I read this poem at the Beat Museum last Sunday. –CM
A superficial reading of one of these poems [in the book of lyrics by Kerouac] led me to believe he was referring to Burroughs — the section where Kerouac is taking down the words of old junkie Bill Garver — I think he calls him Bill Gaines — “Boy if you only knew how good dem bacons and dem eggs is, you’d give up poetry boy and dig in,”etc. — the theme carries through about five choruses [of the book].
O magic countless in time this morning,
O risen sun late on the horizon,
San Rafael, your office workers
with shiny hair and backpacks
a tow in endless motion and still asleep
on sleek commuter buses
do not notice the copy of Mexico City Blues
beside my bag on the seat cushion
next to me.
This workaday I will play tag
and I am still in that reverie
as the bus pulls into
a transfer stop.
Now workers with grit-worn shirts
standing in line at a deli
smile as they fill
cups of coffee and pay.
In the Canal the street are dim
candlelight from the ones
holding prayer vigils
against the ICE raids
shines in sweet candescence.
Earth kisses the sun
We wanted her to be like a figure in a painting by Botticelli [or a China doll]
instead, we got Jackson Pollock [in all his glory].
Gerry gave me her address before I landed in L.A.
I looked for her apartment in Hollywood.
rang the bell and as we talked
spread my writings across her living room floor
The Dodgers won their game in Chavez Ravine that day
it was still sunny
when we went to a Moroccan restaurant on Sunset
overlooking the hotel where John Belushi died
It felt dizzy and not at all glamorous [She was] like St. Lucy forced into prostitution
And I some unnamed Sicilian jackal
Peddling saline drachmas in a salt-encrusted temple
Of timeless interference
when she died, my vision was restored.
Janet Michelle “Jan” Kerouac (February 16, 1952 – June 5, 1996) was an American writer and the only child of beat generation author Jack Kerouac and Joan Haverty Kerouac.
Kerouac was born in Albany, New York. Her mother left her father while pregnant, and Jack refused to acknowledge the baby as his daughter. A blood test when Jan was nine years old proved his paternity and he was ordered to pay $52 a week for her upbringing. Jan met her father only twice, at the blood test in 1961 and again in 1967, when she visited him at his mother’s home in Florida, before traveling to Mexico with her first husband, John Lamb Lash. For the next few decades, she traveled across the country with a fearless curiosity that echoed that of her father and Neal Cassady.
She began to write seriously in the mid 1970s, often seeking guidance through correspondence with her Godfather, Allen Ginsberg.
Jack Kerouac died in 1969 and Jan began a long legal process through the 1970s and 1980s that would eventually give her rights to one-half of the literary revenue from his books sold domestically. Her friendship with Carolyn Cassady bolstered her drive to achieve this; Carolyn once remembering her fondly as a “poor little lost waif.”[this quote needs a citation] Encouraged by Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia, she entered into a lawsuit in the 1990s that proposed the will of Jack’s mother, Gabrielle Kerouac was a forgery, in the hope winning could expand her legal rights to her father’s works and physical property. Eventually a court ruled that the will was indeed a forgery, although in practical terms this ruling changed nothing concerning control of the Kerouac estate
Jan spent her younger years living with her mother, twin sisters and brother on New York City’s Lower East Side. Shortly before the Beatles arrived in the US, she co-formed a girl group, The Whippets, with her friend Bibbe Hansen. Kerouac married and divorced twice. She delivered a stillborn child, Natasha, in 1968. Through the 1970s, she traveled extensively, always eventually returning to the homes of her mother and brother in Washington State. She was a baker and painted abstract watercolors.
On June 5, 1996, Kerouac died in Albuquerque, New Mexico a day after her spleen was removed. She had suffered kidney failure five years earlier and was on dialysis. She was survived by twin half-sisters, Katharine and Sharon, and one half-brother, David Stuart.
Nobody is better qualified to write Jan’s Kerouac’s story than Gerald Nicosia. His deep knowledge of her life, his insight and historical depth plus deep compassion make him the ideal witness.”
— David Meltzer
Beat biographer Gerald Nicosia knew Jan Kerouac for at least the last fifteen years of her life and has written an excerpt “The Last Days of Jan Kerouac,” of a larger biography to reprise Jan’s literary career and life as the only biological progeny of her famous father, Jack Kerouac.
Includes Author’s Note–This edition was brought out to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Jan’s death. It is being published in its present form without notes or sources. It is a 53-page chapbook containing his writings so far in a biography entitled, “Kerouac Princess: The Life and Work of Jan Kerouac.”
Jan Kerouac died in 1996 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, right after she had had an operation removing her spleen.
Despite receiving positive reviews for her two published novels, like her famous father, she did have her detractors.
From a review and interview with her in the New York Times: “I couldn’t get into Jan Kerouac’s books. They were apprentice works. It was obvious she had talent, but she needed somebody to show her the way. It never happened.
“Ernest Hebert is a professor of English at Dartmouth College.”
In addition to working as her literary agent, trying to get her third novel, Parrot Fever, placed with a publisher, Nicosia eventually saw himself as a writing coach for Jan.
“I received rejection after rejection on Jan’s manuscript, and some of them were brutal. Editors not only wondered if Jan knew where she was going in Parrot Fever, some of them also wondered if she even had anything else worth saying after telling her sad tale of being Jack’s daughter. A long process then commenced between us. in which I evolved from Jan ‘s literary agent to her writing coach. I suggested she create an outline, to make sure that the novel did stay on track, and I began suggesting scenes the novel needed in order to have the impact Jan sought. In fact, this coaching would go on till the very end of her life, as she finally circled in toward completion of the manuscript, almost four years later.”
Her fatal problems with her spleen were related to her kidney failure, which occurred in 1991. She had been on daily self-dialysis because of her serious issues with her kidneys’ malfunctioning.
Before moving to Albuquerque, Jan lived briefly in Marin, near author Nicosia, who became a mentor and her champion in her battles with the Kerouac Estate.
A lot of the description here deals with her difficulties in obtaining her lawful share of her father’s estate, which ballooned to over twenty million dollars some fifty years after Jack Kerouac’s death in 1969
Cover of Chapbook
Jan was the author of three novels:
Baby Driver (1981)
Parrot Fever (1992–93, unpublished)
According to Google Books, ‘This book deals with the final few years of Jan Kerouac’s life when she was working on her last novel Parrot Fever and fighting for rights to her father Jack Kerouac’s estate.”
This chapbook as a special edition may be available from the author. His email address is [email protected].
Gerald Nicosia will be reading from the manuscript “Kerouac Princess” on March 14th, at 7 pm, Depot Bookstore and Cafe, 87 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, CA.
Addendum: Video of Jan Kerouac talking about her father.
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