Thursday, June 10, 2010

Can't stop the Beat...

Jack Kerouac wandering along East 7th Street, Manhattan, 1953. Passing the statue of Congressman Samuel 'Sunset' Cox, 'The Letter-Carrier's Friend' in Tompkins Square, after visiting William S Burroughs at the pad he shared with Allen Ginsberg.

Flashback to 1998: road trip across the USA with my mate Boyo and the Marines, in a two-seater Cherokee jeep, utes blaring country music in convoy behind, boards on top, camping gear in the back, and a dog eared copy of Big Sur in hand as we pulled into... Big Sur, California. 
It was late summer and I was sure I could smell the faint smoke of the bush fires Kerouac's alter ego, Jack Duluoz, was charged with sighting from his perch high in the trees in the Bixby Canyon wilderness back in 1962. 
The cabin in which Kerouac/Duluoz sought solitude belonged to his long time friend and fellow Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The lady with whom he then sought respite from solitude, was Billie (in real life Jackie Gibson Mercer)...mistress of Cody Pomeray, a thinly veiled portrayal of his other close and real life mate, Neal Cassady.
You follow? 
Anyhow, it was epic.
Today: Kerouac, Cassady, Burroughs and Ferlinghetti feature in a collection of 79 photographs of Beat poets and friends taken by Allen Ginsberg, himself a poet of the Beat generation, regularly spoken of in the same breath as Kerouac.
So this is a rare moment in time when I say 'I wish I was in Washington DC' because then I could go to the National Gallery of Art and gaze rapturously at rarely seen portraits of Kerouac [insert appreciative phwoarr here], a genius of stream-of-conscious writing and patron of the School-of-Self-Inflicted-Hard-Knocks.
Beat memories: The photographs of Allen Ginsberg is on until September 19. The Gallery says his images are far more than just historic snap shots: 'the same ideas that inform his poetry — an intense observation of the world, a deep appreciation of the beauty of the vernacular, a celebration of the sacredness of the present, and a faith in intuitive expression — also permeate his photography.'
Aah pictures... they do tell a thousand words.

Neal Cassady and his love of that year (1955) the star-cross'd Natalie Jackson

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