Tag Archives: THE BEATS

Where Death Shaped the Beats

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Where Death Shaped the Beats

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The Beat writers, from left, Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg in 1959. More Photos »

  • THE scene of the crime, Riverside Park at the foot of West 115th Street, is in full spring bloom, carpeted in the butter-colored flowers of lesser celandine. It was here 68 years ago, on a slope descending to the moonlit Hudson River, that Lucien Carr, 19, the Beat Generation’s charismatic, callow swami, buried a knife in the heart of David Kammerer, 33, his besotted, dauntless hometown stalker.
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A map of the Columbia University area with key locations involved in David Kammerer’s death. More Photos »

Carr is often characterized as muse to the Beats, but he was more than that. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were acolytes, captivated by Carr’s profane rants about bourgeois culture and the path to transcendence through pure creative expression — his “New Vision,” after “A Vision” by Yeats.

Carr’s “honor slaying” of Kammerer, as The Daily News called it, served as an emotional fulcrum forthe group a decade before Kerouac, Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs published their seminal works; the violent death in their midst lent credibility to the tortured-soul narrative they yearned for.

Columbia University was critical to that narrative, and its Beaux-Arts campus is featured in a film now in production, “Kill Your Darlings,” starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg. The university stood as a kind of crucible for the Beats, who were emerging “like a wild seed in a city garden,” wrote the Beat historian Bill Morgan. Many of their haunts in Morningside Heights remain (all within a few blocks of the 116th Street subway station on Broadway), including the venerable dorms where they lived — Hartley and what is now Wallach. Any pilgrim’s archeological Beat tour, inspired by the movie or not, must begin with the university itself, a useful antagonist in the iconoclasts’ quest for artistic self-actualization.

“They all loved to feel they were sleeping in the camp of the enemy somehow,” said Ben Marcus, a novelist and associate professor at Columbia’s School of the Arts. “As much as universities should be cauldrons of creativity and breeding grounds for new creative activity, the Beats needed to feel that they were being stifled by forces at the university.”

They seemed to enjoy the idea, he added, “that these forces were straitjacketing them, whether it was true or not.”

“Kill Your Darlings,” from Killer Films, an independent production company, tells a version of the story that can also be found in “And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks,” a roman à clef written in 1945 by Kerouac and Burroughs but unpublished until 2008. (The title was derived from an apocryphal story concerning a radio newscast about a zoo fire.) In addition to Mr. Radcliffe, shedding his Harry Potter guise to play Ginsberg, the film stars Michael C. Hall, the agreeable serial killer Dexter on Showtime, as Kammerer; Jack Huston, from HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” as Kerouac; and a relative unknown, Dane DeHaan, as Carr.

Kammerer’s pederastic interest in Carr began when Kammerer was Carr’s Boy Scout leader in St. Louis, where both came from privileged backgrounds, according to Mr. Morgan’s “I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg.”

Carr was a boy Aphrodite. In “Hippos” Kerouac called the Carr character “the kind of boy literary fags write sonnets to, which start out, ‘O raven-haired Grecian lad….’ ”

Kammerer, a whiskered redhead, taught physical education and English at Washington University. In about 1940, when Carr was 15, his mother, Marion, discovered a cache of “desperate” letters from the older man, according to James Campbell’s “This Is the Beat Generation.” She sent him to boarding school in Chicago, but Kammerer trailed him there — and then to Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.; Bowdoin College in Maine; and, finally, Columbia.

The Beats began to form during Carr’s first semester there. He and Ginsberg, a freshman from New Jersey, lived in an overflow dorm at the nearby Union Theological Seminary. At Christmastime in 1943, according to Mr. Campbell’s book, Ginsberg heard Brahms wafting from Carr’s room and knocked to find out who was listening to the music he loved. Ginsberg was smitten. In his journal, he called Carr his first love and “sweet vision.”

That winter Carr introduced Ginsberg to Kammerer and Burroughs, who had been schoolmates in St. Louis and were neighbors in Greenwich Village.

Kerouac, another Columbian, was ushered in a few months later when he met Carr at the West End, the saloon at 2911 Broadway, a 60-yard dash away from Columbia’s College Walk. (Kerouac initially found Carr to be pretentious and obnoxious, although he used a more vulgar description in “Vanity of Duluoz,” another of Kerouac’s gauzy autobiographical novels.)

By then Ginsberg and Carr were living at Lucien Carr  at 404 West 115th Street (now a parking lot). Kammerer was an occasional visitor, sometimes stealing in through the fire escape to watch Carr sleep, according to an often-repeated anecdote in Beat biographies, including Mr. Morgan’s “Beat Generation in New York: A Walking Tour of Jack Kerouac’s City.” Kerouac stayed with his girlfriend, Edie Parker, in Apartment 62 at 421 West 118th Street, a plaster-frosted walkup off Amsterdam Avenue.

In August 1944 Kerouac and Carr schemed a Merchant Marine adventure to France, where — in the midst of war — they had an irrational plan to retrace the Paris footsteps of the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud, whom Carr regarded as a doppelganger.

The plan fell apart on Aug. 13, when they got drunk and were late getting to their ship, and the men rued their broken dream that night at the West End (now called Havana Central at the West End). Kerouac left Carr at midnight and crossed paths on campus near St. Paul’s Chapel with Kammerer, Carr’s relentless birddog.

Kammerer asked his usual question: “Where’s Lucien?”

Kerouac sent him to the West End.

“And I watch him rush off to his death,” Kerouac wrote in “Duluoz.”

Kammerer and Carr left the bar at 3 a.m. New York was sweltering, and they toddled downhill to Riverside Park for cool air.

An account of the crime in The New York Times at the time explained that Kammerer made “an offensive proposal.” The article continued:

“Carr said that he rejected it indignantly and that a fight ensued. Carr, a slight youth, 5 feet 9 tall and weighing 140 pounds, was no match for the burly former physical education instructor, who was 6 feet tall and weighed about 185 pounds.”

“In desperation,” the account added, “Carr pulled out of his pocket his Boy Scout knife, a relic of his boyhood, and plunged the blade twice in rapid succession into Kammerer’s chest.”

Had Carr run to the police, he probably would have been hailed as a hero against a pervert. But he did something quite different.

He rolled the body to the river’s edge, bound the limbs with shoe laces, stuffed rocks in the pockets, and watched his longtime lurker sink.

Carr hurried to Greenwich Village and reported his deed to Burroughs, who advised him to tell the police he was the victim of a sex fiend. Instead Carr woke Kerouac, who recounted that eye-opener in “Duluoz”:

“Well,” Carr said, “I disposed of the old man last night.”

He didn’t seem nettled. As much as anything, Carr seemed satisfied, by all accounts, that he had finally done something noteworthy. The two men walked up West 118th Street to Morningside Park, where Carr buried Kammerer’s eyeglasses, which he had pocketed as evidence of his feat.

He and Kerouac traipsed about Manhattan, dropping the Boy Scout knife in a subway grate on 125th Street. They visited the Museum of Modern Art, a hot dog stand in Times Square and a cinema where they watched “The Four Feathers.”

Carr finally walked into the district attorney’s office and announced the killing. Prosecutors thought he was crazy — “the imaginings of an overstrained mind,” The Times wrote. Carr sat there reading Yeats, to the bewilderment of police officers and crime reporters.

The police were convinced only when Carr led them to the buried glasses the next day, at about the time Kammerer’s body bobbed up off West 108th Street.

A week after the killing Ginsberg wrote the poem “Hymn to the Virgin,” which hinted at a complex relationship. Written to Carr in Kammerer’s voice, it begins, “Thou who art afraid to have me, lest thou lose me.” (Two months after the death Ginsberg took an apartment at 627 West 115th Street, about a hundred paces from the death site.)

Carr pleaded guilty to manslaughter. A judge had mercy on “young, good-looking Lucien,” as The Times called him, and sent Carr to the Elmira Reformatory, not prison. (Burroughs and Kerouac were confined briefly as accessories. While he was jailed Kerouac was escorted by the police to his courthouse wedding with Parker, and the newlyweds later moved to another Morningside Heights Beat pad, at 419 West 115th Street.)

Carr returned to New York after 18 months away and joined United Press (later United Press International), beginning a 47-year career there. (He had three sons with his first wife, Francesca von Hartz, including the novelist Caleb Carr.) He remained close to Ginsberg and Kerouac, even as he tried to scrub himself from Beat history. He insisted that Ginsberg remove his name from the dedication of “Howl,” and the publication of “Hippos” waited until after Carr died in 2005.

An archive of letters and postcards to Carr at Columbia’s Butler Library shows that Kerouac and Ginsberg continued to solicit his approval long after they became famous writers — Ginsberg in intimate, lyrical letters and Kerouac in wisecracking postcards.

Yet in his journal (published in his “Book of Martyrdom and Artifice”) Ginsberg wrote of Carr: “He must prove that he is a genius. He cannot do so in creative labor — for he has not the patience, says he, nor the time, says he, nor the occasion, says he. None of these reasons is correct. He seems not to have the talent.”

Carr certainly was a talented editor. A 2003 history of United Press International called him “the soul of the news service.” He did not talk about his life among the Beats or his crime, and former colleagues say Carr would have been livid about “Kill Your Darlings.”

Joseph A. Gambardello, a longtime newspaper editor, was a protégé of Carr’s at U.P.I. in the mid-1970s, when the news service was based in the Daily News Building on East 42nd Street.

“When I met him he was a hard-drinking, hardworking journalist,” Mr. Gambardello said. “He did not come across as a pretentious jackass at all.” He added, “The person I had read about with Kerouac and Ginsberg didn’t exist anymore.”

Carr occasionally sent Mr. Gambardello to Louie’s East, an adjacent bar, to fetch a “Lou Carr Special” — a lot of vodka, a little Coke.

He had gotten over Rimbaud.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 11, 2012

An article on Friday about the 1944 killing of David Kammerer by the Beat Generation figure Lucien Carr misspelled the given name of Carr’s mother, who discovered “desperate” letters from Kammerer to her son, according to “This Is the Beat Generation” by James Campbell. She was Marion Gratz Carr, not Marian. And a correction in this space on Saturday misspelled the surname of one of the two authors of a screenplay, “Kill Your Darlings” that is based on the killing. He is John Krokidas, not Krokidis. (Austin Bunn is his co-writer.)

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 7, 2012

An article on Friday about the 1944 killing of David Kammerer by the Beat Generation figure Lucien Carr misidentified the source of a screenplay based on the killing. The screenplay, “Kill Your Darlings,” now in production, was written by John Krokidas and Austin Bunn. They did not adapt it from “And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks,” a roman à clef written in 1945 by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs that tells a similar version of the killing.

KEROUAC’S BOOZY BEATITUDES ON ITALIAN TV, 1966

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KEROUAC’S BOOZY BEATITUDES ON ITALIAN TV, 1966
KEROUAC’S BOOZY BEATITUDES ON ITALIAN TV, 1966
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10.18.2010
10:54 pm

Pivanoimage

Writer, critic and translator Pivano ,interviews Jack Kerouac on BEATITUDES 1966. Kerouac is more than a wee bit shitfaced.

Fabulous live portrait of a freewheeling Kerouac.

Pivano was known for her insightful and freewheeling interviews of American beat writers, including Ginsberg, Corso, Bukowski and Burroughs. She had a knack for getting on the wavelength of writers being one herself. And she enjoyed drinking with them. Her published interviews with Bukowski are worth seeking out. Her longstanding friendship with Hemingway certainly prepared her for dealing with a bunch of drunk poets.

A BRIEF GUIDE TO THE “BEATS”

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A BRIEF GUIDE TO THE “BEATS”
 A BRIEF GUIDE TO THE “BEATS”
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I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at
dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient
heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the
machinery of night . . .
Allen Ginsberg, “Howl”

Beat poetry evolved during the 1940s in both New York City and on the west coast, although San Francisco became the heart of the movement in the early 1950s. The end of World War II left poets like Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso questioning mainstream politics and culture. These poets would become known as the Beat generation, a group of writers interested in changing consciousness and defying conventional writing. The Beats were also closely intertwined with poets of the San Francisco Renaissance movement, such as Kenneth Rexroth and Robert Duncan.

The battle against social conformity and literary tradition was central to the work of the Beats. Among this group of poets, hallucinogenic drugs were used to achieve higher consciousness, as was meditation and Eastern religion. Buddhism especially was important to many of the Beat poets; Snyder and Ginsberg both intensely studied this religion and it figured into much of their work.

Ginsberg’s first book, Howl and Other Poems, is often considered representative of the Beat poets. In 1956 Ferlinghetti’s press City Lights published Howl and Ferlinghetti was brought to trial the next year on charges of obscenity. In a hugely publicized case, the judge ruled thatHowl was not obscene and brought national attention to Ginsberg and the Beat poets.

Besides publishing the Pocket Poets Series, Ferlinghetti also founded the legendary San Francisco bookstore City Lights. Still in operation today, City Lights is an important landmark of Beat generation history. Several of the surrounding streets have been renamed after Beat poets as well, commemorating their important contribution to the cultural landscape of San Francisco.

Other Beat poets included Diane di Prima, Neal Cassady, Anne Waldman, and Michael McClure. Although William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac are often best remembered for works of fiction such as Naked Lunch and On the Road, respectively, they also wrote poetry and were very much part of the Beats as well; Kerouac is said to have coined the term “Beat generation,” describing the down-and-out status of himself and his peers during the post-war years.

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Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Driving Directions & Published as a Free eBook

JACK KEROUAC’S ON  THE ROAD TURNED INTO GOOGLE DRIVING DIRECTOONS AND PUBLISHED AS A,FREE E BOOK
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http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1vGUFS/:M!q7pNWY:Q-53!U2N/www.openculture.com/2014/02/jack-kerouacs-on-the-road-turned-into-google-driving-directions.html/

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Driving Directions & Published as a Free eBook

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THE BEATS-PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED PHOTOS OF LARRY FINK

THE BEATS-PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED PHOTOS OF LARRY FINK

The Beats: Previously Unpublished Larry Fink Photos

In 1958, Larry Fink — the photographer best-known today for celebrity portraits in magazines like Vanity Fair and GQ — was an 18-year-old college dropout. He moved from his native Long Island to Greenwich Village, and decided to hitchhike across the country with the second generation of Beat artists. “It was my fate to be aligned with the Beats because of my propensity for drugs, anger, and poetry,” Fink writes in The Beats, a new book of previously unpublished photography from his 1958 and 1959 travels. “Since they were second generation, without the same sense of immortal obsession such as the like of Kerouac and Ginsberg, they had a distinct need to be documented.”

Despite confessing that his traveling companions “did not like me much,” (a fact he attributes to his Marxist upbringing), Fink traveled with artists like Amiri Baraka and Hugh Romney (Wavy Gravy) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Houston and Mexico, and back to Chicago and Cincinnati. “They desperately needed a photographer to be with them, to give them gravity, record and encode their wary but benighted existence,” he reflects. Click through the slideshow for a look at the intimate, glamorous, and gritty photographs that resulted.

Larry Fink will speak at the Strand in New York on May 21 to celebrate the book’s release.

THE BEATS-PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED PHOTOS OF LARRY FINK

Video of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks

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Video of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks

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Video  of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks

If the only Beat Generation writers you can name are Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, then it’s time to educate yourself about the rest of the gang. A great place to start is Original Beats, a short documentary by Francois Bernadi that we learned about thanks to Dangerous Minds. The film, shot in the mid-’90s, follows Herbert Huncke and Gregory Corso — the oldest and youngest member, respectively, of the Beat inner circle. In fact, while Corso’s work may be more famous, Huncke was hugely influential to the movement, introducing the major players to (’50s) hipster culture and even coining the term “Beat.” (Sadly, he was also a lifelong junkie who spent his last years in poverty; Jonathan Lethem recently wrote a New Yorker piece about the time he caught Huncke shoplifting at the bookstore where he worked as a high schooler.)

The documentary offers an entertaining look at the origins of the Beat movement, as well as some readings, and a number of epic anecdotes from Huncke and Corso, from Huncke’s first glimpse of Times Square to both men’s stints in prison. One of Corso’s stories, about a time when he and Allen Ginsberg read in Chicago, ends with this wonderful moment: “One of the people in the audience said, ‘Mr. Ginsberg, why is there so much homosexuality in your poetry?’ And Allen said, ‘Because I’m queer, madam!’” Enjoy Original Beats after the jump.

A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE BEATS

ABOUT PHILIP WALEN

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ABOUT PHILIP WALEN

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Philip Whalen: Plums, Metaphysics, an Investigation, a Visit, and a Short Funeral Ode
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Philip Whalen reads

 

On Friday, October 7, 1955 Philip Whalen read at the underground art gallery the Six Gallery in San Francisco. Also reading that night were Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Phillip Lamanita, Michael McClure, and Gary Snyder. Conceived by Wally Hedrick, co-founder of the Six Gallery, the reading brought public attention to the West Coast Beats. Though Whalen hung out with beat poets, his own voice differs from theirs. On the Poetry Foundation’s biography web page for Whalen, they point out that his work’s reverential treatment of the mundane, its self-deprecating humor, and its generally apolitical tone. distinguishes him from other beat poets.

Born October 23, 1923 in Portland Oregon, Philip Whalen grew up in the small town of The Dalles, eighty miles south of Portland. He attended Reed College on the GI Bill after serving in the US Army Air Force in WWII. In High School he had read Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. In a 1999 interview he told David Meltzer that after reading Blavatsky …I went to see where was she coming from? Where is she getting all this stuff? And then I found the actual translations of the actual Vedanta writings. You know the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita and so on. And that was very satisfying that this system was really there, and it made sense to me…. After release from the army, he visited the Vedanta Society in Portland, but did not attend due to the expense. He was introduced to D. T. Suzuki’s books lent to him by his roommate Gary Snyder, and followed a Zen path eventually becoming head monk of Dharma Shagha in Santa Fe.

Whalen wrote his poetry in notebooks and accompanied them with doodles and other visual elements. He considered his calligraphic text an important layer in his work. In her introduction to his selected works Overtime, Leslie Scalapino says: Whalen not only posits the poetry to be a graph of the mind moving, but he contrives to break that mind apart: writing is to make no connection as it’s being in the instant of and being the act of disjunction.

He appears as the character Warren Coughlin in Jack Kerouac’s novel The Dharma Bums. In addition to poetry, Whalen wrote two novels: “You Didn’t Even Try” and “Imaginary Speeches for a Brazen Head”.

Whalen’s vision deteriorated as he aged to the point where he could no longer read. He died June 26, 2002.
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1923–2002

Philip Whalen is often labelled a “Beat poet” because he enjoyed his first creative achievement during the years when Beat literature thrived. As an ally and confidant of the major figures of the Beat Generation—and as a significant poet in his own right—Whalen is generally considered one of the pioneering forces behind the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the mid-1950s. The author’s work differs from much Beat writing in its reverential treatment of the mundane, its self-deprecating humor, and its generally apolitical tone. Dictionary of Literary Biography essayist Paul Christensen writes: “Whalen’s singular style and personality contribute to his character in verse as a bawdy, honest, moody, complicated songster of the frenzied mid-century, an original troubadour and thinker who refused to take himself too seriously during the great revival of visionary lyric in American poetry.”

As a writer living in the West during the Beat era, Whalen certainly shared many of the concerns of other Beat writers—Zen Buddhism and other Asian religions, a concern for the environment, sexual freedom, experimental poetics, and exploration of hallucinogenic drugs, for instance. Christensen notes that the poet “got his start from the wild energies released in his early years in California,” but adds that Whalen’s “purposes and his ambitions always lay outside the immediate ethos of that original circle. He shared in its good ties and believed in the purposes of the other writers, but his humor and curious loneliness made for a different vein of verse, not better necessarily,

 

but unique and durable as the voice of a diffident, intelligent American.” Christensen concludes that Whalen “thought of art as an act of personal delight and as a consolation to solitude…. It was in keeping with his image of writing that he could devote himself to his work without making it serve any other end but its own self-fulfillment.”

David Kherdian comes to a similar conclusion in Six Poets of the San Francisco Renaissance: Portraits and Checklists. “Many poets today look on themselves as the saviors and martyrs of their time,” Kherdian writes. “Whalen, on the contrary, is not concerned with revolutions and social panaceas. If he sees the big man at all he sees him in the small situation: tripping over a pebble on his journey to deliver a rose. Out of themes that are often seemingly mundane and prosaic he creates poetry of significance because his vision is peculiarly his own and because the clarity of his intelligence is capable of grasping and arresting meaning in seemingly ephemeral and unimportant subjects.” Christensen sees this unique vision as a particular strength of Whalen’s work: “Whalen has managed to espouse the religious principles of Zen Buddhism without renouncing the world around him, retaining a humorous, whimsical balance in his poems, and mixing the pleasures of California life with contemplation in such a way as to persuade readers that the flesh and spirit may be enjoyed together in the fulfillment of one’s life.”

Whalen was born in 1923 in Portland, Oregon. He grew up in the small Columbia River town of The Dalles and attended public schools. He began writing poetry at the age of sixteen, experimenting with various traditional forms of verse and contributing to his high school’s literary magazine. According to Christensen, Whalen “had the ambition to follow the kind of double life of the poet William Carlos Williams, who supported a poetry career by his medical practice.” Unfortunately, the Whalen family could not afford college tuition fees, so Whalen took jobs as a laborer in a Portland airplane factory and at the local shipyards.

In 1943 Whalen was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and was trained to teach radio operation and maintenance. The position kept him stateside during the Second World War and allowed him enough free time to read and write. Thus he was able to widen his experience with Asian literature and philosophy, an interest begun in his high school years. Also during his military service Whalen expanded the use of notebooks for jotting down his impressions and experimenting with scribbled bits of poetry.

After his discharge in 1946, Whalen returned to Portland and enrolled at Reed College under the G.I. Bill. There he worked at his studies and his creative writing at a near-frenzied pace, determined to become an accomplished writer. He received encouragement from his instructors and from William Carlos Williams, who visited Reed in 1950.

Perhaps more important to Whalen’s development was his budding friendship with Lew Welch and Gary Snyder. Whalen met Welch and Snyder in the late 1940s and moved into a rooming house with them in 1950. Christensen notes that the young writers “shared their works, encouraged one another, and established a bohemian style of their own in the subculture of the Reed literati.” As the 1950s unfolded, the critic adds, Whalen, Snyder, and Welch “brought a compelling style of writing to the California ferment—a style clearly marked by subtle intelligence, compassion for nature (doubtless borne into them by the beauty of the Oregon mountains and wilderness), and a keenly felt spiritual reality which Snyder and Whalen both interpreted religiously in later years.”
READ MORE CLICK LINK
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/philip-whalen

Hiway America- City Lights Bookstore -The Beats -San Francisco,Ca

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Hiway America- City Lights Bookstore -The Beats -San Francisco,Ca

 

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A TOUR OF THE BOOKSTORE
http://www.citylights.com/bookstore/?fa=books_tour

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