Saturday, March 30, 2024

A triple-header date in the Kerouac world


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

Today -- March 30 -- 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 HER E and HERE, and remembered Solomon HERE.

March 30! Who knew?

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Happy heavenly birthday to Beat poet 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 belatedely (by one day) remembered Gregory back on January 18 (click HERE).

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

Happy Birthday in Beat heaven, Mr. Corso.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Happy heavenly birthday to Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading in front of City Lights

Today -- March 24 -- we celebrate Lawrence Ferlinghetti's birthday! He appeared in Jack Kerouac's Big Sur as Lorenzo Monsanto. Click HERE for a brief bio and some of his poems.

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 that is relevant today:

(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!

Happy birthday in Beat heaven, Mr. Ferlinghetti.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Remembering poet Joanne Kyger


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 last wished her a happy birthday on November 19, 2023. You can read that post by clicking HERE (it includes some information about Kyger and a link to a bio/some of her poems). 

Click HERE for a really cool remembrance.

RIP, Ms. Kyger.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

RIP to poet Neeli Cherkovski


Poet Neeli Cherkovski died yesterday -- March 19, 2024 -- at the age of 78. Click HERE for his website and a bunch of information about him. And click HERE for him speaking in 2018 at the San Francisco Public Library.

To my knowledge, he didn't appear in any of Jack Kerouac's works, but he was a major part of the San Franciso poetry scene and knew Ginsberg, McClure, Ferlinghetti, et al.

RIP, Mr. Cherkovski.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Happy heavenly birthday to writer and Kerouac BFF, 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 heavenly birthday, Mr. Holmes.

Happy 102nd Birthday to our hero, Jack Kerouac


Cat lover and birthday boy, Jack Kerouac

Our literary hero, Jack Kerouac, would have turned 102 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 16 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.

Happy 102nd birthday in heaven, Jack. 

Friday, March 8, 2024

Belatedly remembering poet Philip Lamantia


We spaced out yesterday and neglected to point out that poet Philip Lamantia died on that 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, 2021 HERE; there's a link there to some of his poetry. Reading some of it would be a Beat thing to do.

RIP, Mr. Lamantia.

Monday, March 4, 2024

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 2021, 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.


Belatedly remembering Sebastian Sampas


We missed posting that on 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).

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. His death from battle wounds is especially poignant today as the Russian military has invaded Ukraine and war deaths are mounting.

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. 

Happy belated heavenly birthday to Lucien Carr


(L-R) William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, and Allen Ginsberg
(for more photos see

Proto-Beat Lucien Carr was born on March 1 in 1925. We got distracted and missed posting about it on that date. Carr 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 previously (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 [sic]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 late, and that passage rang out to me. If you're a Kerouac fan, you must have a copy of this book. It is the one of the only books he had to read during his time on Desolation Peak (we posted about this HERE). The Diamond Sutra starts on page 87 of my edition above. Happy reading . . .

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