Tag Archives: death

Remembering Mark Van Doren

10 Dec

vandoren

Mark Van Doren passed away on this day in 1972, at the age of seventy-eight. Originally from Illinois, Van Doren worked for many years at Columbia University, at one point testifying on Allen Ginsberg’s behalf to keep the young poet from going to jail. Two days before his death, Van Doren underwent surgery at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital for circulatory problems. He is buried at Cornwall Hollow Cemetery in Connecticut.

 

 

Remembering Jack Kerouac

21 Oct

 

Jack Kerouac

March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969

Jack Kerouac was only forty-seven years old when he passed away. The day before he died, he’d been drinking whiskey and writing at his home in St. Petersburg, Florida, when he suddenly felt ill. He called out to his wife, a Greek American from his hometown of Lowell, and Stella Sampas Kerouac got him to St. Anthony’s Hospital, where he ultimately died from his internal hemorrhage. He was buried in Edson Cemetery in Lowell, in the Sampas family plot.

 

 

Clip: Resource Published My Article on Flashes of Hope

28 Aug

Resource

The summer 2014 issue of Resource features an article I wrote that I’m extremely proud of. I interviewed the founder of Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit that takes photographs of children with cancer, to talk about how the portraits empower these children. The professional portraits also serve as lasting mementos for the families of the 25% of the children photographed who don’t survive. The nonprofit shows just how powerful art can be.

Cancer is a personal subject for me. This summer I did a few readings from a chapter I wrote called “Grief Gone Wild” about the summer I lost both of my grandmothers to cancer a month apart from each other. I was glad to likewise get to put my creative nonfiction to positive use to write this article on Flashes of Hope and show that moments of strength, beauty and even joy can be found even in the midst of trying times.

Remembering Herbert Huncke

8 Aug

huncke

I have to say, Herbert Huncke is one of the most fascinating characters associated with the so-called Beat Generation. He came from a middle-class family in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and was raised in Chicago, but left all that behind when his parents divorced to live the life of a hobo. He jumped trains across America and then hitched a ride to New York City. When he got dropped off on the Upper West Side, he bought himself a boutonniere and hoofed it to Times Square. It was through Huncke that the word “beat” made it into Jack Kerouac’s lexicon.

Despite his influence and his own writing, there wasn’t a book devoted to this incredibly fascinating fellow until last year when Hilary Holladay published American Hipster: A Life of Herbert Huncke, The Times Square Hustler Who Inspired the Beat Movement. Here’s the synopsis from Barnes & Noble:

American Hipster: The Life of Herbert Huncke, The Times Square Hustler Who Inspired the Beat Movement tells the tale of a New York sex worker and heroin addict whose unrepentant deviance caught the imagination of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. Teetering between exhaustion and existential despair, Huncke (rhymes with “junky”) often said, “I’m beat, man.” His line gave Kerouac the label for a down-at-the-heels generation seeking spiritual sustenance as well as “kicks” in post-war America.

Recognizable portraits of Huncke appear in Junky (1953), Burroughs’s acerbic account of his own heroin addiction; “Howl” (1956), the long, sexually explicit poem that launched Ginsberg’s career; and On the Road (1957), Kerouac’s best-selling novel that immortalized the Beat Generation. But it wasn’t just Huncke the character that fascinated these writers: they loved his stories. Kerouac called him a “genius” of a storyteller and “a perfect writer.” His famous friends helped Huncke find publishers for his stories.

Biographies of Kerouac and the others pay glancing tribute to Huncke’s role in shaping the Beat Movement, yet no one until now has told his entire life story. American Hipster explores Huncke’s youthful escapades in Chicago; his complicated alliances with the Beat writers and with sex researcher Alfred Kinsey; and his adventures on the road, at sea, and in prison. It also covers his tumultuous relationship with his partner Louis Cartwright, whose 1994 murder remains unsolved, and his idiosyncratic career as an author and pop-culture icon.

Written by Hilary Holladay, a professor of American literature, the book offers a new way of looking at the whole Beat Movement. It draws on Holladay’s interviews with Huncke’s friends and associates, including representatives of the literary estates of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Huncke; her examination of Huncke’s unpublished correspondence and journals at Columbia University; and her longtime study of the Beat Movement.

It’s good to see Herbert Huncke finally getting remembered.

Huncke passed away on this day in 1996. He was still residing in New York City.

 

 

The Pits: Bridge That Jack Kerouac’s Watermelon Man Walked Demolished

27 Jun

sax

The other day I talked about how “karpouzi” is just one of those words I always say in Greek and shared my recipe for watermelon-and-feta salad. Since I’m a big fan of tying things together, can I tell you about a connection between watermelon and Jack Kerouac?

In his novel Dr. Sax, Kerouac writes about a man who died while carrying a watermelon across a bridge in Lowell. My coauathor for Burning Furiously Beautiful, Paul Maher Jr., actually discovered the identity of the man the memory is based on. You can read Paul’s story about Kerouac’s watermelon man in Pop Matters

At last year’s Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival, the group visited the bridge where this took place (also known as the Textile Memorial Bridge, the University Bridge, and the Moody Street Bridge). Well, this February the bridge was demolished. In its place is the Richard P. Howe Bridge.

Maybe its a suburban thing but when I was a teenager, I used to hang out a lot at a bridge. Do you have memories of hanging out at this bridge or any other bridge?

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”

10 Apr

ShelleyPortrait of Shelley by Alfred Clint (1819)

When you think Beat Generation do you also think Romanticism? No?? Don’t get tripped up by the overuse of the word “neon” and other supposed markers of so-called Beat poetry. Think more about their shared notions of colloquial language, intuition over reason, and spontaneity. Beat poetry is a natural evolution of Romantic poetry. (Caveat: “Beat Generation” and “Romanticism” are convenient labels, but the people associated with them wouldn’t identify themselves as being “members” of any sort of “movement.”)

I’ve written before about Beat poet Gregory Corso’s connection to one of my personal favorite poets, John Keats. Even more than Keats, though, Corso professed an admiration for Percy Bysshe Shelley. Corso is actually buried across from Shelley. While Allen Ginsberg (read last week’s post on Ginsberg’s Blake vision here)  is known for littering his poetry with the names of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, Corso wrote of Shelley in “I Am 25” and “I Held a Shelley Manuscript.” I love, love, love the language he uses in those poems and can relate to the theme of idolizing other poets who have gone before one’s time.

When thinking about possible poems to share with you for National Poetry Month, I decided on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” not just because of Gregory Corso’s love for Shelley but because it reminded me of the themes I’d found myself wonderfully entrenched in while recently reading Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, a book the Beats also read—themes of memory and love and music and flowers. (Swoon, swoon, swoon.) Like Corso’s “I Held a Shelley Manuscript,” Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” sensually touches on what remains after death.

Without further ado, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”:

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

What’s your favorite poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

Remembering John Clellon Holmes

30 Mar

brother

Earlier this month we celebrated what would’ve been John Clellon Holmes’ 88th birthday. Today marks the anniversary of his passing from cancer at the age of 62 in 1988.

Holmes’ first published book was Go, a fantastic novel about the early Beat scene featuring the same cast of characters that Kerouac wrote about in On the Road. In fact, Kerouac and Holmes remained life-long friends, after initially meeting on their way to a party in 1948.

Somewhat recently — 2010 — Ann Charters and Samuel Charters edited Brother-Souls: John Clellon Holmes, Jack Kerouac, and The Beat Generation. Here’s the write up on Barnes & Noble:

John Clellon Holmes met Jack Kerouac on a hot New York City weekend in 1948, and until the end of Kerouac’s life they were–in Holmes’s words–“Brother Souls.” Both were neophyte novelists, hungry for literary fame but just as hungry to find a new way of responding to their experiences in a postwar American society that for them had lost its direction. Late one night as they sat talking, Kerouac spontaneously created the term “Beat Generation” to describe this new attitude they felt stirring around them. Brother Souls is the remarkable chronicle of this cornerstone friendship and the life of John Clellon Holmes.

From 1948 to 1951, when Kerouac’s wanderings took him back to New York, he and Holmes met almost daily. Struggling to find a form for the novel he intended to write, Kerouac climbed the stairs to the apartment in midtown Manhattan where Holmes lived with his wife to read the pages of Holmes’s manuscript for the novel Go as they left the typewriter. With the pages of Holmes’s final chapter still in his mind, he was at last able to crack his own writing dilemma. In a burst of creation in April 1951 he drew all the materials he had been gathering into the scroll manuscript of On the Road.

Biographer Ann Charters was close to John Clellon Holmes for more than a decade. At his death in 1988 she was one of a handful of scholars allowed access to the voluminous archive of letters, journals, and manuscripts Holmes had been keeping for twenty-five years. In that mass of material waited an untold story. These two ambitious writers, Holmes and Kerouac, shared days and nights arguing over what writing should be, wandering from one explosive party to the next, and hanging on the new sounds of bebop. Through the pages of Holmes’s journals, often written the morning after the events they recount, Charters discovered and mined an unparalleled trove describing the seminal figures of the Beat Generation: Holmes, Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and their friends and lovers.

In addition to reading any of Holmes’ works, Brother-Souls provides a portrait of an author whose work deserves more recognition.

Remembering Hunter S. Thompson

20 Feb

fear2

Sometimes it’s strange how you get introduced to an author’s work and what you end up associating with them. I’ve had people make assumptions that I got into Jack Kerouac because I was trying to impress boys, which is far, far from the truth. I got into Kerouac after discovering The Portable Beat Reader in the pages of Seventeen magazine, an unabashedly teen girls’ magazine. It never even crossed my mind that Kerouac might be associated as a guy’s book or that reading his book or any book might make me popular with guys. I mean, when you’re in high school, you don’t really think that reading is going to make you sexy. You think lip gloss will. Lip gloss and CK Be.

But when I think of how I first encountered Hunter S. Thompson’s work, I remember watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in college with a boy I liked. A boy that liked my friend. She had a boyfriend and was not interested in this boy, and yet he remained puppy-dog in love with her, barely noticing me. But we did watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas together. And so now whenever I think of that movie, I think of that time, insignificant as it may have been.

Hunter S. Thompson was alive at that time, and I don’t remember his passing, but he passed away on this day in 2005 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In his typewriter was a sheet of paper with the words “Feb 22 ’05” and “counselor” typed on it. You can see the police report on The Smoking Gun.

How did you first come across Hunter S. Thompson‘s work?

Video: Joanne Kyger at The Poetry Project

19 Nov

I was excited to receive an email telling that this video of Joanne Kyger was recently uploaded to Youtube via The Poetry Project.

Poet Joanne Kyger is the author of Just Space: Poems 1979-1989, which includes such poems as “Bob Creeley Has Died And He Is To Have A Tibetan Ceremony,” “Day After Ted Berrigan’s Memorial Reading,” “Yesterday When Diana Drops Me Off On Evergreen,” and “You Believe This Stash Of Writing Is ‘scholarly’?” The book, published by Black Sparrow Press in 1991, is illustrated by Arthur Okamura. Kyger’s other works include The Tapestry and the Web (her first book); Strange Big Moon: The Japan and India Journals: 1960-1964 (foreword by Anne Waldman); God Never Dies; The Distressed Look; and her most recent, About Now: Collected Poems.

Joanne Elizabeth Kyger was born on November 19, 1934, in Vallejo, California. She studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and then moved to north, where the San Fransisco Renaissance was happening. In 1958 she met poet Gary Snyder, and when he moved to Japan she went too and married him on February 28, 1960. Together they later traveled to India, where they met up with Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. By 1964, she was back in the US, and the following year she married painter Jack Boyce. They separated in the 70s. Kyger currently lives in Bolinas, California.

Check out her poetry online here.

 

Clip: A Time to Mourn

8 May

Burnside published my visual art take on the verse “a time to mourn.” You can see it here.