Tag Archives: Jack Kerouac

The Mad Are Holy: Mental Health in Ginsberg’s “Howl”

26 Jun

IMG_0094

So excited to share with you that Geez published my essay “The Mad Are Holy” in their current issue about the poetics of resistance. I explore how Allen Ginsberg’s seminal poem “Howl” was met with legal resistance because of its language and sexual content, but how the poem was a call to embrace the people society had determined were “mad.”

Special thanks to my editor Aiden Enns and the entire team at Geez for putting together this great issue focused on the Poetics of Resistance. You can purchase the magazine here.

Advertisements

Wild Women on the Road

19 Jun

IMG_0467

I’ve been invited to teach again at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers! I’ll be teaching a writing workshop called Wild Women on the Road. Because why should Jack Kerouac have all the fun?!

Here’s the description:::

Bohemians, rockers, and nature lovers throughout history have blazed their own paths, inspiring generations of women to put the pedal to the metal—and the pen to paper. So why is women’s writing so often derided as “domestic,” and why do so many women’s travelogues read like chick lit?

We’ll discuss ways to elevate the genre in terms of both substance and style as we take a fast-paced ride along with Manal Al-Sharif (Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening), Lynne Cox (Swimming to Antarctica), Waris Dirie (Desert Flower), Patti Smith (M Train), and other women who defied conformity.

Geared towards those who want to advance plot while maintaining artistic style, in-class writing exercises will equip you with the roadmap you need through storytelling templates and literary devices. Choose your own adventure—and encourage other women to live more fully even within their own neighborhoods!

 

My writing class is on Sunday, September 8, from 9:30 to 11:30am. The Festival itself will be all weekend long, though, and you’ll want to stay for all the great workshops and readings and to get to know and rest in this cute little town in the Catksills. Hobart is called the Book Village because even though it’s tiny, it’s full of indie bookshops! It’s enough to make any bibliophile swoon.

You can register here.

In the meantime, I’d love to know: What are your favorite stories of women adventurers? Female explorers? Lady bohemians that blazed their own paths?

Want to read more on Hobart?

Want to read more on wild women on the road?

As always, join me on the road! You can find out where I’m appearing next here.

Clip: Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper

5 Mar

41718963_2171406356451113_160624545479960816_n

In 2017, my friend Mark Chalfant, author of Devereux Emmet: American Master, invited me on a road trip up to Catskill, New York, to visit painter Thomas Cole’s home. It was a crisp autumn day, and with so many of the colorful leaves having dropped from the trees, we were able to get an incredible view of the landscape that the Hudson River School painter became famous for depicting.

Strewn around the Thomas Cole National Historic Site were quotes from Cole’s 1841 “Essay on American Scenery.” Take this gem for instance:

May we at times turn from the ordinary pursuits of life to the pure enjoyment of rural nature; which is in the soul like a fountain of cool waters to the way-worn traveler….

Cole’s way with words, his love for the American landscape, and his reference to travel reminded me of that great intrepid traveler Jack Kerouac, whom Paul Maher Jr. and I had written about in the literary biography Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

Visiting the painter’s home had a profound experience on my weary soul. It invigorated me. It inspired me.

I ended up writing about my experience visiting the painter’s home, and last year I had the great honor of my “Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper” being selected for the Landmark exhibit, presented by the Albany International Airport and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. The exhibition, which was on view at the Albany International Airport, from September 29, 2018, to February 25, 2019, explored our relationship with nature and our ever-changing American landscape.

Here’s what the official press release had to say:

Landmark, at the Albany International Airport Gallery, features 10contemporary visual artists and seven writers whose works explore our relationship to the natural world, and share common ground with Thomas Cole’s greatest written work, Essay on American Scenery, 1836, which is among the most influential proto-environmentalist essays in America.

On view at the Albany International Airport Gallery September 29, 2018 –February 25, 2019.Opening reception: Friday, October 5, 2018, 5:30-7:30 pm.

Albany, NY (September 17, 2018)–The Albany International Airport Gallery will host the upcoming exhibition Landmark from September 29, 2018 to February 25, 2019. Developed through a partnership between the Airport’s Art & Culture Program and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY, Landmark considers the legacy of Thomas Cole’s paintings and advocacy for environmental stewardship as they echo the concerns of artists and writers today. A public reception to celebrate the launch of Landmark will be held on Friday, October 5, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Albany International Airport Gallery.

Thomas Cole(1801-1848) is recognized as the founder of America’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School of landscape painting, and a proto-environmentalist who advocated for the appreciation and preservation of America’s landscapes. Kathy Greenwood, Director of the Airport’s Art & Culture Program, and Kate Menconeri, Curator at the Thomas Cole Site, invited 10 contemporary visual artists to participate in this exhibition, whose work has compelling connections to Cole’s, and engages the persisting resonance of the same issues and ideas from a 21st-century vantage point.

The 10 visual artists are Ellen Driscoll, Valerie Hammond, William Lamson, Portia Munson, Kenneth Ragsdale, Anne Roecklein, Lisa Sanditz, Kiki Smith, Darren Waterston and Susan Wides. The exhibiting artists have international careers and also maintain deep local ties to the Hudson River Valley, as did Cole. Artworks include works on canvas and paper, video, photography, new site-specific installations and sculpture, as well as woven jacquard tapestry.

“This exhibition is the perfect complement to this landmark year, as the Art & Culture Program celebrates its 20thAnniversary, which coincides with the 200thAnniversary of Thomas Cole’s arrival in America,” said Kathy Greenwood, Program Director and Landmark co-curator. “At its core, this Program seeks to showcase the outstanding cultural institutions and artists that populate this region, and it’s exciting and satisfying when we can accomplish that within a single exhibition.”

“We’re excited at the Thomas Cole Site to have this opportunity to work with the Albany Airport to create such an extensive project,” said Kate Menconeri, curator at the Thomas Cole Site and Landmark co-curator. “Thomas Cole was an advocate for living in harmony with the natural world and thoughtful development. What he saw happening to the landscape in the 19thcentury –new train tracks and industries expanding along the Hudson River –resonates with what artists and writers are responding to now. The project bridges art and ideas past and present but also inevitably is building new connections and conversations about how we might navigate today.”

Thomas Cole expressed his concern and regard for the American landscape through writing as well as painting and addressed the environmental impact of industrialization in his Essay on American Scenery, published in 1836. In the spring of 2018, the Thomas Cole Site launched its first call for writing and invited writers to respond to Cole’s Essay with their own writing and asked them to consider not only how the American landscape has changed but what should be preserved. The occasion sparked conversations between Greenwood and Menconeri that gave rise to the Landmark exhibition.

Among the contemporary visual artwork presented will be a selection of Ellen Driscoll’s large-scale works on paper from her recent Thicket series; Valerie Hammond will develop an iteration of her lyrical Forest installation; an immersive projection of William Lamson’s Infinity Camera will allow visitors a journey along New York waterways that defies a single viewpoint. Portia Munson’s Future Fossils will consist of an encased arrangement of common green plastic objects that both reflect and reject notions about ecology, resource consumption, and the persistence of plastics in the environment. Kenneth Ragsdale has produced a new site-specific installation for Landmark, titled Course of Empire. This work shares its title with Thomas Cole’s iconic 1836 painting series and expresses metaphorical cautionary concerns about the inevitable collision of expansion and consumption. Anne Roecklein’s panoramic vintage travel postcard collages are spliced-together landscapes both real and imagined; Lisa Sanditz’s vibrantly-hued paintings describe places in America that are both revered for their beauty and imperiled by human reach. In Kiki Smith’s 10-foot-high tapestry Harbor—jacquard-woven by Magnolia Editions—birds circle a rocky island amid star-studded sky and sea. A selection of Darren Waterston’s Ecstatic Landscape paintings reveals places habitable more by the spiritual than the corporeal form, and in Susan Wides’ I Kaaterskill series of photographs, relationships are drawn between Thomas Cole’s paintings of the Hudson Valley and those locations as they appear today.

The Essay contest, which was organized by 2017-2018 Cole Fellow Madeline Conley, received many outstanding responses. They were whittled down by a group of distinguished jurors: J. Jeffrey Anzevino, Land Use Advocacy Director, Scenic Hudson; Kathy Greenwood, Director, Art & Culture Program, Albany International Airport; W. Douglas McCombs, Chief Curator, Albany Institute of History and Art; Kate Menconeri, Curator, Thomas Cole National Historic Site; Nancy Siegel, Professor of Art History, Towson University; and Alan Wallach, Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art and Art History and Professor of American Studies Emeritus, Professorial Lecturer in Art History, George Washington University.

The seven writers whose work was selected for the exhibition are as follows: Sandra Dutton, author of six books for young readers, who resides in Catskill and teaches creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University; William Jaeger, a photographer and writer who lives in the Catskills and teaches photography and art criticism at the University at Albany; Jennifer Kabat, who lives in the western Catskills and teaches at The New School and whose essay “Rain Like Cotton” is in Best American Essays 2018; Herbert Nichols, a resident of Hudson, for whom this is his first published writing; Stephanie Nikolopoulos, a writer, editor, and writing instructor based in New York City; Justin Nobel, a magazine writer on science and the environment, who lives in Germantown and whose writing is in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 and Best American Travel Writing 2016; and Sara Pruiksma, a resident of Albany County with a visual studio practice, who revisits her early passion of writing to further her creative voice. Their writings, alongside Cole’s original words, are a crucial component of the Landmark exhibition.

THE ALBANY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT’S ART & CULTURE PROGRAM: Since 1998, the Albany International Airport’s Art & Culture Program has sought to showcase the cultural vitality of New York’s Capital Region through exhibitions and installations throughout the Airport’s terminal. Such presentations enhance the experience of airport travelers and foster the advancement of a thriving creative community. The Art & Culture Program has become a cornerstone for demonstrating the breadth and quality of the arts throughout the Region as well as a resource for learning about local culture. Through exhibitions presented in the Albany International Airport Gallery and the Concourse Galleries, the Exhibition Case Program, free public programs and group tours, the Art & Culture Program has extended the reach of area artists and museums to an audience of more than 3 million people each year. Additionally, DEPARTURE, The Shop of Capital Region Museums –the retail arm of the Program –has become an important community service and a unique shopping venue lauded nationally and prized locally.

THE THOMAS COLE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE is an international destination presenting the original home and studios of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, the nation’s first major art movement. Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House; Cole’s 1839 Old Studio; the recently reconstructed New Studio building; and panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains. It is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. The Thomas Cole Site’s activities include guided tours, special exhibitions of both 19th-century and contemporary art, printed publications, extensive online programs, activities for school groups, free community events, lectures, and innovative public programs such as the Hudson River School Art Trail—a map and website that enable visitors to visit the places that Cole painted. The goal of all programs at the Thomas Cole Site is to enable visitors to find meaning and inspiration in Thomas Cole’s life and work. The themes that Cole explored in his art and writings—such as landscape preservation and our conception of nature as a restorative power—are both historic and timely, providing the opportunity to connect to audiences with insights that are highly relevant to their own lives.

I am so thankful for The Albany International Airport and The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, as well as my friend Mark Chalfant and his friend who did the driving, for making this experience possible.

Also, thanks to all the media outlets that covered the exhibition, including:

(By the way, you can find out where else I’ve appeared in the media here.)

You can read my “Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper” here.

Discover my other publications here.

 

“Tomorrow Jams More” Nuyorican Recap

3 Apr

FlashbackPuppy1

When RA Araya puts on an event, you want to be there. He’s the glue. He’s the person pulling creative types from various artistic backgrounds and bringing them together for events that are so full of joyous community spirit and memorable work. The result is that he creates once-in-a-lifetime events — no two are the same! — that leave you energized and inspired. You’ll also probably leave with a new friend or two.

I call RA my Allen Ginsberg. Like the Beat poet, RA is a poet who works tirelessly on behalf of other poets and writers. He gave me my first ever reading for Burning Furiously Beautifuland I owe much of the opportunities I’ve had to read in New York City to him.

RAAraya

This past Saturday, RA organized fbp’s “Tomorrow Jams More” plus open mic and Katie Henry Band at the world-famous Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

flash-back-puppy (fbp) and the Katie Henry Band rocked the room. It was a total jam session. The two bands merged and morphed and picked up new musicians along the way and exchanged instruments at various points:::

Chris Barrera was on vocals and guitar; RA Araya on harmonica; Ciro Visconti II on lead guitar; Jonathan Toscano bass; Misia Vessio on drums and vocals; Rick Villa on timbales, congas, and bongos; Jonathan Fritz on guitar; Katie Henry on piano, guitar, and vocals; Antar Goodwin on bass; Adrian Norpel on guitar; Pablo O’Connell of the DSA on oboe. They created something beautiful separately and together.

 

FlashbackPuppyCloseUpJPG

PabloOConnell

As the band jammed, readers took to the mic.

I was the first reader up! RA had specially requested that I read Homer in his original Ancient Greek (well, technically, Homeric Greek), so I read the opening of The Odyssey. Moving from the ancient Greek bard to another intrepid traveling poet, I then read from the Kerouac biography I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr. I closed my set with the debut of a poem I recently wrote having to do with the Syrian refugee crisis.

StephanieNikolopoulos

photo of me by Sue J. Chang

Ronnie Norpel read a riveting section from her novel Baseball Karma & the Constitution Blues! I don’t want to spoil it but buy her book! Later, she came back and did some comedy. Ronnie is also the host of one of my favorite reading series: Tract 187 Culture Clatch. Held at The West End, the reading series often has a theme. I read a while back at the We’re All Kerouacky reading she organized. This month it’s baseball. Ronnie is amazing. She is a genuine soul who makes you feel instantly connected and included. My hope is that she writes a memoir next!

RonnieNorpel

Lama John Heaviside performed poetry. This was the first time I’d heard his poetry, and now I’m eager to hear more! His poetry had grit and power. He knew how to work the audience.

LamaJohnHeaviside

Beatrice Pelliccia performed in Italian and English. Half the time I didn’t know what she was saying (the Italian half, of course!), and yet I was still so absorbed in her performance. She brings a real passion to her work.

BeatricePellicia

There were also several poets not on the program who ventured to the open mic. I loved, loved, loved listening to them read.

AdrianNorpel

Adrian Norpel

AntarGoodwin

Antar Goodwin

OpenMicReader

OpenMicReader2JPG

OpenMicReader3

The Katie Henry Band was phenomenal. Katie Henry’s vocals are powerful, taking you on a journey as you listen. You can listen to her here. Hailing from Vernon, New Jersey, Katie “discovered” Eric Clapton when she was six years old. Today, she is a regular on the tour circuit on the East Coast.

KatieHenry

Thanks to all who read, performed, cheered, and chatted!

 

5 Quotes about Jack Kerouac’s Influence on Bob Dylan

19 Oct

portablebeatreaderbobdylan

So you may have heard that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize.

For Literature.

At first, no one could get ahold of him. Then, when they did, he rejected it. The initial news, though, set the literary community ablaze. He’s a singer. A songwriter. Are lyricists worthy of literary awards?

Some said no. In The New York Times article “Why Bob Dylan Shouldn’t Have Gotten a Nobel,” Anna North wrote:

Yes, Mr. Dylan is a brilliant lyricist. Yes, he has written a book of prose poetry and an autobiography. Yes, it is possible to analyze his lyrics as poetry. But Mr. Dylan’s writing is inseparable from his music. He is great because he is a great musician, and when the Nobel committee gives the literature prize to a musician, it misses the opportunity to honor a writer.

 

Bob Dylan, Nobel laureate? It’s not so strange, really” was the headline from the editorial staff of the Los Angeles Times, which went on to say:

The permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awarded Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday, compared him to Homer and Sappho, and it’s a fact that great literature has its roots in lyrics that were set to music and transmitted from town to town and from generation to generation by a succession of minstrels, troubadours, cantors and choirs. And then records, radio and streaming services.

For me, it wasn’t all that shocking for Bob Dylan of all songwriters to have won a literary prize. Growing up, I knew very little of Bob Dylan. I knew that he was from Minnesota, like Prince, and like my mother. I knew he was a folk singer with a unique voice who’d famously brewed a storm when he went electric. And, I knew him as someone featured in the very first Beat book I ever bought — Ann Charter’s The Portable Beat Reader.

The Portable Beat Reader had included four pieces of Dylan’s in its pages:

  1. “Blowin’ in the Wind”
  2. “The Times They Are A-Changin'”
  3. “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”
  4. Tarantula (excerpt)

Ray Bremser, Jack Micheline, Peter Orlovsky, and Anne Waldman only got one a-piece. If Ann Charters and the editors at Penguin were any indication, Bob Dylan was as much a poet as other recognized poets.

 

The poets and writers of the Beat Generation encouraged Bob Dylan tremendously. The documentary Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder touches on this poignantly. Much has already been written extensively about Dylan’s literary influences, so here are just five quotes connecting Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac:

  1. “’I read On the Road in maybe 1959. It changed my life like it changed everyone else’s,’” said Bob Dylan via BobDylan.com
  2. “But it captures what Dylan cherishes in Jack Kerouac, who understood freedom in much the same way….” — Cass R. Sunstein wrote about Dylan’s “Desolation Row” in “Dylan soars past Whitman as the great American poet” in the Chicago Tribune 
  3. “’Someone handed me Mexico City Blues in St. Paul in 1959,’ Dylan told him. ‘It blew my mind.’ It was the first poetry he’d read that spoke his own American language, Dylan said—or so Ginsberg said he said.” — Sean Wilentz wrote in “Bob Dylan, the Beat Generation, and Allen Ginsberg’s America” in The New Yorker 
  4. “Dave Van Ronk, in discussing both Dylan’s literary filiations and his well-known intolerance of the sixties rock revolution, noted that ‘Bobby is very much a product of the beat generation.… You are not going to see any more like him.’ Dylan likened his songs of this period to the cut-ups of William Burroughs, and there are notable similarities between these songs and the writings of Jack Kerouac, especially the Neal Cassady-inspired Visions of Cody and On the Road—not only in their phrasings but also in Dylan’s whole persona, which seemed almost to be modeled on Dean Moriarty, the ‘holy goof,’ the ‘burning shuddering frightful angel.’” — wrote Mark Polizzotti in “On Bob Dylan’s Literary Influences” via LitHub
  5. “In the East, some wended their way up to Lowell, becoming pilgrims at his grave, often leaving notes, mementos, or an empty wine bottle or half-pint of whiskey in salute. Then, in 1975, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, in Lowell on Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour, made a trip to Kerouac’s grave, famously recorded in the film Renaldo and Clara. While Ginsberg rambles on about the famous graves he’s visited, Dylan is noticeably quiet as he ponders Kerouac’s brief dates and the ‘He honored life’ coda etched in the granite. ‘Is this what’s going to happen to you?’ asked Ginsberg, indicating Jack’s slab. ‘No,’ said Dylan, then just thirty-four. ‘I wanna be in an unmarked grave.’” — from John Suiter’s “Kerouac’s Lowell: A Life on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

You can watch the video of Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at Kerouac’s grave here.

For the connection between Homer and Jack Kerouac, go here.

 

Image

Everybody Goes Home in October

1 Oct

everybodygoeshome

Schedule for Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2016

15 Sep

The annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac is just around the corner. This year the event will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac’s Satori in Paris.

Here is the full schedule:

Thursday, October 6

6:00 pm: Traditional Kerouac Pubs Tour. From the Old Worthen, 141 Worthen St. to Ricardo’s to Ward Eight to Cappy’s Copper Kettle. Led by Bill Walsh.

8:00 pm: Traditional LCK Kick-off: Music and Readings. Cappy’s Copper Kettle, 245 Central St. Performances by Alan Crane, George Koumantzelis, Colleen Nichols, and local readers. Joined by special guest David Amram. Always a kick! Hosted by John McDermott.

Friday, October 7

9:30 am: The Annual Jack Kerouac Poetry and Prose Competition. Held at Jack Kerouac’s alma mater. Lowell High School. Students will read their poetry and prose entries. David Amram will share his memories of collaborating with Jack Kerouac. Lowell High School Theater. LHS is located at 50 Father Morissette Boulevard. [Note: This is a Lowell High School event, and not open to the public at large.]

2:30 pm: Talking Jack. Readings and conversation. Using the Satori in Paris Anniversary motif, we’ll start off with the topic of “Jack and His Ancestral Roots” and see where it leads. Bring your favorite passage that speaks to Jack’s ongoing quest to answer the “Who am I?” question—it’s one we all have to confront at some point in our lives.
Hyper-Text Cafe. 107 Merrimack St.

4:00 pm: Festival Wine Opening Reception: “Be in Love with Your Life—every minute of it.” An exhibit by artist Barbara Gagel that explores the deep emotional impact of words from Jack Kerouac’s literary language.

Ayer Lofts. 172 Middle Street.

8:00 pm: Jack Kerouac Tribute Concert to Benefit the Proposed New Jack Kerouac Cultural Center. As of this posting plans are still in the works for a special concert to promote a proposed Jack Kerouac Cultural Center in Lowell, which the concert proceeds will go to support.
This event is being sponsored by Lowell’s Coalition for a Better Acre. The CBA will rebrand the building, currently known as the Smith Baker Center, as a performance hall and community center honoring Jack Kerouac with concerts, film festivals, speakers, plays, public debates and theater productions.
Check the LCK website for further details as they become available for ticket purchases.

Saturday, October 8

9:30 am: Commemorative at the Commemorative. “Honoring Jack’s Search for his Roots.” In keeping with the Satori in Paris anniversary observance, we’ll offer some readings from his writings that point to the importance for Jack of finding his identity and ancestral roots. Led by Steve Edington and Roger Brunelle.
French and Bridge Streets.

10:15 a.m. Bus Tour: The Jack Kerouac Tour of Lowell. This tour takes participants to as many Kerouac places that can be covered in a long itinerary, and within a limited time. Included are visits, with interpretative readings, to the author’s birthplace, the schools he attended, the churches and shrines at which he prayed, and his grave. Led by Roger Brunelle.
Leaves from the Commemorative. $10.00 donation requested. Reservations at 978-970-5000.

10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Marathon Reading of “Satori in Paris.” This is being coordinated by Sean Thibodeau, Coordinator of Community Planning for the Pollard Library. Sign up to read a passage by contacting Sean at sthibodeau@LowellLibrary.org, or just show up ready to read.

2:00 pm: Annual Parker/LCK Lecture. “Jack Kerouac: Speed Demon.” Presenter this year is Jay Atkinson. By any standard Kerouac was a remarkable athlete. He was a champion sprinter, a speedy baseball outfielder, and a gridiron phenom. In this talk, Jay sheds some light on Kerouac’s athletic prowess and its influence on his work.
A former two sport college athlete, Atkinson is the author of two novels, a story collection, and five narrative non-fiction books. He teaches writing at Boston University.
Lowell National Historical Park Visitors Center. 246 Market St.

3:30 pm: Kerouac’s Library Haunts and Hooky Tour. The tour includes a visit to the Library’s recently dedicated “Kerouac Corner,” so named to honor the time Jack spent here during high school days—sometimes playing hooky in order to expand his own literary horizons. Led by Bill Walsh.
Pollard Library. 401 Merrimack Street.

4:00 pm: Open Mike at the Old Worthen. Lead off with Brian Hassett, author of “The Hitchhikers Guide to Jack Kerouac.” Bring your favorite Kerouac passage to share, or a Kerouac inspired passage of you own. Emceed by Cliff Whalen. 141 Worthen Street.

6:00 pm: Opening Reception: “Satori in Paris/Le Jazz Hot.” Artists creations based on Kerouac’s novel Satori in Paris and Le Jazz Hot, Jack’s favorite music. Coordinated by Judith Bessette. Music provided by David Amam.
The UnchARTed Gallery. 103 Market Street.

8:00 pm: Buddha and the Blues with Rev. Freakchild and Willie Loco Alexander. An exploration of transcendence through music, musical styles, musical traditions, and musical improvisation with emphasis on the crossroads between the American Blues tradition and the Bodhisvatta Path in one of Lowell’s Acre neighborhood’s Greek establishments.
Olympia’s Zorba Music Hall. 439 Market Street. A $10.00 donation at the door requested.

Sunday, October 9

10:00 am: Mystic Jack: Visions of Jack and Gerard. Walking tour begins at the Saint-Louis-de-France Church and moves along Beaulieu St. to the convent and the school, featuring a look inside Jack’s parish school and ends inside his childhood church. Tours is based on “Visions of Gerard,” the mystical story of Jack’s brother who died at nine years. He is portrayed by Jack as the universal symbol of brotherhood and kindness, with emphasis on Gerard’s tenderness and dreams in his Catechism class and Friday afternoon Confession. Led by Roger Brunelle. $10.00 donation requested.
St. Louis de France Church. 241 West 6th Street.

1:30—4:00 pm: Annual Amram Jam! Our annual event featuring David Amram performing with a cast of many readers, poets, and musicians. You can feel the spirit of Kerouac moving here. Special guest readers Jason Eisenberg and Don Ouelette. Hosted by Peter Eliopoulos.
Upstairs at the Old Worthen. 141 Worthen Street.

6:00 pm: “Ghosts of the Pawtucketville Night” Tour. An evening walk through the streets of the Pawtucketville neighborhood where Jack spent his adolescent years, as he describes them in Doctor Sax and Maggie Cassidy. Readings from his talk-writings at the cottages and tenements where Jack lived when he attended the Bartlett Junior High School and Lowell High. Tour ends at the Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc Church where Jack saw a vision of the BEATific Generation.
Begin at Cumnock Hall. University of Massachusetts at Lowell, North Campus. 1 University Avenue. Led by Roger Brunelle. $10.00 donation requested.

Monday, October 10

10:00 a.m. Kerouac’s Nashua Connection Tour—By Passenger Van. A tour of the Kerouac sites of Nashua, New Hampshire. Leave from the LNHP Visitors Center at 246 Market Street. Led by Steve Edington. (Will connect with the Loop Walk in progress—see item below—for those who wish to join it upon returning to Lowell.) A $10.00 donation requested. Reservations at 978-970-5000.

10:00 a.m. LCK Loop Walk from the Kerouac Commemorative. Walk goes from Bridge Street to the St. Louis Church in Centralville, past Kerouac homes and landmarks in Centralville and Pawtucketville, finishing at the Old Worthen Tavern. Led by Bill Walsh.

For more information, visit Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.

 

 

The Literary Career of Joyce Johnson

14 Sep

Joyce Johnson is an award-winning author who also has an important role in the Beat Generation.

After Jack Kerouac’s death, she helped get Visions of Cody published. In a 2012 interview with Michael del Castillo at Literary Manhattan, she explained:

In 1972, when I was an associate editor at McGraw Hill, I was able to realize my dream of publishing the entire novel.  I edited it in the way Jack would have liked me to—in other words, hardly at all, mostly conforming the names of the characters and correcting typos.

In 1983 Joyce Johnson won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Minor Characters (described below). In 1987 she won the O. Henry Award for “The Children’s Wing,” published in Harper’s Magazine in July 1986.

Here are 8 books by Joyce Johnson:

 

 

comeandjointhedance2

Come and Join the Dance (1962):

The daring debut of the Beat Generation’s first woman novelist It’s 1955. Seven days before her graduation from Barnard College, Susan Levitt asks herself, “What if you lived your entire life without urgency? just before going out to make things happen to her that will shatter the mask of conformity concealing her feelings of alienation. If Susan continues to be “good”, marriage and security await her. But her hunger is rising for the self-discovery that comes from existential freedom. After breaking up with the Columbia boy she knows she could marry, Susan seeks out those she considers “outlaws” the brave and fragile Kay, who has moved into a rundown hotel, in order to “see more than fifty percent when I walk down the street” the vulnerable adolescent rebel Anthony; and Peter, the restless hipster graduate student who has become the object of Kay’s unrequited devotion. This fascinating novel-which the author began writing a year before her encounter with Jack Kerouac-is a young woman’s complex response to the liberating messages of the Beat Generation. In a subversive feminist move, Johnson gives her heroine all the freedom the male Beat writers reserved for men to travel her own road”

— image and synopsis via Amazon

badconnections

Bad Connections (1978):

The award-winning author of Minor Characters writes with delicious transparency about a love that cannot be harnessed and a woman who refuses to be deceived In the great wave of husband-leaving ushered in by the Sexual Revolution, Molly Held frees herself from her cold, flagrantly unfaithful husband after their final quarrel turns violent. With her five-year-old son, she lights out for an Upper West Side apartment and the new life she hopes to find with Conrad Schwartzberg-the charismatic radical lawyer who has recently become her lover. Having escaped from a desert, she lands in a swamp. While Conrad radiates positive energy, he is unable to tell Molly-or anyone who loves him-the truth. No longer the wronged wife, Molly now finds herself the Other Woman. She is sharing Conrad with Roberta, another refugee from marriage-with Conrad’s movements between the two of them disguised by his suspiciously frequent out-of-town engagements. Roberta either knows nothing or prefers to look the other way, but Molly’s maddening capacity for double vision takes over her mind. What saves her from herself is her well-developed sense of irony, which never fails her-or the reader.

— image and synopsis via Amazon

minorcharacters

Minor Characters (1987):

Jack Kerouac. Allen Ginsberg. William S. Burroughs. LeRoi Jones. Theirs are the names primarily associated with the Beat Generation. But what about Joyce Johnson (nee Glassman), Edie Parker, Elise Cowen, Diane Di Prima, and dozens of others? These female friends and lovers of the famous iconoclasts are now beginning to be recognized for their own roles in forging the Beat movement and for their daring attempts to live as freely as did the men in their circle a decade before Women’s Liberation.Twenty-one-year-old Joyce Johnson, an aspiring novelist and a secretary at a New York literary agency, fell in love with Jack Kerouac on a blind date arranged by Allen Ginsberg nine months before the publication of On the Road made Kerouac an instant celebrity. While Kerouac traveled to Tangiers, San Francisco, and Mexico City, Johnson roamed the streets of the East Village, where she found herself in the midst of the cultural revolution the Beats had created. Minor Characters portrays the turbulent years of her relationship with Kerouac with extraordinary wit and love and a cool, critical eye, introducing the reader to a lesser known but purely original American voice: her own.

— image and synopsis via Amazon

inthenightcafe

In the Night Cafe (1989):

From the award-winning author of Minor Characters comes a haunting story about the persistence of love and the sustaining and destabilizing power of memories. In the vibrant downtown Manhattan art world of the 1960s, where men and women collide in “lucky and unlucky convergences,” a series of love affairs has left Joanna Gold, a young photographer, feeling numbed. Then, at yet another party, a painter named Tom Murphy walks up to her. “Why do you hang back?” he asks. Rather than another brief collision, their relationship is the profound and ecstatic love each had longed to find. But it’s undermined by Tom’s harrowing past – his fatherless childhood, his wartime experiences, and most of all, the loss of the two children he left behind in Florida, along with the powerful red, white, and black paintings he will never set eyes on again. Tom, both tender and volatile, draws Joanna into the unwinnable struggle against the forces that drive him toward death.

Once again, Joyce Johnson brings to life a mythic bohemian world where art is everything and life is as full of intensity and risk as the bold sweep of a painter’s brush across a canvas.

— image and synopsis via Amazon

whatlisaknew

What Lisa Knew: The Truths and Lies of the Steinberg Case (1991):

“She was found in darkness – the bruised, comatose first-grader who would never wake up to tell anyone which of the two adults in the small, filthy Greenwich Village apartment had beaten her.” On January 30 1989, Joel Steinberg was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter after a twelve-week, nationally televised trial in which his former lover, Hedda Nussbaum, was the star prosecution witness. In this book, Joyce Johnson examines the mysteries still surrounding Lisa Steinberg’s death and also addresses the painful question of how she lived, in an account of what is known about her last days and hours, when no one acted to save her.

— image and synopsis via Amazon

doorswideopen

Doors Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 1957-1958 (2001):

On a blind date in Greenwich Village set up by Allen Ginsberg, Joyce Johnson (then Joyce Glassman) met Jack Kerouac in January 1957, nine months before he became famous overnight with the publication of On the Road. She was an adventurous, independent-minded twenty-one-year-old; Kerouac was already running on empty at thirty-five. This unique book, containing the many letters the two of them wrote to each other, reveals a surprisingly tender side of Kerouac. It also shares the vivid and unusual perspective of what it meant to be young, Beat, and a woman in the Cold War fifties. Reflecting on those tumultuous years, Johnson seamlessly interweaves letters and commentary, bringing to life her love affair with one of American letters’ most fascinating and enigmatic figures.

— image and synopsis via Amazon

missingmen

Missing Men: A Memoir (2005): 

Joyce Johnson’s classic memoir of growing up female in the 1950s, Minor Characters, was one of the initiators of an important new genre: the personal story of a minor player on history’s stage. In Missing Men, a memoir that tells her mother’s story as well as her own, Johnson constructs an equally unique self-portrait as she examines, from a woman’s perspective, the far-reaching reverberations of fatherlessness. Telling a story that has “shaped itself around absences,” Missing Men presents us with the arc and flavor of a unique New York life—from the author’s adventures as a Broadway stage child to her fateful encounters with the two fatherless artists she marries. Joyce Johnson’s voice has never been more compelling.

— image and synopsis via Amazon

voiceisall

The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac (2013):

Joyce Johnson brilliantly peels away layers of the Kerouac legend in this compelling new book. Tracking Kerouac’s development from his boyhood in Lowell, Massachusetts, through his fateful encounters with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and John Clellon Holmes to his periods of solitude and the phenomenal breakthroughs of 1951 that resulted in his composition of On the Road followed by Visions of Cody, Johnson shows how his French Canadian background drove him to forge a voice that could contain his dualities and informed his unique outsider’s vision of America. This revelatory portrait deepens our understanding of a man whose life and work hold an enduring place in both popular culture and literary history.

— image and synopsis via Amazon

 

 

The First Critique Kerouac Read of “On the Road” on This Day in 1957

5 Sep

OnTheRoad

After years on the road, multiple drafts, and arguments over edits, Jack Kerouac at last saw the publication of the book that would put him on the map — On the Road — on this day, September 5, in 1957. He and his girlfriend, Joyce Johnson, who would become an author in her own right, excitedly went to see how the Beat Generation novel was received by the media:

Together they picked up a copy of the midnight edition of the September 5 The New York Times and headed over to Donnelly’s Bar to read the review that would shift his fortune.

The reviewer, Charles Poore, enamored with Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Bernard Malamud, had passed on reviewing On the Road because of illness. Had he been the reviewer, the fate of the novel might have changed. Such was Poore’s clout that many publishers determined their publication dates based on who would write the book review that day. Poore’s day was Thursday, but this Thursday, the Bronx-born Gilbert Millstein, who had been working for the Sunday department since 1949, had filled in and appraised On the Road as a cultural milestone:

“On the Road” is the second novel by Jack Kerouac, and its publication is a historic occasion in so far as the exposure of an authentic work of art is of any great moment in an age in which the attention is fragmented and the sensibilities are blunted by the superlatives of fashion (multiplied by a millionfold by the speed and pound of communications).

The critic predicted that though the vast majority of book reviewers would misunderstand the intentions of its author and that the work would be misconstrued as superficial, the writing itself was the “most beautifully executed, the clearest, and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat,’ and whose principal avatar he is.”

Continue reading the story of how Kerouac’s On the Road came to be published and how it has been perceived throughout history in the book I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu. Join our community of beatific readers on Facebook and Goodreads for more exclusive snippets, news, and readings.

A few more celebratory links:::

  • Is On the Road a classic? asks Salon.
  • Read about On the Road‘s ever-evolving cover design here.
  • Earlier this summer I sent to see the infamous “Joan Anderson letter” that inspired Kerouac’s writing style, which I blogged about here.
  • I explained what exactly those roman candles that Kerouac waxes poetic about are here.
  • I explore the character of Rollo Greb here.
  • Tim Z. Hernandez talked with me about Kerouac’s Mexican Girl.
  • I wonder about On the Road‘s dilemma here.
  • Lastly, here are 20 reasons to read On the Road.

September 7, 2016 — Correction: Jack Kerouac’s girlfriend, mentioned above, was Joyce Johnson. She is the author of Minor Characters, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award. Her most recent book is The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac.

I’ll Be on the Radio Today!

29 Aug

WIOX

The lovely Simona David interviewed me for WIOX Community Radio to discuss the writing workshop — Literary Relationships: Writing In, Into, and To Community — I’ll be leading at the Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers. Tune in this Monday at 1pm to hear about why I love Hobart Book Village, why you need literary friendships like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac‘s, and how to deal with jealousy in the industry.

The Hobart Festival of Women Writers takes place September 9th through September 11 in the Catskills. Here’s a description of the writing workshop I’ll be leading:

Surveying famous literary friendships throughout history—Dickinson and Higginson; Lewis and Tolkien; Hurston and Rawlings; Kerouac and Ginsberg …. we’ll discuss the value of friendship among writers from both a personal and professional perspective as well as how writers today can achieve this type of community through such avenues as residencies, writing groups, and social media.

We’ll also consider the notion of dialoguing with writers past, present, and future through parody, homage, collaboration, and criticism. In-class writing exercises will explore these ideas and more.

Tune in to WIOX Community Radio today at 1pm to learn more!