Even more than art, literature is fundamental to my life. Reading was so important to my development as a child and continues to expand my horizons to this day. I earn my living as a writer and an editor, but even my social calendar revolves around literary events. Literature is very much a part of my identity, and I make a priority for it in my life.
Big Sur (an adaptation of Kerouac’s novel) on Netflix
Epic four-hour brunch at The District with two writer friends, talking about “ethnic” literature, faith, and relationships.
After Sunset: Poetry Walk on the High Line.
My friends surprising me by taking me to a book-themed restaurant on my first night in Budapest.
Reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, a recommendation from my friend Jane.
Brunch with my friend Misako Oba, whose new book of photography and memoir, which I helped edit, was published.
Drinks with one of my favorite people at Durden, a bar based on author Chuck Palahniuk’s novel-turned-movie Fight Club.
New York City Poetry Festival with my writing group partner.
Reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” (coauthored with Paul Maher Jr.) at WORD Bookstore in Jersey City.
Teaching a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.
Brunch at Caffe Reggio, where Jack Kerouac and friends used to hang out.
Speaking on the panel Lessons Learned: Published Authors Share Hard-Earned Insights with Nana Brew-Hammond, Kerika Fields, Melissa Walker, Ruiyan Xu, and Jakki Kerubo at BinderCon.
Meeting regularly with one of my best friends to read and write together at the New York Public Library.
Checking out the Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum with a friend who is a huge Hemingway fan.
Spotting a first edition copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.
Reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.
Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Barnes & Noble.
Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Amazon.
My Pinterest posts called Lit Life.
I’m on Twitter.
Attending Three Rooms Press’ Burroughs 101 celebration at Cornelia Street Cafe has become an annual event for my friend and me. Last year’s phenomenal readings culminating in an epic communal reading brought the spirit of Burroughs and the Beat Generation to life, and it was no surprise that this year there were even more people in the audience than at the centennial event.
Anne Waldman is captivating. I cannot keep my eyes off her when she recites her poetry. I can’t even call what she does “reading.” She sings, chants, tells stories. It’s deeper than performance. It’s like she becomes the poem. I heard her read at the First Blues event honoring Allen Ginsberg’s work at Housing Works. With Ginsberg, she founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She was also friends with William S. Burroughs so it felt special to hear her read her friend’s work. Her son, Ambrose Bye, accompanied her at the Burroughs 101 event, weaving jazz music throughout her poetry. I definitely want to see them perform together again.
Any time I get a chance to hear Steve Dalachinsky read I jump at the opportunity. The first time I ever heard the New York poet read was actually the first time I ever attended Lowell Celebrates Kerouac. After that, I ran into him at various other readings, but I am naturally shy and hate to appear fan-girlish so I was nervous about introducing myself. Fortunately, David Amram introduced me to Steve and his wife, poet Yuko Otomo, on my second trip to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, so now I always enjoy catching up with Steve and Yuko when I see them. Steve does amazing jazz-poetry, and I tend to prefer hearing him read his own work, but he has such a reverence for Beat poetry that he gives reverence to Beat events that could otherwise come out cultish or immature.
Jan Herman is a scholar. He’s someone I’d like to just sit down in a coffee shop with and listen to him talk and tell stories. And that’s what he did at the Burroughs 101 reading. In a conversational approach, he told stories about Burroughs.
Aimee Herman kicked the evening off, bringing Burroughs’ rebellious and experimental spirit to life at Cornelia Street Cafe as she ripped up poems as she read. Burroughs, as most know, cut up his writing and rearranged it to form his work. Aimee Herman’s reading succinctly captured Burroughs’ literary methodology in that simplistic and stunning gesture.
Penny Arcade is an authentic poet on the scene since I was old enough experience the contemporary New York poetry world. She closed the evening by reading Burroughs’ aphorisms. It was the perfect ending to a perfect reading.
The Burroughs 101 celebration was hosted by Three Rooms Press’ very own Peter Carlaftes.
Friday night at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac we all headed over to the White Eagle Pub, a dive bar on Market Street.
The evening started off with a viewing of Brent Mason’s documentary Grave Matters. The thirty-minute film got off to a riotous start when one of the people in the crowd fell or fainted off their chair! The film had to be stopped, but after it was determined she was okay, the documentary started rolling again. Whew, what excitement. Canadian musician and filmmaker Brent Mason explores Jack Kerouac’s life and legend by documenting his visit to the author’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. Complete with interviews from people like Kerouac’s friend and eventual pallbearer Billy Koumantzelis.
Billy was there in the audience and afterwards he introduced me to Brent–who was there with his teenaged son–and Jim Sampas. Jim played some recordings of Jack reciting his work.
David Amram led Jamming Jack and was magnificent as always. I’ve seen him play a few times now, and each time feels unique.
He also invited people up to read and perform in what turned out to be an inspiring evening.
Here Lowell’s very own actor and screenwriter Jerry Bisantz, of Image Theater, performs as Jack Kerouac.
Christopher Barry and his youngest brother Stephen Barry each performed their poetry. Stephen (pictured above) had flown all the way from California to be at the event. I’ve met Chris a few times, and it’s always a pleasure hearing him read. It was nice meeting his brother and seeing that talent obviously runs in the family.
Jazz-poet Steve Dalachinsky, whom I’d heard read at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac two years ago, was back to read more poetry! He is brilliant. His wife Yuko Otomo was in the audience, and I wish she’d read too.
Throughout the performances, David was playing the piano. He also selected some wonderful young musicians to accompany them. I believe the drummer and the guy on the tambourine were local students. The guy on the box-drum came from further away and was at LCK two years ago. If anyone has their names or contact info, please do pass it along. They were phenomenal.
Toward the end of the evening, David starts talking, says something about an author who wrote a new book, and that she doesn’t know he’s going to call her stage, and then calls out my name! The last time I read with David I was so nervous I could barely eat the entire day. I didn’t have time to get nervous this time around! I read one of Kerouac’s prose-poems. So beautiful! I don’t know that I did it justice, but it was such an honor to get to read Kerouac’s own words in his hometown and with so many phenomenal musicians and writers there.
The event made me kind of sad… It was so fun and inspiring, and I wish that Kerouac would’ve gotten to see that his literature continues to be appreciated to this day by people who are willing to come from far-flung locales of Canada and California and from people in their teens to people in their 80s.
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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac recently announced the 2013 festival line up! It’s tentative at the moment, but this is what’s listed:
Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival
2013: 50th Anniversary of Visions of Gerard and 25th Anniversary of Kerouac Commemmorative
“Everybody goes home in October.” –Jack Kerouac, On the Road
[Draft schedule, 26 July 2013]
Sunday, September 29
Jack Kerouac Road Race
Time: 12:00 pm
Location: Old Worthen House, 141 Worthen St.
For more information and race registration: jackkerouac5k.com
Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! Festival
Thursday, October 10
Traditional Kerouac Pubs Tour
Time: 5:30-8:00 pm
Location: Start at Old Worthen House, 141 Worthen St.
Old Worthen to Ricardo’s Café Trattoria (110 Gorham St.) to Ward Eight (280 Central St.) to Cappy’s Copper Kettle (245 Central St.).
LCK Celebrates Amram! Traditional LCK kick-off
Time: 8:00-???? pm
Location: Cappy’s Copper Kettle, 245 Central St.
LCK kick-off music-and-readings event. Alan Crane and friends will perform with David Amram. Readers of Kerouac passages will do the interludes. Always a kick!
Friday, October 11
Annual Jack Kerouac Poetry & Prose Competition
Time: 9:30 am
Location: Lowell HS Freshman Academy theater, 40 Paige St.
“The Annual Jack Kerouac Poetry & Prose Competition” at Jack Kerouac’s alma mater, Lowell High School. Students will read their poems and prose entries. David Amram will share his memories of collaborating with Jack Kerouac while the judges deliberate. All are welcome.
A Walk in Doctor Sax’s Woods
Time: 12:30 pm
Location: Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest
“A Walk in Doctor Sax’s Woods” through the Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest or at your leisure throughout the weekend. Maps will be available via the LCK facebook page, LCK website, and at merchandise tables. Contact leader Nomi at email@example.com or 617-775-8155 for car-pooling info and alternate times.
Talking Jack readings and discussion
Time: 3:30 pm
Location: UML Inn & Conference Center lobby, 50 Warren Court
The Divine and Perfect Ecstasy
Time: 5:00 to 8:00 pm
Location: Ayer Lofts Gallery, 172 Middle St
The Divine and Perfect Ecstasy: encaustic paintings and prints inspired by Jack Kerouac’s Visions of Gerard; artist Barbara Gagel; exhibition opening at Ayer Lofts Gallery, 172 Middle St. Exhibition will be open on weekends through November 3. Hours for the LCK weekend are 11 to 4; on other weekends, 12 to 5.
Time: 7:30 pm
Showing of Grave Matters film with director Brent Mason, 30-minute film explores Kerouac places in Lowell, culminating at his gravesite.
Time: 8:00 pm
Location: White Eagle Pub, 585 Market St.
listen to Jack himself read and sing in recordings with interludes by David Amram, Steve Dalchinsky, and friends.
Saturday, October 12
Commemorative at the Commemorative
Time: 9:00 am
Location: Kerouac Commemmorative, corner of French and Bridge Streets
This year will focus on “Early Memories.” Join us at the Jack Kerouac Commemorative, an internationally renowned literary landmark that is 25 years old this year. Early founders and leaders of LCK will speak about their first encounters with Jack Kerouac’s work and share their personal inspiration to create and support “Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!” over the last 25 years. We will read from Jack’s letters about his earliest memories of his hometown of Lowell, accompanied by David Amram.
Time: 10:15 am
Location: Leaves from Kerouac Commemmorative, corner of French and Bridge Streets
“Kerouac’s Lowell” birthplace-to-gravesite bus tour, visiting his homes and other important Kerouac sites, finishing at gravesite. Led by Roger Brunelle. Leaves from Commemorative. Required $10 donation. Reservations at 978-970-5000.
Welles Emporium’s Kerouac Open House
Time: 10:30 am to 12:00 noon
Location: Welles Emporium, 175 Merrimack St.
For those not on the bus tour, come by the shop to browse Kerouac and LCK merchandise while enjoying music, readings, and discussion with coffee and pastries.
Homage to “Ti Jean” at Kerouac gravesite
Time: 12:00 noon
Location: Edson Cemetery, 1375 Gorham St.
All commemorators of Kerouac are welcome to share his spirit and readings, especially from Visions of Gerard on its 50th anniversary!
Discovering Jack’s Vision
Time: 1:00 pm
Location: Ayer Lofts Gallery, 172 Middle St.
Roger Brunelle will lead a discussion of the visual interpretation of the abstract work of artist Barbara Gagel, using Jack Kerouac’s words from Visions of Gerard
Parker Lecture: Celebrating Kerouac In Film and Word
Time: 2:00 pm
Location: Visitor Center Theater, 246 Market St.
Parker Lecture: Celebrating Kerouac In Film and Word with Lowell native Jim Sampas, the founder of Reimagine Studios. Among his numerous film and recording projects are several that relate to the life and work of Jack Kerouac. They include the audio CD set of Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake, and the widely acclaimed documentary One Fast Move or I’m Gone which highlights Kerouac’s experience at California’s Big Sur and the novel of the same name. Jim was also a part of the production team for the new movie Big Sur, also based on the Kerouac novel. Another current project is his tribute, Kerouac—Joy, Kicks, Darkness. His work has gained him the citation by the Los Angleles Times as “The thinking man’s producer who has a reputation for sticking out of the pack.”
Kerouac’s Library Haunts and Hooky tour
Time: 3:30 pm
Location: Pollard Memorial Library, 401 Merrimack St.
Kerouac’s Library Haunts and Hooky tour, led by Bill Walsh. Meet at the Merrimack St. entrance.
Open Mike at the Old Worthen
Time: 4:00 pm
Location: Old Worthen Upstairs, 141 Worthen St.
Poets, musicians, and readers are welcome!
Merrimack and Moody Street Regulars
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Location: Starts from City Hall, 375 Merrimack St.
“Merrimack and Moody Street Regulars” walking tour led by Roger Brunelle. Visit sites that Kerouac visited and walked past almost daily along Moody and Merrimack Streets with some remnants of Little Canada.
Jack’s Roots: From Canada to Lowell
Time: 8:00 pm to ???
Location: Old Court Pub upstairs, 29-31 Central St.
Jack’s Roots: From Canada to Lowell, with Michele Choiniere, Brent Mason, Bob Martin, David Amram, and poet Steve Dalachinsky. Kerouac-influenced musicians from Canada, Lowell, and New York will perform individually and jam together in exploring his cultural roots. There will be poems and readings mixed in from Kerouac’s novels.
Sunday, October 13
Kerouac’s Nashua Connection tour
Time: 10:00 am
Location: Meet at Visitor Center, 246 Market St., Lowell
Visit the Kerouac family sites and graves in Nashua, NH, led by Steve Edington, author of “Kerouac’s Nashua Connection.” Meet at Visitor Center, 246 Market St., Lowell, to ride in van or car pool. $10 donation requested. Reservations at 978-970-5000.
Serious Amram Jam!
Time: 1:00 to 5:00 pm
Location: Lowell Beerworks, 203 Cabot St.
Featuring David Amram performing with a cast of many volunteer readers, poets, and musicians. You can feel the spirit of Kerouac moving here!
Sun Sets over Jack’s Bridge
Time: 5:30 pm
Location: University Ave. between VFW Highway and Pawtucket St.
Adieu Again to Textile Memorial Bridge, Moody Street Bridge, Watermelon Man Bridge, University Ave. Bridge; to be demolished SOON! Poems, readings, flowers, and a watermelon will be dropped from the bridge. Group walk from Amram Jam at Beerworks starting at 5.
Ghosts of the Pawtucketville Night tour
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: Group leaves from Textile Memorial Bridge, University Ave.
Ghosts of the Pawtucketville Night tour, led by Roger Brunelle. Visit Kerouac sites in Pawtucketville neighborhood and possibly the mystical Grotto.
A Night of Poetry and Music
Time: 8:00 pm
Location: 119 Gallery, 119 Chelmsford St.
Featuring LCK guest poet Steve Dalachinsky with Yuko Otomo and friends.
Monday, October 14
LCK group walk from Kerouac Commemorative
Time: 10:00 am
Location: Leaves from Kerouac Commemmorative, corner of French and Bridge Streets
Mystic Jack tour
Time: 10:30 am
Location: St. Louis Church, 221 W. 6th St.
Led by Roger Brunelle. Visit the church, school, and home that were so important in his early years as described in Visions of Gerard.
Time: 12:00 to 4:00 pm
Location: St. Louis Church, 221 W. 6th St.
Continuing the Kerouac Loop Walk from St. Louis School past Kerouac homes and landmarks in Centralville and Pawtucketville, finishing at Old Worthen Tavern for toasting to Jack.
Sunday, October 20
Waking Jack: Jack Kerouac Memorial Walk & Wake
Time: 4:00 pm to ???
Location: Meet at Grotto behind Franco-American School, 357 Pawtucket St.
LCK group will walk with volunteer readings from the Grotto, music & readings to follow Upstairs at the Worthen; in memoriam of the death of Jack Kerouac on October 21, 1969.
Merchandise sales and donations by attendees help keep these Kerouac events alive and growing! Note that Kerouac and LCK merchandise can be bought throughout the year at Welles Emporium, 175 Merrimack St. Thank you for your support!
Special thanks for a variety of assistance from Enterprise Bank, Darrell’s Music Hall of Nashua, UMass Lowell Center for Arts & Ideas, Moses Greeley Parker Lecture Series, Lowell National Historical Park, and all the venues hosting LCK events.
Lowell Celebrates Kerouac is a super fun festival with lots of good people involved, and this year’s line up is impressive. Steve Dalachinsky and Yuko Otomo were at LCK the first time I attended, and they are not to be missed. I think it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of David Amram’s work as well. Also, I’ve done a write up on Roger Brunelle’s tours, and recommend them. I would love to hear Jim Sampas speak! I’ve never gotten to make it to the Nashua tour, so I think that would be worthwhile. It seems important to make it to the Watermelon Man Bridge too before it is just a recorded memory in one of Jack’s books.
Are you going to LCK this year? What are you most excited for??
You can find my previous entries on LCK here.
Oh, I am still on cloud 9 after the First Blues event to celebrate Allen Ginsberg’s recording!! I got there a bit late, and it was jam-packed with white-haired men who’d probably known various beat poets back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and earnest, young, bearded hipsters, and girls in leggings and berets. I spotted the incredible poet Steve Dalachinsky and poet-painter Yuko Otomo, whom I’d met at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, in the crowd. I got to talk with poet Christopher Barry. I had heard another author I know was supposed to be there but there were so many people I couldn’t find him to say hi.
David Amram was his usual self: inspiring. The way he transmutes cultures into music and bends the “rules” of how to play instruments floors me every time. Watching him teaches me that Art is creative and fun, which is something after years of schooling and rule enforcing I often forget. He talked about how the best university is “hangoutology,” that we learn through other people and that we too should always generously teach others.
Kevin Twigg played glockenspiel with Amram. I’d normally heard him play in a full band, but hearing just him and Amram play was special. Twigg’s music sounded like magic!
Anne Waldman, who with Allen Ginsberg founded Naropa University, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, gave an intense reading. Back in undergrad at Scripps in my 1950s Core class, I heard a recording of Ginsberg reading Howl that forever changed my understanding of the poem because of its moaning intensity. After singing a Blake poem, Waldman did a “Howl” that was transfixing. Hearing her howl live was a glimpse of what it must’ve been like to hear Ginsberg first read “Howl” at the now infamous Gallery Six reading.
Hettie Jones, who is a fantastic and generous writer, read, and I wish she would’ve read longer because it went by too, too quickly.
My eighteen-year-old self would never have imagined that not only would I one day ever-so-casually get to hear all these people read and make music and perform in a bookstore but that I’d actually know so many of them. I couldn’t find Jones after the reading, but she had graciously spent time talking to me when I met her in a class at The New School. A few years ago, I was in the same circle of conversation as Waldman at a party. Twigg asked me to sign a book, which he showed me had been signed by pretty much everyone associated with the Beats. Here he is this amazing musician with tons of covet-worth signatures, and he made me feel like a million bucks by asking me to sign too. Amram, always swamped by the masses, still made time for me, and again made me feel like I was the star. I hope that I do that for other people. He introduced me to his daughter, who was really sweet. He also introduced me to Bill Morgan, whose books have been a tremendous resource to me over the years. It’s so surreal to meet someone you’ve footnoted.
There were also other musicians and poets there, including Ambrose Bye, CA Conrad, Steven Taylor, and Arthur’s Landing, whom I’d never heard before and yet who captured my attention, making me want to explore their work.
Amanda Bullock, who plans the events at Housing Works and whom I’d heard speak about social media at the CLMP literary conference at The New School, was there kicking us all out at the end because we all kept mingling and having hurried, beautiful conversations.
I could hardly sleep from all the excitement.