I am fascinated by the threads of connection that run between all the kinds of poetry, song, and story-telling in which I delight and am always pleased when they are living connections in the form of real people you can meet, friends you can make. For example as my father-in-law and I got to know each other we found we had the same tastes in literature, loved the same poets and even the dame pasgaes in some of those poets, and we both seemed to have learned to appreciate the same qualities. I remember saying to him that it was CS Lewis, as a literary critic who had guided me into the fields of literature and given me some keys to understanding it all, and he replied, “well he did the same for me, only in person as he was my tutor at Oxford!” Suddenly we both knew who the connecting thread was and I felt a particular pleasure that my father-in-law was a living link for me back to an author whom I knew intimately but had never met in the flesh.
The same goes for my passion for American song and poetry, especially the work of Bob Dylan. From the day I bought Highway 61 Revisited Dylan has been the voice and channel for me for a whole stream of American poetry which I soon came to realise stretched back behind him, not only nto blues and folk, but very specifically into the Beats, especially the great figures of Ginsberg, and Kerouac, who were in their own radical way carrying on a tradition of flamboyant, inspired anarchic, energetic writing that goes back to Walt Whitman. In Dylan’s film Renaldo and Clara there is a moving episode where he and Ginsberg visit Kerouac’s grave and play music and recite poetry together, honouring someone who served the same muse.
I have been involved for a while in a jazz poetry project, the Riprap Collective, which takes its inspiration from the Beat Generation and tries to do in a new way and in new jazz and poetic genres, what the beats did in their day, but until now we had no living link
with the beats who insired us. but all that changes this week! This Friday, 22nd October I will be playing host to Gerald Nicosia, the internationally acclaimed author of Memoy Babe, the great Kerouac biography, and a recognised authority on the whole beat generation. but he is himself also a performance poet and has performed alongside Ginsberg at blues and poetry festivals and indeed Ginsberg has commended his woek on Kerouac. Gerald is coming to Cambridge to give a public lecture on the Friday in the English Faculty, 9 West Rd, to which all readers of this blog who are in, or can make it to Cambridge are welcome. But then on Saturday he is going to join with me, Riprap and another Cambridge poet Keith Dursley and we are going to do our own version of the kind of Jazz-poetry happenings at which Kerouac and Ginsberg used to read. This should be an amazing, and in its own way historic event, and again all my readers here are very welcome. I am giving all details below and hope to see some of you there.
Two Jack Kerouac Events
The Writer Kerouac, the Mythological Kerouac,
the Popular Kerouac, and the Real Kerouac
A Lecture by Gerald Nicosia
5pm Friday 22nd October, GR-05,
Faculty of English,
9 West Road Cambridge.
All welcome, free admission.
Poetry and Performance
A poetry reading and performance by Gerald Nicosia with members of
The Riprap Quartet.
With support from KM Dersley and Malcolm Guite.
8pm, Saturday 23rd October,
Memorial Church (Unitarian),
Tickets £5 on the door.