 20-yard run to within inches of a touchdown and Kelakis assigned himself the honor of carrying it over (he was the signal caller). (Vanity of Duluoz, 1994, Penguin Books, p. 18)

Recently, my great friend, Richard Marsh, did some sleuthing and took pictures of where Jack likely played in Greenfield. This first picture (below) is where Richard thinks the Greenfield High football field was when Jack played.


This second picture (below) shows the current middle school (center top), which was the high school back when Jack played.


Thanks, Richard, for improving our ability to visualize where Jack played football!


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Today is a famous date in Beat Generation history: The Six Gallery reading

 

Allen Ginsberg

On this date -- October 7 -- in 1955, the famous Six Gallery poetry reading in San Francisco took place. It was the first public reading by Allen Ginsberg of his epic poem, "Howl." That is why some call this National Beat Poetry Day (click HERE).

Jack Kerouac didn't read, but he was an active audience member, saying this about it in The Dharma Bums (1976, Penguin Books, pp. 13-14):

Anyway I followed the whole gang of howling poets to the reading at Gallery Six that night, which was, among other im­portant things, the night of the birth of the San Francisco Poe­try Renaissance. Everyone was there. It was a mad night. And I was the one who got things jumping by going around collecting dimes and quarters from the rather stiff audience stand­ing around in the gallery and coming back with three huge gallon jugs of California Burgundy and getting them all piffed so that by eleven o'clock when Alvah Goldbook [Allen Ginsberg] was reading his, wailing his poem "Wail" ["Howl"] drunk with arms outspread ev­erybody was yelling "Go! Go! Go!" (like a jam session) and old Rheinhold Cacoethes [Kenneth Rexroth] the father of the Frisco poetry scene was wiping his tears in gladness.

 




Happy Heavenly 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 Jack Kerouac's 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. You can listen to Baraka reading poetry, along with Gregory Corso, HERE.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Baraka.


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Gore Vidal

                                     

Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was born this date -- October 3 -- in1925. Vidal appeared in Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans as Arial Lavalina and in Old Angel Midnight as Gore Bedavalled.

Previously, in 2019, we discussed Vidal and Kerouac having a sexual encounter (click HERE) and Jack's opinion of Vidal's writing.

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

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Vidal.


Monday, September 27, 2021

Happy Birthday to Joyce Johnson

                                                     

Joyce Johnson was born this date -- September 27 -- in 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. She was there when big Beat things went down, so her point of view is firsthand.

Happy Birthday, Ms. Johnson.


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

On The Road published in Breton!


Jack Kerouac is beaming in heaven as a new translation of On The Road has been published in the Breton language. After all, Jack claimed Breton ancestry and spent no small amount of time discussing it in Satori in Paris (see, e.g., Chapter 23).

I had occasion to help the translator, Kristian Braz, via e-mail, regarding the meaning of a few obscure terms. Jack used a lot of colloquialisms and neologisms, making translation a challenge. I'm glad to see the project come to fruition. You can purchase it HERE.

Congrats, Kristian!




Monday, September 20, 2021

A significant date re: two Beat Generation women

 

Carolyn Cassady (left) and Edie Parker

On this date -- September 20 -- Carolyn Cassady died in 2013 and Edie Parker was born in 1922. Cassady 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. Edie also 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.

Don't fall into the trap of marginalizing these two influential Beat Generation women as being merely Neal's and Jack's wives. As we have said repeatedly in past posts, they were forces to be reckoned with on their own terms. Both left behind required-reading memoirs: Cassady: Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac. and Ginsberg); Parker: You'll Be Okay: My Life with Jack Kerouac.

RIP, Ms. Cassady and Happy Heavenly Birthday, Ms. Parker.




Sunday, September 19, 2021

Remembering Jack Kerouac's sister, Nin

 

Caroline with her brother, Jack

Caroline "Nin" Kerouac Blake died on this date -- September 19 -- in 1964. She was Jack Kerouac's older sister. She appeared in several of Jack's works: Nin Duluoz in Doctor Sax and Visions of Gerard; Nin in Book of DreamsMaggie CassidyVisions of Cody, and Vanity 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.)
When I think of Nin, I always think of Jack's descriptions in The Dharma Bums (my favorite Kerouac novel) of staying with her and her husband and child at their house in Big Easonburg Woods near Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Which, of course, reminds me of the excellent book by John J. Dorfner, Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount (that you can purchase by contacting the author at johnjdorfner@gmail.com).

RIP, Mrs. Blake.


Friday, September 17, 2021

Happy Birthday to William Carlos Williams

 

Dr. William Carlos Williams

Poet William Carlos Williams was born this date -- September 17 -- in 1883. He was a significant influence on the Beat generation writers, especially Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg discusses a 1957 visit he and Jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky paid to Williams here. Ginsberg says Kerouac romanced up Williams' wife, Flossie, in the kitchen. According to Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia, when the visitors asked him to impart some wisdom, the 73-year-old Williams pointed out the window and smiled, saying, "'There's a lot of bastards out there'" (Memory Babe, 1994, p. 541).

You can read a little bit about Williams on the Friends of Kerouac site here. And, of course, you can Google him for more. Williams wrote the introduction to Ginsberg's most famous poem, "Howl."

Williams was Doctor Musial in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. In Memory Babe, Gerald Nicosia says Kerouac's writing style was influenced by Williams' "attempt to write with the 'measured pauses' of speech" (1994, p. 453).

Before presenting one of Williams' more well-known poems, I want to point out that he was not just an acclaimed poet, but also a practicing physician in his hometown of Rutherford, N.J.

I love the following poem by Williams. This version is from Poetry Foundation, a comprehensive poetry site where you can read a bio of Williams here.



Happy Birthday, Dr. Williams!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Full text of On The Road and The Dharma Bums

 


I swiped the below files from a website and use them a bunch for searching within the text of these two influential Kerouac novels.

On The Road

The Dharma Bums


Thursday, September 9, 2021

Happy Birthday to John Allen Cassady

 


Today we send birthday greetings to John Allen Cassady, son of Neal and Carolyn Cassady. He was born this date in 1951. John appeared in several Kerouac works: as Timmy Pomeray in Book of Dreams, Desolation Angels. and Visions of Cody; as Timmy John Pomeray in Big Sur; and, as Jim Pomeray in Beat Generation (early draft).

You can visit his website HERE.

Happy Birthday, John.




Remembering photographer Robert Frank

                                     


Famed photographer Robert Frank died on this date -- September 9 -- in 2019. 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 7, 2021

Missed a few important Kerouac dates in September

My dog-eared and annotated copy of On The Road

We've been away for a few days and thus I missed posting about several Kerouac-related dates.

Most importantly, I missed the anniversary of the publication of On The Road on September 5, 1957! It no less than launched our boy Jack into literary stardom.

On September 3 we neglected to remember the birthday of Justin Brierly. Read what we said about him on this occasion last year HERE,

On September 6 we neglected to remember the death of Joan Vollmer Adams (1951) and the birth of Natalie Jackson (1931). Read what we said about them on this occasion HERE.

That's it for missed dates in September. I may miss some more, so forgive me in advance.



Monday, August 30, 2021

Belatedly remembering Chandler Brossard

                                             


Chandler Brossard, who some claim wrote the first Beat novel (Who Walk in Darkness, 1952), died on August 29, 1993. We are a day late remembering him because we were traveling over the weekend. Brossard appeared as Chris Rivers in Jack Kerouac's and William S. Burroughs' And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

I wrote about Who Walk in Darkness HERE. I was not that enamored of the book, but then Brossard was not enamored of being associated with the Beats. A whole lot of dis-enamoring going on in that last sentence! In any case, if you're interested in the Village scene in the 40s, you may enjoy Who Walk in Darkness. Brossard wrote other stuff as well. His papers are maintained by Syracuse University -- click HERE for access.

RIP, Mr. Brossard.



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

RIP, Jack Hirschman

 


Noted San Francisco poet Jack Hirschman died Sunday August 22, 2021 at age 87. HERE is a link to his obit on SFGATE.

You can read a bio and a couple of his poems HERE.

RIP, Mr. Hirschman.


Monday, August 23, 2021

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Gerard Kerouac

                                                 

Jack Kerouac's brother, (Francis) Gerard, was born this date -- August 23 -- in 1916. His death at a young age was the impetus for Kerouac to write one of his best works, Visions of Gerard. 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.

Did you know that Gerard was a cartoonist? According to Gerald Nicosia in Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, "Gerard . . . had been Jack's first drawing instructor" (1983, University of California Press, p. 35). 

HAPPY HEAVENLY BIRTHDAY, GERARD!


Monday, August 16, 2021

Belatedly remembering Bea Franco

 

Bea Franco with son, Alberta -- Photo/Beatrice Kozera estate
Bea Franco with son, Alberto
Photo/Beatrice Kozera Estate


Today we belatedly remember Bea Franco, who died on August 15, 2013. We wished her a happy birthday in October 2019 HERE. She was represented as Terry in Jack Kerouac's 1957 classic novel, On The Road. An excerpt about Terry, titled "The Mexican Girl," was published as a stand-alone short story in Paris Review in 1955; you can read it here. Bea also appeared in Book of Dreams as Bea.


Also of note, author Tim Z. Hernandez found Bea alive in 2010 after a multi-year search and as a result wrote the award-winning novel about her life, Mañana Means Heaven, which we reviewed here at The Daily Beat (click here). We also curated the book twice (click here and here), and featured a guest blog by the author (click here). 


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Remembering David Kammerer


David Kammerer


Today -- August 14 -- is the anniversary of David Kammerer's death in 1944. We wrote about Kammerer on his birthday in September HER E. Kammerer 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 (Source: Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend).

Kammerer was most likely a sexual predator, and we remember him only because he figured into the early Beat Generation -- if only as a dark presence.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

Remembering Herbert Huncke

                                                     

On this date-- August 8 -- in 1996, Beat Generation core figure Herbert Huncke died. Huncke was Elmer Hassel in Jack Kerouac's On The Road; Huck in Desolation AngelsBook of Dreams, and Visions of Cody; Hunkey in Lonesome Traveler; and Junkey in The Town and the City.

Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no introduction to the man from whom Kerouac likely learned the word, "beat." Click on the link above if you want to read a short bio.

We curated a Huncke biography by Hilary Holladay HERE.

RIP, Mr. Huncke.



Friday, August 6, 2021

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Beat poet Diane di Prima

                                     



Today -- August 6 -- is award-winning Beat poet Diane di Prima's first birthday in Heaven. She was born in 1934. I don't think she appeared in any of Jack Kerouac's works, but he appeared in hers in a randy sex scene in her Memoirs of a Beatnik. I liked that book a lot, in particular how she graphically but sensitively described her various sexual experiences.

We reviewed her 2015 poetry book, The Poetry DealHERE, and curated it HERE. We curated Memoirs of a Beatnik HERE.

In honor of her birthday, you can read about Diane and find some of her poetry HERE.


Happy Birthday, Ms. di Prima!


Thursday, August 5, 2021

Jack Kerouac's father was born on this date in 1889

                                         


Leo Kerouac, Jack Kerouac's father, was born on this date -- August 5 -- in 1889 in Saint-Hubert-de-Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, Canada as Joseph Alcide Léon Kirouack. 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.

Happy Heavenly Birthday to the man without whom there would be no Jack Kerouac!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

We missed two Kerouac-related dates

 

William S. Burroughs (left) and Ramblin' Jack Elliott

We missed musician Ramblin' Jack Elliott's birthday on August 1 (1931), and core Beat Generation member William S. Burroughs' death date on August 2 (1997). Neither needs an introduction to regular readers of The Daily Beat. Burroughs appeared in several of Jack Kerouac's works: as Old Bull Lee in On The Road; Frank Carmody in The Subterraneans; Bull Hubbard in Book of DreamsDesolation AngelsDoctor Sax, and Visions of Cody; Bull in Tristessa; Bill/William Seward Burroughs in Lonesome Traveler; Wilson Holmes Hubbard in Vanity of Duluoz; Bill Dennison in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; and, Will Dennison in The Town and the City and And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Elliott appeared as Jack Elliot in Book of Dreams.

RIP to Mr. Burroughs and Happy Birthday to Mr. Elliott.


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.