” … Then the weekdays would come again and the parties were over and Japhy and I would sweep out the shack, wee dried bums dusting small temples. I still had a little left of my grant from last fall, in traveler’s checks, and I took one and went to the supermarket down on the highway and bought flour, oatmeal, sugar, molasses, honey, salt, pepper, onions, rice, dried milk, bread, beans, black-eyed peas, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, coffee, big wood matches for our woodstove and came staggering back up the hill with all that and a half-gallon of red port. Japhy’s near little spare foodshelf was suddenly loaded with too much food. “What we gonna do with all this? We’ll have to feed all the bhikkus.” In due time we had more bhikkus that we could handle: poor drunken Joe Mahoney, a friend of mine from the year before, would come out and sleep for three days and recuperate for another crack at North Beach and The Place. I’d bring him his breakfast in bed. On weekends sometimes there’d be twelve guys in the shack all arguing and yakking and I’d take some yellow corn meal and mix it with chopped onions and salt and water and pour out little johnnycake tablespoons in the hot frying pan (with oil) and provide the whole gang with delicious hots to go with their tea. In the Chinese Book of Changes a year ago I had tossed a couple of pennies to see what the prediction of my fortune was and it had come out, “You will feed others”. In fact I was always standing over a hot stove.
— Jack Kerouac, Dharma Bums
There have been times in my life when I would read the Beat classics — Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Snyder, Corso, McClure — in hope of a lightning bolt. There have been times when I found that lightning bolt.
In other phases of my life, I feel distant from that source of inspiration. But I can still grab a chunk of it, a bite, a nibble, not necessarily to change me but to nourish me, to fill me up, to keep me going. I think that’ll be the mood I’ll be in when I attend a few cool New York City events kicking off this Friday, June 3 and going on till Wednesday, June 8 at new downtown gallery called Howl! Arts. The festival is called Beat & Beyond: A Gathering and it will feature a lot of great writers and happeners: Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, John Giorno, Steve Cannon, Peter Stampfel, the Last Poets, Hettie Jones, Ann Charters, Bob Holman, Margaret Randall, David Amram, Ed Sanders and the Fugs.
If you think this is an amazing lineup, I’ll have to agree. Check out this unique listing, for 4 pm on Saturday, June 4:
Michael McClure orchestrates a celebration of the Six Gallery reading in 1955 in San Francisco, the moment Ginsberg first unveiled Howl! to the public. The legendary reading included Ginsberg, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen with Kenneth Rexroth as MC and Jack Kerouac passing around the red wine and shouting “Go! Go! Go!” McClure will present as Kenneth Rexroth and be joined by Ava Chin as Gary Snyder, Hettie Jones as Allen Ginsberg, Max Blagg as Philip Lamantia, Andy Clausen as Philip Whalen and Nikhil Melnechuk as McClure, himself.
I’ll be psyched to hear Anne Waldman read her poetry and Ed Sanders sing the blues. There’ll be a celebration of a new complete box set of Allen Ginsberg’s excellent neo-punk 80s record album First Blues, a preview reading of Allen’s close associate and secretary Bob Rosenthal’s upcoming memoir (this book ought to be something good), a bunch of film screenings and a few poetry slams.
It’s taking place at a gallery I first visited earlier this year and like a lot: Howl Arts, which represents a downtown New York sensibility that bridges the earlier legacy of the Beat Generation in Greenwich Village with the world of artist Arturo Vega, who was the innovative visual director for the Ramones a couple of decades after the Kerouac/Ginsberg days.
Elsewhere in the Beat/Art world, I’m also going to try to be at Christie’s auction house on June 16 to get a glimpse of the famous Joan Anderson letter, a legendary and still not-yet-published private letter that had once been written by Neal Cassady for Jack Kerouac, who called it “the greatest piece of writing I ever saw” and claimed it as the immediate impetus for his adoption of a new looser approach to prose composition that led to his breakthrough novel On The Road.
I don’t tend to frequent art auctions, but the original letter will be on display and I’ve been waiting a long time for a chance to read it and find out for myself how great Neal Cassady’s prose is. This letter has got a big reputation to live up to. Well, we’ll always have On The Road. And I hope I’ll get to run into some of the Beat friends I hung around with last summer around the time of this auction. I hope everybody will remember my face even if they get confused about my name. This will be some nourishment I can use.