1. Have you ever seen the famous 1965 photo of the crowd of Beat writers outside the City Lights bookstore? The photo was taken by Larry Keenan (here he is, with the photo, and his wife Lisa), and I was pleased to receive email from the photographer himself a few months ago. He actually wrote to me to ask me to please stop using his photos without permission, but instead of being nasty about it (as I've heard other copyright-holders sometimes are), he simply asked me to credit him whenever I used one of his pictures, which I was happy to do. We then corresponded a few times, and when I asked him to tell me the story behind his most famous photo he told me this:
To answer your question briefly, Yes I did know what I was doing was important. In fact, this is what I was telling my parents when they did not want me going over to the city to photograph "those dirty beatniks". I had the good fortune to meet Michael McClure at Calif. College of Arts and Crafts where he was/is teaching and I was a student. My friend Dale Smith and I approached McClure about helping us with a project we were doing. During the course of our meeting he said "would you guys like to photograph some of my friends"? We asked "who are your friends"? Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, etc. We were blown-away. So for the next year or so we went over to his house most Saturdays and hung out for an hour or so and then went over to a Beat's house or apartment and spent the day photographing him or them. It was always a good experience. They were very nice to us. We were nice too, we gave them mounted prints. Pretty soon we were being invited to parties that we were told not to bring any cameras to.
To make a long story short. My parents made me mow the lawn before I could go over to SF and shoot the Last Gathering photo and the McClure, Dylan, Ginsberg photo.Mowing the lawn ... pretty classic. Anyway, there's a longer interview with Larry Keenan up at The BitWeaver's Loom, an art-oriented site he's involved with. It shows some of Keenan's newer computer-generated artwork as well as a few Beat photographs. Well worth checking out. A book of Keenan's photos will also be out soon, and several will be on display in New York City at Great Modern Pictures, 48 E. 82nd Street from Sept. 12 through Nov. 30.
2. Once again, the folks in Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts are putting on a big Kerouac festival in October. Here's what's going on there. An appearance by Ed Sanders will be one of this year's highlights.
3. Allen Ginsberg News: Here's a page about the new State Of The Union double CD, produced by Elliot Sharp. It features a piece by Ginsberg, along with 145 (!) other pieces. Profits go to the National Coalition Against Censorship, which sounds like a pretty good cause to me. Also, there's an interview with Ginsberg here. Finally, the word is out that Ginsberg has recorded a version of his "Ballad Of The Skeletons" with a pretty impressive group of musicians: Paul McCartney, Lenny Kaye, Philip Glass and Marc Ribot. Should be interesting!
4. The new Enterzone is out, and after a nine-month hiatus I'm in it again! It's nice to be back. Still my favorite zine.
2. I saw a really wonderful show last week. Ralph Alphonso, longtime publisher of the beat poetry rag RALPH, did what I've always wanted to do: gathered together a few high-spirited pop/folk/jazz musicians and went on tour. They arrived in New York to play CBGB's Gallery last week (parenthetically, check out the new CBGB's website if you're interested in this legendary punk club), and put on a superb show. Ralph's style is kitschy on the outside but sincere within, and this is the way I like it (as opposed to the reverse: sincere on the outside but kitschy within, like, say, Sting's solo albums). I think the tour is already nearing an end, but please visit Ralph's website, where you can hear samples of his music, order his CD's or subscribe to his one-man zine.
3. A huge poetry/beat renaissance/spoken word festival in New Orleans starts this week. Here's the latest schedule.
Like almost all friends of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs, Huncke became a published writer after the beat phemonenon occurred. His story "Elsie John," reprinted in Ann Charters collection "The Beat Reader," is a raw, honest and fascinating piece. He also wrote a full-length autobiography called "Guilty of Everything," as well as a shorter Hanuman book with the same title.
He lived out his last years in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. He was taken to Beth Israel Hospital a few days ago, and that's where he died this morning at 7:15.
2. The Goblin webzine has a lot of interesting beat-related material, like an interview with Ed Sanders and, in the latest issue, a Neal Cassady reminiscence by Charles Plymell. I also like the current cover story about the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, my fave underground comix when I was a kid.
3. Here's a reprint of an interview with Williams S. Burroughs conducted by Ron Whitehead, whose poem "Calling All Toads" also concludes the piece. One of the things they discuss is a huge New Orleans poetry fest Ron is putting together in August. Should be a blast -- I'd go if I had the money (dammit). See below for more info on this.
4. Thought I'd point you to a new site I like a lot. The Posi-Web is a constantly changing series of simple, quickly generated personal pages by a growing list of web people. Lots of interesting pictures and thoughts. Just for fun. There's no one starting point (each contributor maintains his or her own pages) but the above link goes to Jef'n'Gael's page -- they started this whole thing.
6. Hey! Literary Kicks is two years old today.
2. The LOWELL CELEBRATES KEROUAC gang (Lowell was Kerouac's hometown) is soliciting entries for the annual Jack Kerouac Literary Prize. They will accept typed, double-spaced manuscripts containing stories (no more than three) up to thirty pages, or poems (no more than eight) up to fifteen pages. Entries must be received by August 1, must be accompanied by a 3x5 index card containing the author's name, address, telephone number and manuscript title (the author's name may not appear on the manuscript), and must also be accompanied by $5 checks made out to LOWELL CELEBRATES KEROUAC. Submit all manuscripts to The Jack Kerouac Literary Prize, P.O. Box 8788, Lowell, MA 01853-8788, or write to this address for further details. The winner will be part of the annual Kerouac celebration that takes place this year on October 3-6.
3. Wisdom's Maw, Todd Brendan Fahey's novel about some semi-imagined strange activities involving the CIA, LSD experiments and several well-known Beat figures in the 1960's, has been available in a web version for some time now. Fahey recently found a publisher for the book -- get the details here.
4. Wow, there are so many things I have to announce! Here's another: Ron Whitehead, who runs a publishing/happenings organization called RANT For The Literary Renaissance, is producing an event in New Orleans on August 16-18. The RANT eats New Orleans 48-Hour Non-Stop Music & Poetry INSOMNIACATHON at The Howlin Wolf Club will feature Douglas Brinkley & The Majic Bus, Diane di Prima, David Amram, Ed Sanders, Hunter S. Thompson, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others.
5. There's a very insightful article about Gregory Corso in the June 6 issue of the London Review of Books. It's written by Iain Sinclair, and the first sentence is: "There may be only two writers, currently at work in America, who can bring themselves, unblushing, to use the phrase 'drinky poo'" (The other, if you were wondering, is Carl Hiaasen). If, like most of us, you do not live in London: check your library, they probably have a copy.
6. One new thing in LitKicks this month: Andrew Burnett's passionate and well-researched exploration of Neal Cassady's historic Denver. It's put together in the form of a "Beat Baedeker"including three separate guided tours, and if you're interested in Neal Cassady you'll definitely discover interesting things here, in Neal's Denver.
While we're on the subject of Neal, I should mention Tom Christopher's exhaustive new publication, "Neal Cassady." This is the first of what will be several volumes documenting Neal's mysterious life in groundbreaking detail. This first publication is about Neal's early days and includes many reproductions of school documents and city records. It's looks more like a zine than a book, and can be found in most Beat-conscious bookstores (like, for instance, City Lights in San Francisco or Water Row in Massachusetts)
7. Enterzone, now in its second year as a great non-profit webzine for experimental/underground art and fiction, has moved to a new URL (see link above). You can also now enter the Zone at a different level by going to the base URL http://ezone.org, where you see the wider, universe that surrounds this zine.
Enterzone was favorably reviewed in The New Yorker last week, in their Summer Fiction Issue (June 24/July 1, p. 26), and a piece I contributed to Enterzone with a friend was also mentioned in the review. Kind of cool that us indie web writers and artists are finally being noticed by the world out there. Still, though, to paraphrase Kurt Cobain -- snooty literary magazines still suck! (Okay, I feel better now that I've said that.)
Jan lived a difficult life. She rarely met her father, who spent most of his life denying that she was his. A promising career as a writer (her first book, Baby Driver, was liked by many people) was derailed by her illness, personal problems and an ugly, obsessive public feud with the holders of the Kerouac estate, which seemed to be consuming her entirely in her final years.
I never met or spoke to Jan, but through an intermediary I was given the opportunity to publish an excerpt from her novel in progress, Parrot Fever which deals with the death of her mother, among other things. Jan's friend Gerald Nicosia (a Kerouac biographer) is going to try to arrange for posthumous publication of this book, which would be her third. The excerpt is here.
2. Allen is probably bummed, though, about Timothy Leary's death this past weekend. An interesting piece of info here: one of Leary's last phone calls, a few hours before he died, was to William S. Burroughs. Leary told Burroughs: "I hope someday I'll be as funny as you are."
3. This is way overdue: I'm going to spend the next few months reviewing and updating all the pages in LitKicks. Some of the info is out of date, and some areas need work -- hopefully things will start shaping up real soon. I'm keeping the basic design the same, though (I think). I never liked the look of frames, and even though I do know Java and Shockwave, I just don't see that stuff fitting in here. If anyone has thoughts on this, though, send them along.
4. Coming soon: a pretty impressive photo-essay/walking-tour of Neal Cassady's Denver, contributed by Andrew Burnett.
2. I insist that Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter is a beatnik in the truest and best sense of the word. Not just because Neal Cassady rapped onstage with the Dead (see above) but also because of the deep and raw beatness of the characters in many of Hunter's songs, from "Brown Eyed Woman" to "Jack Straw" to "Wharf Rat" to "Dire Wolf" to "Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo" and "Cumberland Blues." I bet Kerouac would have even liked "Workingman's Dead" (he died about two years too soon, so we'll never know). Anyway, the reason I mention this is that Robert Hunter is now on the web! His site is huge and highly personal, and he's doing all the techie work himself (using PageMill, I understand). A novel in progress, "Giant's Harp," is part of the site, along with journal entries, lyrics, e-mail and lots of other stuff. Check this place out!
2. I recently heard from a friend of the important counter-culture journalist Al Aronowitz, who was a part of the Beat/hippie scene that flourished decades ago. Aronowitz has suffered health problems recently, but he's also put together his own web site, including several Beat-related articles: here it is.
3. If you haven't seen Timothy Leary's website yet, it's worth a look. Though Leary is not generally thought of as part of the Beat world, it was Allen Ginsberg's enthusiastic endorsement of Leary and his ideas about LSD that set him on the path to fame in the early 60's. Leary is now seriously ill with cancer, and has set out to explore the fact of his impending death in an optimistic and highly public way. I have mixed feelings about many of the things Leary has done and said in his life, but his approach towards death is proving to be one of his more authentic moments.
2. I'm happily noticing that Bob Kaufman is getting more attention lately. I get a significant amount of e-mail about this enigmatic and complicated jazz poet, and there's also going to be a special evening of readings dedicated to his works at St. Mark's Church in New York on April 17. Readers will include Cecil Taylor, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Ted Joans.
Meanwhile on the West Coast: Michael McClure and Gary Snyder are appearing tomorrow at a reading in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Sorry for the late notice ... I also don't know much about this event. It's good to know that Gary Snyder is making appearances though. I hope he'll show up sometime in New York.
3. Remember a few weeks ago in this space when I complained that nobody would buy the Voyager/Red Hot "Beat Experience" CD-Rom for forty dollars? Well, I just found out the price has been reduced to a MUCH more reasonable $25.99. YES! I wonder ... did I have anything to do with this?
4. Speaking of egotistical notions ... the New York Times Website wrote an incredibly nice article about me and my own web works, particularly my Queensboro Ballads project. I sent copies to all my relatives -- many of whom still don't understand what the Web is, but if the New York Times likes me, even my family may have to give in. Anyway, the article is here. Also, I "remastered" some of the larger graphics files on Queensboro Ballads for better quality and smaller size (I finally have a copy of Photoshop, as you may have already noticed), so if you got frustrated with it in the past due to large download times, please give it another try.
5. Here's a bizarre find: William S. Burroughs appears on a new X-Files soundtrack album, reciting "Star Me Kitten" as REM plays in the background. I want to believe.