“Dawn Birds” by Richard Marion (c) 2013
See more artwork at www.richardmarion.net
I saw a large “vee” of geese in the sky last Sunday when I was doing yard work. I heard them honking before I saw them overhead.—PM
Ray Manzarek, one of the giants of 1960s rock and roll, died yesterday at the age of 74. The co-founder of The Doors performed in Lowell once with The Doors, at the Commodore Ballroom in 1967, and twice with poet Michael McClure at the Smith Baker Center for the annual Kerouac literary festival. The Smith Baker Center is a former Congregational Church, a large brick edifice across the street from Lowell City Hall. Now closed and in disrepair, for a long time the Smith Baker Center was used for performances and community gatherings.
I had the privilege of giving Manzarek and McClure a private tour of the Jack Kerouac Commemorative the day before it was officially dedicated on a Saturday in late June 1988. I was accompanied by Rosemary Noon and possibly Brian Foye, then-president of the local Kerouac organization now called Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! Brian’s group had invited McClure and Manzarek, who had begun performing as a spoken word and music duo, to be part of a massive poetry reading set for the night before the dedication of the Commemorative.
Manzarek and McClure were awestruck by the sculptural tribute to Kerouac, all those words sandblasted into the polished reddish brown granite. Not the kind of words that are usually incised in stone. Not the words of a president or a general or a saint. The words of a writer who pushed the boundaries of prose-writing. Words of a poet from Lowell who wrote poems that looked like poetry, but who also told his friends that he wrote poetry in paragraphs or whole pages. Michael McClure at one point stepped back from one of the triangular granite pillars and said, “This is subversive.”
I was 13 years old when I first heard “Light My Fire” by The Doors on the radio. It was the summer of 1967, and my father had taken a job at the Cal Wool Co-op in Stockton, California. My mother, brother David, and I had joined him out there—we had moved from Dracut in the Merrimack Valley to the San Joaquin Valley, the Great Central Valley. We lived in a modern apartment complex built in a U-shape with an outdoor pool and paved plaza in the center. Day and night for weeks, transistor radios around the pool played “Light My Fire” with the volume cranked up. It was the Summer of Love in San Francisco, 60 miles away, but I was just a kid and didn’t have much of a clue about what was going on in Haight-Ashbury. I liked the music, but I was more interested in what the Red Sox were doing 3,000 miles away in their Impossible Dream season. Here’s a YouTube version of the song.
The night before the dedication ceremony, Manzarek and McClure performed for an audience of more than 1,000 people in the Smith Baker Center. Also on stage that night were Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, John Weiners, and a few others, including a couple of writers from the community. McClure later described the event as the most important poetry reading in America that year, 1988. He wrote about his visit to Lowell in “California” magazine when he returned to his home near San Francisco. Manzarek and McClure came back to Lowell a few years later to play again at the Smith Baker Center for LCK! Below is a publicity photo of them at the time.
Ray Manzarek and Michael McClure
Acclaimed author Paul Theroux visited Lowell a few months ago on assignment from Barron’s online journal. The Medford native rode the train to Lowell, retracing his mother’s route to college in the late 1920s. She earned a teaching degree from Lowell Normal School. Theroux spent a day in Lowell, hosted by Deb Belanger of the Greater Merrimack Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau. The author of many notable travel books and other volumes was much impressed by the transformed textile-factory city. Read his descriptions and observations in a lengthy article released on May 18.
It’s a city of reversals and, for that reason, a remarkable place of proud and engaged citizens–and quintessentially American. That certainly was the message of the most recent movie to be made in Lowell, Mark Wahlberg’s The Fighter (2010), about a Lowell boxer, “Irish” Micky Ward, battling his way back from the brink. Lowell has known the heights of fortune and the depths of economic depression. The mills were still spinning–three shifts in the Boott Mill, 24 hours a day, in 1928—when my mother was taking the one-mile walk from the station to Lowell Normal School, now the vastly expanded UMass-Lowell. Many mills were even spinning when Kerouac was a boy, as he recalls inThe Town and the City and Maggie Cassidy. But soon some transitioned to patent medicine, or munitions, or printing. Kerouac’s father, Alcide, ran a print shop here.
Paul Theroux (web photo by Jason Grow courtesy of online.barrons.com)
“South Campus Sailing” by Richard Marion, Copyright (c) 2013
See more artwork at www.richardmarion.net
The conditions were much better this past weekend for the big rowing competition on the Merrimack. Congratulations for a successful event to the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau (including Tom Golden and Deb Belanger), UMass Lowell, Merrimack River Rowing Association, Lowell High School, and all the organizers and participants.
The website brainpickings.org recently posted on Facebook this list made by Kerouac in the 1950s. The document is titled “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose.” The editor prefaced the list, saying, “With items like ‘No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge’ and ‘Accept loss forever,’ the list is as much a blueprint for writing as it is a meditation on life.” Item 23, “Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning” sounds like a note to future bloggers. — PM
- Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
- Submissive to everything, open, listening
- Try never get drunk outside yr own house
- Be in love with yr life
- Something that you feel will find its own form
- Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
- Blow as deep as you want to blow
- Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
- The unspeakable visions of the individual
- No time for poetry but exactly what is
- Visionary tics shivering in the chest
- In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
- Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
- Like Proust be an old teahead of time
- Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
- The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
- Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
- Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
- Accept loss forever
- Believe in the holy contour of life
- Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
- Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
- Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
- No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
- Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
- Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
- In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
- Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
- You’re a Genius all the time
- Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
Congratulations to the recipients (see image above for names) of this year’s awards for exemplary work in historic preservation and cultural heritage conservation, including this blog’s executive editor, Dick Howe Jr. Well over 100 people attended the reception and ceremony for the honorees. This event has become one of the highlights of the year on the history front. Linked to the popular Doors Open Lowell program, now in its 12th year, the awards ceremony is an opportunity to call a time-out from the good work being done every day in the city so that a few outstanding persons and organizations can be recognized for excellence. It is important to encourage people to “do the right thing” when it comes to taking care of our distinctive place and special stories. Lowell National Historical Park Supt. Celeste Bernardo hosted the gathering in collaboration with the City of Lowell and Lowell Heritage Partnership.
Kudos to Sue Andrews for her fine work in organizing the awards event and for Lowell Historic Board Administrator Steve Stowell for making Doors Open Lowell one of the best preservation-advocacy programs in the Northeast. One of the reasons Doors Open is a success is because it’s fun to visit the fascinating historic places on the list each year. Supt. Bernardo gave a well-deserved shout out to the Park’s Asst. Supt. Peter Aucella for his brilliant and tireless effort this year (and the past few years) to protect the Pawtucket Falls Dam from attempts by the local hydro-power company to alter the historic character of this unique structure that is fundamental to Lowell’s genesis story.
More than 30 earnest readers of Jack Kerouac books gathered tonight upstairs at The Old Court Irish pub at Middle and Central streets to listen to a reading of excerpts (start to end) of Kerouac’s novel “Visions of Gerard.” The story is a bleak and sweetly candid remembrance of his older brother Gerard, who died of a childhood disease at nine years old when the family was living on Beaulieu Street in Centralville (Kerouac was a few years younger).
The meeting was the final session of a book discussion series about Kerouac’s Lowell writings organized by Sara Marks of the UMass Lowell Libraries with English Dept. professor Todd Tietchen in the lead. Tonight’s event was a collaboration with the city’s anchor Kerouac organization, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! Mainstays of LCK! made up much of the line-up, including Mike Wurm, Roger Brunelle, Nancy “Nomi” Herbstman, Bill Walsh, and Steve Edington. Funding for the series was provided by Mass. Humanities Foundation and UMass Lowell’s English Dept. and Center for Arts and Ideas. English Dept. Chair Tony Szczesiul and his sister who lives in Lowell (and whose name I failed to write down—she is a nurse and studying creative writing at the University) also read selections from the book. John Sampas of the Kerouac Estate was in attendance, too.
The Lowell community really shines now in its recognition of Jack Kerouac. Just about a week ago, at the East Pawtucketville Neighborhood Group’s Franco-American Festival, the UMass Lowell Downtown Bookstore set up a table display of Kerouac’s writings and Roger Brunelle, inventor of the guided tour to Kerouac’s Lowell places, was on hand to talk about the author’s connections to the neighborhood. A few booths away, near the Franco American Day Committee booth, longtime cultural activist and teacher Roger Lacerte had a table full of French-language books from La Librairie Populaire, his store in Manchester, N.H., including French translations of several Kerouac novels. One can only imagine if the author ever pictured that his books would show up at a local fair in his old stomping grounds 44 years after his passing. The festival occupied the small municipal parking lot at University and Gershom avenues, in the shadow of the apartment block that is the setting for Kerouac’s teenage romance novel “Maggie Cassidy” and smack in the middle of the web of streets that are illustrated as a simple geographical grid in “Doctor Sax,” the story in which the legendary 1936 flood devastates the Lowell of young Jack Duluoz. The brilliant mix of fact and fiction gives Kerouac’s Lowell novels a timeless appeal and infuses the city map with a creative glow—these are special places because of the way they live in literature. Tonight, the setting was Centralville and St. Louis de France parish in the 1920s, when the French-Canadian enclave in that sub-neighborhood was peaking. Kudos to everyone who organized these events and participated.
Kerouac Park tour group; web photo courtesy of marieharris.com
Kerouac birthplace tour group; web photo courtesy of richardhowe.com
Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! experts on great American writer Jack Kerouac’s youth in Lowell and his Lowell novels will lead a monthly series of tours that portray him from cradle to grave, including his many family homes, churches, schools, library, the French-Canadian neighborhoods where he grew up, and the landmarks of the city that he loved. Through visiting the significant Kerouac sites, attendees will learn of the lifelong influence of Lowell on shaping his remarkable body of work as seen in his novels, poems, journals, and letters.
Stephen Edington, author of two Kerouac-related books, “The Beat Face of God” and “Kerouac’s Nashua Connection,” will lead the May 4 tour, “Cradle to Grave: Jack Kerouac’s Lowell.” The car caravan tour will meet and start at the Kerouac exhibit in the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center at 10 a.m. and will last approximately 2-1/2 hours.
Roger Brunelle, noted historian and interpreter of Jack Kerouac’s life in Lowell, will lead the May 18 tour, “Kerouac’s Downtown Lowell,” also starting at 10 a.m. Roger is known for his in depth presentation of important Kerouac sites, combined with linguistic analysis of Kerouac’s writing style influenced by his French-Canadian origins and the French language he grew up speaking at home. Readings in French as well as English are common and dramatic in Roger’s tours. Meet at Kerouac Commemorative at Bridge and French Streets.
Kerouac tours on the first and third Saturdays at 10 a.m. are being planned for each month from May through October. Details on the future tours will be announced later. Tours cost $10 per person in a donated fee. Reservations for the first two tours are recommended and may be made by calling LCK president Mike Wurm at c.978-501-1021.
LCK, an all volunteer organization, is dedicated to honoring, celebrating, and interpreting the life and spirit of Jack Kerouac, who wrote so eloquently about his hometown of Lowell while gaining great global fame as a major novelist and poet of 20th century America. Visit www.lowellcelebrateskerouac.org for more information on the organization and the larger Kerouac events being sponsored in Lowell every March and October.
For more information, call Mike Wurm at c.978-501-1021.