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Kerouac’s “On the Road” turns 50 and much ado is made about something at the Loud Mouth open mic held at The Mac in South St. Louis

I love open mics that celebrate literature more than the funny little egos who produce it. The Loud Mouth open mic at The Mac in South St. Louis last night sponsored by the St. Louis Writers Guild was of the first sort as we gathered to celebrate Kerouac's "On the Road" as it turns 50...living longer than its author.

I found a great site where you can hear Kerouac speaking and singing his prose and poetry. Click here. Also, you gotta check out the NPR page of Kerouac here.

Scroll detail of “On the Road” by TIM
Scroll detail of "On the Road" by TIM (from The Tribe online network)

At The Mac, folks read original work interpersed with readings from "On the Road." I read Clive Matson's title poem "Squish Boots."
Clive Matson by Trudy Fisher 2004
Clive Matson (Trudy Fisher, 2004). Click here to go to Clive's website and learn more about his work.

In Northern California Clive was an important writing friend-teacher-mentor for me and I attended his "Crazy Child" workshops when I had the chance. Through connections made there I began publishing in national literary magazines and when "Sightlines: A Poet's Diary" came out, Clive wrote a testimonial for the book jacket, and I felt all grown up.

Since this was a Beat theme evening, I chose his work to read because Clive became a protege of the Beat Generation in New York in the 1960s. His mentor was Herbert Huncke and John Wieners was the poet Cive most admired. Clive's first book of poems, "Mainline to the Heart", was published in 1966 by Diane DiPrima's Poets Press. Half a dozen poetry chapbooks followed (and another in the offing) along with the classic for writers "Let the Crazy Child Write," one of the most sensible and inspiring writing books anywhere around.

I told the audience at The Mac, "I've just moved here from Northern California. There we think of St. Louis as 'Back East.' But, now that I'm here, I'd say you are more Wild West than we are. You carry guns--legally--and smoke...indoors...in public places." That got us off to a humorous start.

Clive's "Squish Boots" ended up in John Wieners coffin and went with him to the grave. He'd sent the book as soon as it was published to Johhn Wiener's so he could see it, but the book got there just too late. The man who'd cared for Wiener's then placed it in the coffin. That's how I remember the story, and I only wish you could hear Clive tell it.

One of my favorite stanza from "Squish Boots" is:

Are you my Daddy?
How can you walk
with those funny hairy balls
between your legs? Where hundreds
of millions of tiny people
jump around in fish suits?

(page 62)

Folks really liked Clive's poem, and also, how I read it, which pleased me. I enjoyed everything that was read and the convivial atmosphere. When we include work at open mics besides those in the room, it enlarges the context to say: "We are part of a living lineage of words. Come, partake," rather than "Love me. Love me, love my work, love me right now." There's plenty of talent in St. Louis...and, writers who are good at their craft and can make us all laugh, too, even while making a point. (Another time I'll be able to introduce you to my new writing pals.)

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5 Responses »

  1. Hey Janet,

    It was a quite nice little time and I agree with you on the lack of egos. Very refreshing.

    Thought you might like this: I was the one who read the 30 essential beliefs of Spontaneous prose, and I thought you were the one asking where I got the list. I posted it here:
    http://eliot.stlwritersguild.org/wordpress/?p=45

    Take care!

  2. A fresh breeze blew in from northern California Tuesday night for our LoudMouth celebration of Kerouac. How appropriate. "On the Road" convinced me to move to San Francisco in 1960. So here we are back in St. Louis... south St. Louis actually... where beautiful and gutsy writers gather monthly to strut their stuff. So glad you were there, Janet, and took the time to mention it on your website. Everyone was enthralled by your poetry reading (hope enthralled isn't pushing it too much). After you left, 4 members of the Poetry Center came in and wrapped up the evening with some incredible energy and ideas. You've gotta catch 'em next time. Good meeting you.

  3. One more thing, Janet - Your website is very cool. g

  4. Hi Janet!
    Janet!
    I don't know if I told you that The Apple Factory, which you featured here, has had a second publication in July's Crazy Child Scribbler. My friend has taken a couple of Clive's classes and is editing the journal just now. It was published even tho' I haven't taken his class....an honor! And here you are, telling me such a great story about him and your experience with him! It is truly a small world...even if I'm still in No.CAL. Your blog is so very rich, bringing us history, story, art and joy. Thanks...

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