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:

(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.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Joanne Kyger remembrance link

Yesterday I posted about Joanne Kyger and included a link to a really cool remembrance of her that I learned about in a Tweet from The Allen Ginsberg Project. I just now figured out that the link I used was incorrect (it linked to one of my own posts).

HERE is the correct link. It's worth checking out.

P.S. I also corrected the link in my original post.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Remembering poet Joanne Kyger UPDATED


Joanne Kyger

Today we remember poet Joanne Kyger, who died on this date -- March 22 -- in 2017. I don't think she appeared in any of Jack Kerouac's works, but she was married for 5 years or so to Gary Snyder (Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums).

We wished her a happy birthday on November 19. You can read that post by clicking HERE (it includes some information about Kyger and a link to a bio/some of her poems). 

UPDATE (3-22-21 2:30 PM Eastern): Click HERE for a really cool remembrance that I just learned about in a Tweet from The Alan Ginsberg Project.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The raison d'être of this blog

The raison d'être of this blog was originally to hawk my 2008 book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions (click HERE to get your own copy). Over time, it morphed into simply a Kerouac-obsessed blog. The Daily Beat, the title (which was suggested by my partner Crystal), can be misleading because except for the first few months I have not posted every day. I have posted a total of 1,946 times (including today) and this blog has seen 1,086,941 pageviews since I started tracking them (some time in October 2008, I think).

All of which is to say it's been a long, strange trip indeed. Along the way, I've sold books all over the world, reviewed other's books, interviewed famous and not-so-famous Beat characters, honored real-life characters from Kerouac's books on their birth and death dates, curated my Kerouac bookshelves, reprinted each day of my book with the accompanying passage from On The Road or The Dharma Bums, cited various resources, waxed eloquently about many Kerouac-related topics from professional wrestling to his death being a murder, recounted trips to Kerouac locations like Lowell, MA, and NYC and San Francisco, held a Beat poetry contest, quoted from Kerouac's books and had readers guess which one, made New Year's Resolutions ("Kerouac-o-lutions"), noted Kerouac items in the media, hosted guest bloggers, celebrated milestones such as reaching a million pageviews, made various "Today in history" posts, rewrote The Dharma Bums in one sentence per chapter, suggested Christmas gift ideas, and so on to the tune of 1,946 posts. There's much more and it's all available for reading by exploring the "Blog Archive" over there on the righthand side.

Thirteen years and counting and we're not done by a long shot. See you in my dreams . . . .


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

I provide a Jack Kerouac quote and you figure out the book (11th in a series)


This is the 11th in a series of posts where I provide a quote from one of Jack Kerouac's books and you figure out which one. Post your answer as a comment. Here's the passage:

. . . so I took a piece of paper about as big as a thumbnail and carefully printed on it: MAY YOU USE THE DIAMONDCUTTER OF MERCY and when I said goodbye to him at the pier I handed it to him, and he read it, put it right in his pocket, and said nothing.

Good luck!

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

P.S. The reason I used a picture of Avalokitesvara is explained by reading my post from April 14, 2012. That will also give you the source of today's quotation!

Friday, March 12, 2021

Happy 99th Birthday to Jack Kerouac

Cat lover and birthday boy, Jack Kerouac

Our literary hero, Jack Kerouac, would have turned 99 years old today. He was born March 12, 1922 in the family home at 9 Lupine Road, Lowell, Massachusetts.

Jack Kerouac's birthplace: 9 Lupine Road in Lowell, MA
(c) 2011 Rick Dale

Given that this blog is singularly Kerouac-focused, it's difficult to say much about Jack that we haven't said over the past 13 years of this blog's existence. Let's therefore let Jack speak for himself about the day he was born:

March 12, 1922, at five o'clock in the afternoon, in Lowell, Mass. was the day of the first thaw. I was born on the second floor of a wooden house on Lupine Road, which to this day sits on top of a hill overlooking Lakeview Avenue and the broad Merrimack River. From this house my mother, God bless her dear heart, lay listening to the distant roar of the Pawtucket Falls a mile away; she has told me all this. Besides of which it was a strange afternoon, red as fire; "noisy with a lyrical thaw," as I said in my fictions of the past, and that is to say the snow was melting so fast you could hear it in a million small streams under the vast snowy banksides crumbling just a little in their middles from the weight of the moisture. Pines dripped like the seasonal maple, made gum and gummy firsmells in the air. Great shoulders of snow dropped precipitous from their bleak wood. These descriptions are necessary at this point, for the following reason. (December 28, 1950 letter to Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, pp. 248-249)

Jack goes on about his birth -- I encourage you to look up this letter and read it in its entirety.

Here in Maine we're having a couple days of thaw as Jack described. His description is spot on. It was a good day to be born.

Happy Birthday in heaven, Jack. Say "hi" to Lawrence for us.

Happy Birthday to John Clellon Holmes


Writer John Clellon Holmes, one of Jack Kerouac's closest friends, was born on this date -- March 12 -- in 1926. 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.

For an in-depth look at Holmes and his relationship with Kerouac, get yourself a copy of Ann and Samuel Charters' Brother Souls: John Clellon Holmes, Jack Kerouac, and the Beat Generation (note the proper use of the Oxford comma in that title -- thank you, Ann and Samuel). I read this book on the basis of a glowing recommendation from my great friend, Richard Marsh, whose judgment on books I trust very much. It's now one of my favorite Kerouacian biographies, right up there with Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac.

I realize today is also Jack's birthday, but we will take that up in a separate post.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Holmes.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Remembering poet Philip Lamantia


Poet Philip Lamantia died on this date -- March 7 -- in 2005. He appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Francis DaPavia in The Dharma Bums and as David D'Angeli in Desolation Angels. Lamantia read at the famous event at the Six Gallery in 1955 that many point to as kicking off the San Francisco poetry renaissance. (He didn't read his own work, but rather that of his dead friend, John Hoffman.)

In a May 10, 1952 letter to Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac described visiting Lamantia:
In Frisco, the last week, I visited Lamantia with Neal, he is living in the former stone small castle overlooking Berkeley Calif. he was reading "The Book of the Dead," was reclined in a sumptuous couch with furnishings and turned us on, three friends from Calif. U. dropped in, a psychology major who is apparently his Burroughs, a tall handsome owner of the house (who is somewhat the Jack K.) lounging on floor and sleeping eventually [. . . .]  and a young eager intelligent kid who was like you; this was his circle, and of course he was being Lucien, they talked about psychology in terms of "I saw that damned black background to the pink again in yesterday's peotl," "Oh well (Burroughs), it won't hurt you for awhile" (both snickering). [. . . .] Lamantia showed me his poems about the Indian tribes on the San Luis Potosi plateau, I forget tribe name, they deal with his visions on Peotl and they, the lines are,
                                                            this, for effect, but more
complicated. (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 349)

We celebrated Lamantia's birthday on October 23 HERE; there's a link there to some of his poetry. Reading some of it today would be a Beat thing to do.

RIP, Mr. Lamantia.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Remembering William Carlos Williams


Poet William Carlos Williams died on this date -- March 4 -- in 1963. Williams was Doctor Musial in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. We wrote about Williams on his birthday in 2019 (we missed it in 2020), so you can click HERE for some details on this influential person in the Kerouac world, including his advice to Jack and Allen Ginsberg et al. along with one of his poems.

In a September 11, 1955 letter to editor Malcolm Cowley, Jack explains his developing writing style and describes it as:
RHYTHMIC--It's prose answering the requirements mentioned by W. C. Williams, for natural-speech rhythms and words-- (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 515)
Rest In Poetry, Dr. Williams.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Gary Snyder remembers Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Click HERE for a piece by Gary Snyder (Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums) in remembrance of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It concludes thus:

From start to finish, he was the biggest, clearest, most consistent supporter of radical, adventurous, experimental writing on the whole west coast.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Remembering Sebastian Sampas


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

Kerouac Work                                               Character Name

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

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

Here is how a letter from March 1943 starts (p. 43):
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!
For  1. Vodka
        2. Love
        3. Glory. 
Alas, there was no "after the war" for Sampas -- he was killed by wounds received in the Battle of Anzio during WWII while serving as an army medic.

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

RIP, Mr. Sampas,

Monday, March 1, 2021

Happy Birthday to Lucien Carr


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

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

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

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

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

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