With the release of Kerouac’s first novel, The Sea Is My Brother and more recently, his Collected Poems, this is a question I have been rolling around in my head… Having read extensively about Kerouac, I am certain there are more treasures to be unearthed from the vault, I mean, the man could fill a notebook!
Thankfully Kerouac biographer, Paul Maher Jr. has taken that thought to the next level and made a list of what he would love to see published. You can read Maher’s extensive list over at Empty Mirror.
And while we are speaking about Kerouac’s incredible literary output, we may never have seen it without Sterling Lord; after all, his determination to secure Jack a book deal for On the Road was crucial to it being published. Now, aged 92, Sterling tells all in his memoir, Lord of Publishing.
For fans of Kerouac and Merry Prankster, Ken Kesey, Lord of Publishing may shed some new light on how books such as On the Road and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest came to be contemporary classics. Here’s a review well worth the click!
While it is Kerouac’s prose that made him a household name, it his poetry that shows off his shamanistic ability with language; where the man’s words really POP! And finally, you can get it all in one hit! Jack Kerouac: Collected Poems was released in October this year, bringing together his major works, Mexico City Blues, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, Book of Blues , Pomes All Sizes, Old Angel Midnight, Desolation Pops, Book of Haikus as well as his previously uncollected poems.
This is extraordinarily exciting for two reasons… with the uncollected poems comes a new Kerouac discovery and I have never heard of ‘Desolation Pops’ (if anyone can give me any information, I would be forever grateful) and just the name has me wanting a hit of his sharp-witted inventiveness.
So tonight, it is off to listen to Jack’s voice crackle off the vinyl of Jack Kerouac: The Complete Recorded Works.
But if you don’t have any of Jack’s recordings, never fear… There is a generous selection of Jack’s readings to be found here.
It’s Friday night, what better way to let in the light than with a glass of something nice and the jazz rhythms of Kerouac.
Joyce Johnson’s Minor Characters is one of those must read books if you are at all interested in Kerouac and the Beats. It is a work that sparkles with intelligence and is written in a clear and muscular prose. So you can imagine I was bubbling with excitement when I read recently that Johnson is due to release a second book about her life with Kerouac titled, The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac.
Described as a, “revelatory portrayal of Kerouac not only in the midst of his tumultuous existence in postwar Manhattan and his fateful encounters with Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady and John Clellon Holmes, but in the periods of solitude, frustrating struggle and visionary inspiration that produced his work,” The Voice is All looks primarily at the first 30 years of Kerouac’s life and is said to shine new light on his legendary ‘spontaneous prose’ and the composition of On the Road.
It’s available now through Amazon and other outlets, but why not go down and knock on your local’s door and ask them to ship it in. They will love you for it!
This book will no doubt continue the resurgence of interest in Kerouac and with the recent cinema release of On the Road and the forthcoming the film adaptations of Big Sur and The Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks (titled ‘Kill Your Darlings‘ and featuring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg), his words are bound to make their mark on generations to come.
When it was announced that 2012 was the National Year of Reading, I was a little bit excited to say the least. To me, the art of reading is inseparable from the art of writing and is something that I pursue with great passion. So to celebrate this National Year of Reading, I plan to share the books that are currently taking pride of place on my bedside table throughout the year.
At the moment, those two books are:
Jack Kerouac’s lost novel (the first he ever wrote in fact), The Sea Is My Brother which in his typical autobiographical style, follows the fortunes of Wesley Martin (aka Kerouac), a Merchant Seaman who loves the sea with a strange and lonely love. In Wesley Martin, Kerouac begins to lay down the template for his archetypal free spirited hobo, a template that would produce such incredible characters as Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty (of On the Road fame). There are also flashes of Kerouac’s spectacular spontaneous prose, but from what I have read so far, it is a far more traditional novel, than the majority of Kerouac’s better known works.
And legendary New Zealand poet, Sam Hunt’s latest collection, Chords & other Poems, his first completely new collection of work in many years. The epic opening poem, Chords is bristling with Hunt’s trademark music, and the losses he has accumulated throughout his life. He is one of poetry’s true characters so if you have never come into contact with his work, I totally recommend checking it out. Here is a link to a great interview that was recently published showing Sam at his boisterous best.
As part of the National Year of Reading, I am planning to publish a series called ‘Pin Ups‘ on Another Lost Shark. Each month, I will feature a poet, publishing one interview question and one poem each week to showcase their work. The first post will be up on the site this Friday, so keep your eyes peeled!
On Wednesday night at Confit Bistro, we belatedly celebrated what would have been Jack’s 89th birthday, with readings of his haiku, prose & poetry. Reading My Gang and Skid Row Wine while Sheish growled in the background on guitar, was a buzz. One of things that has always drawn me to Kerouac’s language is its wild rhythmic patterns; so when there is music happening, the words seem more free.
Since Wednesday, I have been listening to lots of Jack, and came across this great documentary series on KEXP Radio, which looks at writers who experiment(ed) with music. The Kerouac episode is brilliant, featuring readings from his famed Blues & Haikus session as well as excerpts from On the Road. It’s 10 minutes well spent!
And there are seven other shows featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Tom Waits, William S. Burroughs, Steven Jesse Bernstein & Saul Williams that you can also check out. You can view the complete series here.
March 12 has just passed us by… the birth date of the late Jack Kerouac, who would have turned 89 had he still been physically with us. I say physically, as despite his early death in 1969, Kerouac remains with so many of us; a potent literary force and beacon of inspiration.
For me, Jack, more than any other writer, continues to influence my artistic practice. Discovering Desolation Angels at age 27 will remain a defining moment in my life; the haunting loneliness, the longing, the confusion… I was right beside Jack when he wrote:
on Starvation Ridge
are trying to grow
His language was a spell and for more than a decade, it has both bound and freed me. In my writing, I have one mantra:
One day I will find the right words and they will be simple.
Words taken from Some of the Dharma, words that will guide me until the pen puts me down, or vice versa.
So Happy Birthday Jack!
To celebrate, this Lost Shark along with Julie Beveridge, Sheish Money & Jane Sheehy will be performing a handful of your poems at Confit Bistro (4/9 Doggett St, Fortitude Valley) on Wednesday March 30 as part of their monthly event The Back Room. The bar will open at 6pm and I hope you will join me…
Friday night’s a great movie night…
I was reading recently that filming for On the Road had wrapped up. From what I have seen, Sam Riley looks amazing as Kerouac / Sal Paradise, and if his performance as Joy Division singer, Ian Curtis in the film Control is anything to go by, I am sure he is going to bring some serious energy to the screen. Here’s one of the first stills currently doing the rounds (Riley is in the back seat; Garrett Hedlund playing Dean Moriarty and Kristen Stewart playing Mary Lou are in the front).
I haven’t come across any official release date as yet, but let’s hope it ain’t too far away… after all, it’s been a long time coming.
Francis Ford Coppola bought the rights to the film back in 1979, but Kerouac was keen to have the book realised on the screen from the get go, writing a letter to Brando in 1957, asking him to play Dean Moriarty, with Kerouac wanting to play himself (Sal Paradise).
Here’s a link to where you can read the full letter.
Imagine… Jack & Brando duking it out on screen. Now that, that would have been something!
And while we’re talking poetic films, Lee Chang-dong’s film Poetry, also looks stunning. Let’s hope this one makes our shores soon.
Have you watched anything brilliant lately? Am always keen for a good film tip!
Recently, I have been listening intently to Kerouac’s, ‘Blues and Haikus’. In the last fortnight I have given workshops on Blues Poems and haiku, so this recording by Kerouac (almost a synthesis of the two forms) has been a great source of inspiration and has had me dragging out a few of my old Beat recordings by the likes of Burroughs, Ginsberg & Ferlinghetti.
In my listening I stumbled across this classic snippet from The Munsters, where Herman, is called on to deliver a Beat Poem at a gathering of ‘hep cats’.
This gave me a kick! And to my surprise I found a really great write up on the poem/performance by Angela Sorby on Mike Chasar’s Poetry & Popular Culture Blog. Who would have thought, jolly-green Herman was a Beat spirit!
Last night at the second of Emily XYZ’s workshops, we looked at our place on the cultural continuum, spoke about the artists/art/objects/places etc.. that have influenced us and then read a poem that demonstrated how we have taken those influences and shaped them into our own, original voice.
I read chapter 4 of Desolation Angels, a piece of writing that sings after countless reads; that still has the power to mesmerise, to light up my senses. Desolation Angels found me at a strange time of life, struggling with my own persoanl loneliness, so I was there on the Lookout with Jack, trying to find the truth in this world, just as he was. I then read the poem, January 29, 2009 (for John Martyn) to show how Kerouac’s spiritual connection with the land and ability to illuminate the ‘everydayness’ of living has greatly influenced my own work.
Emily talked often throughout the night about the importance of finding your tribe; to know that you are not alone and that there is a precedent for what you are trying to do. She also spoke about how poems come to us and that sometimes we are vessels, a landing place for poems.
This reminded me of the quote by Muriel Rukeyser:
“You only need be a scarecrow for poems to land on.”
and lead to this great article ‘The Poet is a Scarecrow’ by Melissa Broder. What struck me most about this article was Broder’s exploration of Barbara Guest’s theory that the poem is an active force exercising human imagination; is an entity capable of feelings. In Guest’s world, ‘a poem seeks out a certain type of artist; an artist who possesses the qualities of subjectivity or openness.’
I totally recommend reading this article… it certainly spoke to me. These workshops are proving to be the highlight of my week.
Workshop #1 with Emily XYZ hit the mark, with each of the participants selecting a poem that they believed worked well to read to the group. The voices were diverse in style, content and experience which made for some really interesting discussion and Emily brought the group together superbly, creating an atmosphere for honest critique to be given and received.
As part of the group, it was a real pleasure to have three uninterrupted hours to just talk poetry, the purpose it fulfills and how our aesthetic choices can advance this purpose or hinder it. I am now looking forward to tomorrow night’s class where we discuss the question of culture. Some of the questions Emily has raised include:
Where do you fit in as an artist?
What historical precedents do you recognise in your own work?
Who do you most admire/relate to?
What influences, if any, can you see in your work?
What are you obsessed with, what are the recurring themes in your work?
Would love to hear your thoughts on any or all of these…