Tag Archives: Jonathan Collins

Kalo Mina! October 2013!

1 Oct

 

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“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Kalo mina! Happy October 1st! The first day of fall was September 22, but the weather today feels more like late spring. The sky is a bright, bright blue, the color of parakeet feathers. I walked down to Union Square at lunch today and was tempted to play hookey just so I could sit in the grass and look up at the sky and dream.

September brought routine back to the city, and it was a busy month. A few highlights:

  • Attending Greek American Fashion Week and seeing the latest collections by Tatiana Raftis, Angelo Lambrou, Nikki Poulos, and Stratton, with hair by Christo Curlisto
  • Seeing Jonathan Collins’ Beat Traveller art exhibit in Paterson with Larry Closs
  • Conducting a live interview with Tim Z. Hernandez about his book Manana Means Heaven at the Spanish Harlem bookstore La Casa Azul and getting to meet all the great people who work at the bookstore as well as Tim’s insightful agent
  • Reading one of my personal essays about road trips, homelessness, and God as Jason Harrod softly strummed guitar at his album release party
  • Retreating to Connecticut for the Scripps TriState alumni book club
  • Attending the Brooklyn Book Festival with friends whom I co-lead a monthly writing workshop with and getting to hear Justin Torres read from We the Animals again. He’s brilliant. I’m obsessed
  • Watching Into the Wild. I know I’m late to the game on this one, but at least I had read the book by Jon Krakauer before. The film devastated me. It was beautiful and painful and haunting and true, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days….
  • Brunching with author Isobella Jade
  • Hearing Davy Rothbart read from My Heart Is an Idiot. I once wrote that a story of his made me “wonder if Rothbart might be my generation’s Jack Kerouac.” Yep, he’s that good. I was too shy to talk to Davy, but I met his dad and, despite my efforts to become invisible at the mere mention of audience participation, Brett Loudermilk selected me out of the audience to pull a sword out of him. Yes, you read that right
  • Reading Kristiana Kahakauwila’s story collection This Is Paradise — this is Literature. I am savoring it
  • Discovering H&M Home — whoops! There went all my money!
  • Finally getting Internet set up at my new place
  • Talked to my sister for the first time since she moved out of New York City
  • Imbibing my first pumpkin spice latte of the fall
  • Attending A Global Conversation: Why the UN Must Focus on Women’s Leadership
  • Oh and launching the e-book edition of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with Paul Maher Jr!!!

So yeah, that was my September. What about you? Did you read any good books? See any movies that moved you?

Adventuring with Author Larry Closs to See Jonathan Collins’ Beat-inspired Paintings

17 Sep

JonThat’s Larry Closs on the left, Jonathan Collins in the middle, and me on the right.

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Larry Closs and I took a mini road trip to attend the opening of Jonathan Collins‘ Beat-inspired paintings at the Paterson Museum (2 Market Street, Paterson, NJ). It turned out to be quite the adventure. You may remember Larry as the author of Beatitude, a book I stayed in on a Saturday night to read because I was so captivated by the story I couldn’t put it down. Larry also happens to be a great conversationalist with fascinating stories about the writers’ life, bumping into Beat authors, and his own world travels. I got so caught up in our conversation on the way over to Jonathan’s show that I didn’t pay enough attention to the train directions, and, well, if you want to know what happened, check out Larry’s blog.

The first time I ever saw Jonathan’s paintings, when he’d brought his portfolio down to Cornelia Street Cafe when I was reading with David Amram, they were so realistic I thought they were photographs. Seeing them in person for the first time I was even more impressed by their beauty. From Kerouac’s Moody Street Bridge to neon-lit bars, Jonathan’s watercolors evoke nostalgia. Larry put it this way on his blog:

The paintings illuminate—and celebrate—the sometimes hidden beauty and “mystical qualities” often overlooked in the ordinary, the everyday and even the dreary.

The show runs at the Paterson Museum through October 6.

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Jonathan Collins’ Beat-Inspired Paintings on View at the Paterson Museum

2 Sep

visions-of-lowell

Remember a while back when I did an interview with painter Jonathan Collins, who created stunning works of art featuring Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts? Well, starting this weekend, he has an exhibit up at the Paterson Museum!

Here’s the press release:::

The Paterson Museum is pleased to present “Beat Traveller: New Landscapes By Jonathan Collins.” This collection of works will be his first solo show at the Museum. The opening reception of Beat Traveller will be held the museum on Sept. 7 from 7 to 10 p.m. The exhibition will be on view through Oct. 6.

The works of Beat Generation novelist Jack Kerouac and poet and Paterson native, Allen Ginsberg, inspired the paintings. Collins journeyed to San Francisco, California, Lowell Massachusetts, and Paterson, New Jersey and returned depicting striking landscapes, glowing in bold sunlight, hazy sunsets, and moody night scenes.

According to Collins, “Both Ginsberg and Kerouac spawned from supposedly dreary mill towns, but I found each place to have areas of great natural beauty, vast historical interest, and even mystical qualities. Also, my father was from New England, my mother from Paterson, and they met at the foot of the Great Falls in 1951. Consequently these areas have great familial and artistic significance for me.”

Collins’ paintings are highly detailed watercolors that have won him numerous grants and scholarships, enabling extensive travel throughout the United States and Europe.

The Paterson Museum is located at 2 Market St. in the former erecting shop of the Rogers Locomotive Works in the heart of the Paterson Great Falls National Park. The Museum’s visiting hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. For more information contact the Museum at (973) 321.1260 or thepatersonmuseum@gmail.com.

Check it out!

Happy 91st Birthday, Jack Kerouac!

12 Mar

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Today would’ve been Jack Kerouac’s birthday. It’s too bad he’s not around this year–he passed away in 1969 at forty-seven years old–to see the films Big Sur, Kill Your Darlings, and On the Road.

If you’re interested in discovering his birth home, you can check out my Kerouac birthday post from last year, which has photos and history.

You may also be interested in seeing artist Jonathan Collins’ painting of Kerouac’s birth home.

Gift Guide for the Beat Reader

14 Dec

The writers associated with the Beat Generation were anti-Consumerism, and I have a hard time believing they’d want anyone to buy beatnik merch. They would want you to buy and read their literature instead. However, if you have friends who love Beat literature, you may be hesitant to buy them On the Road because chances are they probably already have dog-eared paperbacks of both the standard novel and the scroll version. Here are a couple of alternative Beat-inspired gifts.

Amram

Musician and author David Amram did jazz-poetry performances with Kerouac and other poets. He also wrote the scores to films such as Splendor in the Grass and The Manchurian Candidate and has jammed with a wide variety of musicians. David Amram: The First 80 Years chronicles his genius talent. (You can watch a video of me reading with Amram here.)

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Another gift-worthy film is Ginsberg’s Karma, a “documentary about the legendary poet Allen Ginsberg and his mythical journey to India in the early 1960s that transformed his perspective on life and his work.” The film was edited, produced, and directed by Ram Devineni, and features poet Bob Holman. I saw this film at the PEN World Voice Literary Film Feast a few years ago and was inspired to get involved in some of their subsequent projects.

billykoumantzelis

Billy Koumantzelis was a friend of Kerouac’s back in their hometown of Lowell and served as a pallbearer at his funeral. I picked up this CD when I was at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in 2011. It’s full of stories about Kerouac hanging out at bars, getting into fights, and appearing on The William Buckley Show and makes a great gift for someone who wants to hear stories from someone who knew Kerouac. (I got to meet Koumantzelis last week, and he is a true gentleman. I’ll be sharing stories from that soon.)

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Allen Ginsberg had a portrait of poet Walt Whitman hanging in his apartment. This framed portrait of Gregory Corso is a great tribute to a poet who loved the Classics.

YouCantGoHomeAgain

Jack Kerouac was inspired by author Thomas Wolfe. Bundle up Look Homeward, Angel and You Can‘t Go Home Again for the Kerouac fan.

the-visitation

Kerouac wrote about the Grotto in Lowell, which is a beautiful and peaceful space to visit. Artist Jonathan Collins, whom I met at one of my readings, did a series based on the Grotto, which would make a lovely gift.

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Another person I met at a reading was Larry Closs, author of the book Beatitude.
 I stayed up late one night reading this heartbreaking-but-hopeful book of love, friendship, and the power of literature. You can read the synopsis here.

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I haven’t finished my California road trip posts yet (so many posts, so little time!), but it will include my visit to The Beat Museum in San Francisco. I was greeted by none other than proprietor Jerry Cimino himself, whose stellar work in preserving Beat history I’ve been following for many years. He took some time out to chat with me and show me the plethora of rare and first-edition Beat books. Even if your budget isn’t big enough for a first edition, you can still get archival lit mags, which make a really cool gift.

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Another place soon to be featured on my California road trip is City Lights Bookstore. In addition to rare and signed copies of books, you can also get some exclusive works here. At Sea is an “Exquisite handmade letterpress edition of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s new poem” for poet Pablo Neruda.

Of course there are tons of biographies, walking tour books, graphic novels, films, and so forth that would also make great gifts, but if you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path (heh), these might be the gifts you’re looking for.

Jonathan Collins’ Beat Generation Locale Series

8 Oct


9 Lupine Road

When I first saw artist Jonathan Collin’s paintings in person, I thought they were photographs.  They’re stunning.  Incredibly detailed and richly saturated, his Lowell series captures with paint the Massachusetts landscape that Jack Kerouac captured with words.  More than just setting and subject matter, Collins’ use of chiaroscuro resonates with Kerouac’s literature.  There is light piercing the darkness.

When I asked Jonathan if he’d write a little artist statement, he sent me back an email with the below, saying he’d written it spontaneously and with no revision, according to Beat principles.

Visions of Lowell

Jack Kerouac’s Duluoz Legend has always been an important touchstone of literature and revelation of light and beauty to me. In my research of those heady days of the 40s and 50s, I found them not only to be thrilling, but all in the family.

My father, Don Collins, was also in the Navy in WWII , the Merchant Marines, and traveled the world as Kerouac did. My father came back home, worked and painted, Kerouac wrote!

I began this series of paintings of Beat Generation locales in 2010. Traveling to San Francisco first, via the California Zephyr , in 2007, I was astounded by the natural richness and depth of the American landscape. I strolled the streets of North Beach, with its glistening neons and vibrating nightlife. I recorded everything in my journal, sketchbook, and camera. Everything that rose the hairs on my neck in artistic excitement!

I had been to Lowell many times, from the mid 1990s on, but my trip in July 2011 was intended to document the birth and mystery of the seeds planted in Kerouac’s psyche. From the Lupine Road house, to downtown cobbled streets, to the glowing Grotto, I stood transfixed.

Paterson was where my mother was born, and my parents met at the bridge surrounding the Great Falls. Allen Ginsberg was raised in Paterson and grew up  a mere four blocks from these sites. I found Ginsberg’s poem, “The Green Automobile” to be an exquisite inspiration, tying the mythical past to present;”From Lowell’s Merrimack to Paterson’s Passaic.”

My main focus was not only the historical context both personal and literary , but illumination, literally.  Light is the essence of my paintings and a key ingredient in the tempest of Beat literature. From Rimbaud’s “Illuminations,” to Kerouac’s “Visions” series, Gregory Corso’s visionary odes, to Ginsberg’s “Howl,” his plea for understanding.

The need to shed light, to reveal hidden truths beyond words, to make sense of the beauty and sanctity of life, feeling the mystery in the shadows, was and IS, the artists’ true quest.

Just as the Paterson Falls continue to boom and crash, and the neons of Frisco glow endurably, and the spirit of Lowell pulses in the night, so will the work of the Beats continue to inspire, and illuminate generation after generation.

It is my hope that these paintings will enrich the hearts and minds of others, with a glimpse of the light surrounding us, and pray we honor and express the light within us all.

The Moon Her Majesty

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The Visitation

[The three paintings above are of the Grotto in Lowell and should be viewed from left to right in the order in which they appear.]

Recap — with Photos! — of David Amram Reading

10 Sep

 

When musician David Amram introduced me before I read with him at Cornelia Street Cafe on September 3, 2012, he very generously said people should pay attention because one day they’d see me on television.  To me, though, reading with David Amram was a much bigger deal than being on television.  There are countless television shows, but there is only one David Amram.  While there are many fantastic musicians and writers out there whom I’d be honored to read with, there are few who hold such a special place in forming my creative identity as Amram does.

I first became acquainted with Amram through studying Jack Kerouac when I was just a teenager.  I was enamored with his improvised performance as Mezz McGillicuddy in the 1957 Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie film Pull My Daisy.  In fact, this photograph, featuring Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso, who all collaborated on the film, is probably my all-time favorite photograph of the poets, writers, and artists associated with the Beat Generation.  It seems to so purely capture their friendship: just a couple of people hanging out at a cafe, maybe talking about the arts, or maybe just drinking coffee late into the night and enjoying each other’s company.

Although it was literature that introduced me to Amram, his music fascinated me.  Here was a musician who was more than just skillful.  Amram is an innovator.  He’s someone who experiments, improvises, blends genres, captivates.  He is, quite simply, mesmerizing to watch and listen to.

Through reading biographies on Kerouac and also reading Amram’s own biographies, I came to discover the jazz-poetry readings Amram and Kerouac began doing in the Village in 1957.  These were improvised sets, requiring each to masterfully foresee and adapt to changing tempos and moods in each other’s works.  These jazz-poetry collaborations captured my imagination, challenging my view of art and the way in which it’s created, the musicality of words, and the role of collaboration, improvisation, and performance in literature.  As I read about the collaborations in musty library books, forty-some-odd years after they’d taken place, I envisioned what it must’ve been like to be in the crowd at a painter’s loft or at the Circle in the Square.  Did the people there realize they were part of history?

In 2001, I had the opportunity to ask Amram just that when I interviewed him for some research I was doing at the time.  I sat enthralled, clinging to his every word, as he told me about all the places he used to hang out at in New York, about collaborating with Kerouac, and about how the term “Beat Generation” is just a marketing term that people later attached to the individual artists who each create unique works.  As he talked, answering all of my questions and never rushing me, and later as I read another biography of  his, I realized that Amram is the real deal — a creative genius and also a beatific individual, an artist who inspires and encourages.

Amram has been someone whom I’ve long admired, both on an artistic and a personal level.  Reading about those 1957 jazz-poetry readings he did with Jack Kerouac, I never imagined that one day I would have the opportunity to read the book I’m writing on Jack Kerouac with him.  When my former editor suggested we attend Amram’s show at Cornelia Street Cafe in the Village, I excitedly said yes.  A few days later, I had to email him back to say Amram had invited me to read with him.  It was completely surreal.

The September 3, 2012, show was completely sold out.  I had some friends who were turned away at the door.  Special thanks to Cornelia Street Cafe’s Robin Hirsch and the staff for hosting the reading and for doing such an excellent job in organizing the event.  I read a short selection about Kerouac’s time in Mexico from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book I’m co-authoring with Paul Maher, Jr.  It was really exciting because author Larry Closs and painter Jonathan Collins, both of whom I met through the Burning Furiously Beautiful Facebook page, were in the audience.  Poet and producer RA Araya, who has been hugely supportive of my work and whose birthday bash was the premiere reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful, was also there, and graciously provided the photography you see here.  I had some other family and friends there as well and am so appreciative of their support.  It means more to me than most people realize.

As soon as my videographer, Liz Koenig, sends the video, I’ll post it so you can hear me reading with David Amram and his band.  The band, consisting of Amram, Kevin Twigg, and John de Witt played so beautifully — even more of a feat, considering Twigg had hurt his hand before the show.  The music was haunting and fit the piece that I read so perfectly.  I wanted to remain present in the moment, to really hear what they were playing, and savor the moment.  It was one of those times in life that I wanted to tuck into my heart and cherish.

 

 

David Amram, Stephanie Nikolopoulos, Joe Pacheco

Stephanie Nikolopoulos, David Amram, RA Araya