Thursday, December 31, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Meher Baba In Red Coat. painting by Karl Gallagher 2002

Flowers. digital image by Karl Gallagher, 2009

Flowers 2. digital image by Karl Gallagher, 2009

Meher Baba. painting by Karl Gallagher, 1998


Karl Gallagher, poems . . .

Too Hard To Be Seen

what would it matter if it seemed
that it was all becoming like a dream
who would care
if I disappeared into thin air

awareness dissolves
I miss cues and clues
I don’t send a card
long distance connections drift
the immediate is too hard to be seen

Mc Donald’s Track, 1986

Deep night three a.m.
black window mirrors
moonshaft night spills across landscape
black sea dreams
memories promises childhood dreams
old man future
scuttle of mice overhead
silence solitary dreams
deep black eyes of the great southern whale

tan and blue gum tree
sentinel of the black crane night
wine glass smoke biscuit cheese dream

dawn light grey songbird
skitter scatter sound dream
grey morning drip drap kitchen tap
awakening day dream

falling feathers sky high eagle
cloud thunder shroud dream
fortress walls tower cloud
rain about to be dream
running streams dream
drip dripping trees dream
golden bridge of sun dream
breakthrough walls dream
on the rolling ocean
of swelling hills dream


poem by Jack Kerouac

Bowery Blues

The story of man
Makes me sick
Inside, outside,
I don't know why
Something so conditional
And all talk
Should hurt me so.

I am hurt
I am scared
I want to live
I want to die
I don't know
Where to turn
In the Void
And when
To cut

For no Church told me
No Guru holds me
No advice
Just stone
Of New York
And on the cafeteria
We hear
The saxophone
O dead Ruby
Died of Shot
In Thirty Two,
Sounding like old times
And de bombed
Empty decapitated
Murder by the clock.

And I see Shadows
Dancing into Doom
In love, holding
Tight the lovely asses
Of the young girls
In love with sex
Showing themselves
In white undergarments
At elevated windows
Hoping for the Worst.

I can't take it
If I can't hold
My little behind
To me in my room

Then it's goodbye
For me
Girls aren't as good
As they look
And Samadhi
Is better
Than you think
When it starts in
Hitting your head
In with Buzz
Of glittergold
Heaven's Angels


We've been waiting for you
Since Morning, Jack
Why were you so long
Dallying in the sooty room?
This transcendental Brilliance
Is the better part
(of Nothingness
I sing)



Monday, December 21, 2009

Elise Cowen


Francis Bacon  - a painting by Karl Gallagher, 1990.

F Scot Fitzgerald, Hollywood 1940 - a painting by Karl Gallagher, 2004.

Stacey  - a painting by Karl Gallagher, 1989 (overdosed in 1971)



“. . . bringing the secret message of blowing to other coasts, other cities … we had our mystic heroes and wrote, nay sung novels about them, erected long poems celebrating the new 'angels' of the American underground--In actuality there was only a handful of real hip swinging cats and what there was vanished mightily swiftly during the Korean War when (and after) a sinister new kind of efficiency appeared in America, maybe it was the result of the universalization of Television and nothing else … but the beat characters after 1950 vanished into jails and madhouses, or were shamed into silent conformity, the generation itself was shortlived and small in number." Jack Kerouac.

It is perceived by many scholars that post-modernism began with the arrival of television sets in the family home. As the ownership of television sets increased so did the cultural phenomenon of ‘post-modernism’ increase along with the competing dichotomies within our society – the power of materialism and the power of the spirit.

There were lots of casualties among the original beat generation, and those that followed – madhouses (psychiatric wards), suicide, jails, alcoholism, drug addiction, madness, disappearances.

The two dichotomies – on the one hand, for instance,things like the McCarthy vendetta pursuing supposed communists in the arts and destroying careers and lives, blacklisting so that an individual couldn’t get a job; often they were innocent persons - - and on the other hand, a new spiritual energy sweeping through the westen world - especially America - Beats, music, painting, writing, and disengagement from the corporate values driving America.

Individuals gravitated to bohemian enclaves and kindred souls – Greenwich Village (NYC), Venice West (LA), North Beach, Bay Area, Berkeley (San Francisco) in America - and South Yarra/Carlton/Fitzroy in Melbourne, Kings Cross/Balmain/Padington in Sydney. But there were a lot of casualties among the beats, and the generations to follow – from the pressures of family, social normalcy and the stresses of its contradictions. And the coping mechanisms of alcohol, drugs.

Restlessness, disconnection, and depression were evident. Mental breakdowns were rife.

Kerouac died from a massive haemorrhage from advanced alcoholism, helped along by his disillusionment with his life, and life itself.

[At a seminar]
"A woman from the audience asks: 'Why are there so few women on this panel? Why are there so few women in this whole week's program? Why were there so few women among the Beat writers?' and Gregory Corso, suddenly utterly serious, leans forward and says: "There were women, they were there, I knew them, their families put them in institutions, they were given electric shock. In the '50s if you were male you could be a rebel, but if you were female your families had you locked up. There were cases, I knew them, someday someone will write about them." -- from Stephen Scobie's account of the Naropa Institute tribute to Ginsberg, July 1994

One of these women was Elise Cowen (1933-1962) – a figure from the earliest days, close friend of Ginsberg; close friend of Joyce Johnson, Elise suicided in 1962.

Ginsberg and Elise Cowan early  days in NYC

“Elise Cowen, though dead more than a quarter century, is in many ways more tangible than many of the other Beat women. She is alive in the pages of Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters and in the memories of many of the survivors of the Beat Generation whom she marked forever with her generous friendship. Janine Pommy Vega with whom Elise lived for a time, says, "I still think about her every day. She was the smartest person I knew.

Elise was born to a wealthy family on Long Island who were given to high-strung histrionics interspersed with brittle attempts at normalcy. (…) More than anything, they wanted the perfect daughter to complete the ensemble and Elise became the focus of their rages.

Although Elise didn't make good grades, she was extremely bright and read exten- Poetry, especially the works of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, were particular favourites . . . She favored the darker poetry most of all, suggesting a shadow side to the good-friend persona she kept on display.

. . . she met Joyce Johnson and Leo Skir, among other Beat players, and got involved with her philosophy professor, Alex Greer. . . (who was) the portal to Elise's future; when his friend Allen Ginsberg arrived on the scene, Elise recognized a twin soul. (Joyce Johnson mentions how they even looked alike during that time.) . . . Allen and Elise both met Carl Solomon for whom Allen would eventually write "Howl") in separate stays at mental hospital . . . Elise was in Bellevue Hospital during one of her episodes of depression.

Elise (was) . . .never completely free of the shadows. She took a job as a typist and had a dismal career, typing at night, drinking red wine, and writing poetry in secret. After being fired from her job, she ran away to San Francisco, disappearing from view. The Elise that returned to New York a year later was changed: thinner and quieter, she seemed, even more haunted than before.

Elise was admitted to Bellevue and released a few days later into her parents' care. Their intention was to take her to Miami, for rest and recuperation. Elise never made the trip. On February 1, 1962, she jumped out of the window of her parents' living room in Washington Heights. She died instantly. The police noted that the window was still locked--Elise had jumped through a closed window.

None of her poetry was published in her lifetime, but eighty-three poems have rested in a box in her friend Leo Skir's basement in Minneapolis; her remaining poems and journals were destroyed by her family after her death. Over the years, Leo, a still-loyal friend, has sent some of Elise's poems to Evergreen Review and several small literary magazines." and in Women of the Beat Generation.

[ In San Francisco. According to her friend, Leo Skir, she lived with a drunken Irish artist and spent most of her time at a bar called "The Place". She got pregnant, had hysterectomy, returned to New York and eventually moved back into her parent's home in Washington Heights.]

Women of the Beat Generation, ed. Brenda Knight, 1996; the photo is of Janine Pommy Vega

Neal Cassady in those few years before his death was going mad - as a result of excessive drug use, disconnection from his stable family life, and the restless aimless lifestyle he lived especially in the last years. In the last couple of years he was heard at times to be 'having violent arguments in his room with the Devil.’ He told his ex-wife Carolyn that he was frightened – ‘ …because he didn’t know what was happening to him – that he could no longer control it.’

Neal Cassady 1967


★★★★★ five star hit-

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jack Keroauc & Jack Karlos' unpublished papers

Jack Karlos

Jack Karlos died in 2006 aged 74 in Brisbane, where he lived the last ten years of his life. He worked all his life as a merchant seaman since he first shipped out from Glasgow as a young man of twenty in 1952. After jumping ship in 1954 in New York City, where he lived for two years as an illegal immigrant, he arrived in Australia and made his home base in Melbourne.

Jack Karlos’s papers (contained in a single small suitcase) were passed on to me when he died – including the unpublished manuscript ‘Eternity Unzipped’ (1966) and note books and journals. For the past few months I have been reading them obsessively. It seemed that I was in a dream – lodged more in the Dreamtime than in everyday reality. Desolation angels are in all generations and from all creative urges and surges, not just the Beats, and in all walks of life - are they not? So I will roam wide and include those who are well known, those not so well known and, those in my own locale - Australia. From time to time I will also post up more from Jack Karlos' manuscript.

Dharma Jack Kerouac

1946, this photo was taken ten years before the other classic shot of him that was used on the back cover of his early books - the one taken in San Francisco right after he had just come down from the Cascade mountains and firelookout job in 1956.

♣ ♣ ♣

Holy Skid-Row Blues . . .


The awakened Buddha to show the way, the chosen Messiah to die in the degradation of sentience, is the golden eternity. One that is what is, the golden eternity, or, God, or, Tathagata-the name. The Named One. The human God. Sentient Godhood. Animate Divine. The Deified One. The Verified One. The Free One. The Liberator. The Still One. The settled One. The Established One. Golden Eternity. All is Well. The Empty One. The Ready One. The Quitter. The Sitter. The Justified One. The Happy One.”

Jack Kerouac [The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, 1953]

John Clellon Holmes - On his way

I surveyed the people moving in and out of the sleazy little grocery up ahead (dark, good-looking men in sport shirts, most of them, with bags full of beer), but saw no one I would have identified as the author of a novel, weighing twenty pounds in the hand [the munuscript of On The Road], that was being seriously touted to publishers by people I respected.

But Kerouac was one of those men — the one who looked like the serious, tee-shirted younger brother of the others; the brother they were proud of because he played the violin as well as he played basketball; the young John Garfield back in the neighborhood after college, absolutely at ease there, but just as absolutely separated from it now by some weaning knowledge he could not communicate. He was making the run for more beer, he said with a hesitant smile, and, while [Alan] Harrington bought a contribution of big, brown quarts, he and I talked a little there on the sidewalk.

I don’t remember anything we said. It was probably no more than that gauging, neutral chat beneath which young men take each other’s measure, but I do remember my first impression. Under the boyish forelock, his strangely tender eyes noted me as we spoke, but all the time I felt that he was more keenly attuned to the tangled life of that street than to anything we were saying. It seemed to distract and stir him; he was at once excited and somehow emptied by it. Though he was just as straightforward, personable, buoyant, and attractive as I had been led to expect, there was a curious shyness under his exuberance; there was the touch of a moody thought around his mouth (like the reveler’s sudden foretaste of the ashen dawn to come), and, above all, there was that quietly impressive intensity of consciousness. All of which made me understand his friends’ enthusiasm in a flash: he was so evidently on his way toward some accomplishment, or some fate, that it was impossible not to warm to him immediately. [...]

We became friends more quickly than I have ever become friends with anyone else. Everything about him was engaging in those days. He days. He was open-hearted, impulsive, candid and very handsome. He didn’t seem like any other writer that I knew. He wasn’t wary, opinionated, cynical or competitive, and if I hadn’t already known him by reputation, I would have pegged him as a poetic lumberjack, or a sailor with Shakespeare in his sea locker. Melville, armed with the manuscript of Typee, must have struck the Boston Brahmins in much the same way. Stocky, medium-tall, Kerouac had the tendoned forearms, heavily muscled thighs, and broad neck of a man who exults in his physical life. His face was black-browed and firm-nosed, with the expressive curve of lip and the dark, somehow tender eyes that move you so in a loyal, sensitive animal. But it was the purity in that face, scowl or smile, that struck you first. You realized that the emotions surfaced on it unimpeded. Mothers warmed to him immediately: they thought him nice, respectful, even shy. Girls inspected him, their gazes snagged by those bony, Breton good looks, that ingathered aura of dense, somehow buried maleness. (New York, 1948)


"Around 1952 Jack Kerouac stumbled onto Buddhism and as was his wont he went deep and intensely into a study of it over several years, accessing original texts of Buddhism in the best libraries in New York City. Kerouac was no dill, he was very intelligent - and empowered by his desire for liberation - salvation from the worldly life - he had become profoundly sick of it all and with himself and his own personal life … he was profoundly disillusioned – but at that stage he still had hope and optimism about transcending it all, of finding a genuine way out.
Probably his biggest ball and chain was his heavy regular drinking . . . his alcoholism was his downfall just like his contemporary - Jackson Pollock the beat alcoholic enfant terrible of action/abstraction painting who was also based in NYC - in the immediate environment of the best bop jazz and blues music going – the New York beat hipsters – right there at the beginning . . .
Neal Cassady apparently had a genius level intelligence. Neal, the hippest of the hip, the Holy Hipster, the V8 horsepower heart, who burned with Kerouac flash for flash, dash for dash.

Keroauc burned out fast “…like a roman candle that shoots high, a long trailing tail of flame arcing and at its zenith suddenly bursts with the colours of the rainbow exploding in the dark night …and everyone goes aaaah!” (Kerouac). Jack Karlos (Eternity Unzipped’,1966, unpublished manuscript)

1954 Dharma and Meditation on Buddha nature in the North Carolina woods after New York booze binges wild bebop wailings and womanisings.

Who wouldnt be struck with this guy . . .

"I met Jack Kerouac in 1954 in the Black Gypsy club – a jazz an blues bar in Harlem when I jumped ship in New York City – he was with a black woman maybe Mardou? (The Subterraneans)… we talked for a while, he said it “was like looking in a mirror, ten years back” - later we got very drunk but before that he took me backstage where all the musicians talked with him - they loved Jack’s love for and understanding of their music. They liked what he had to say in his writing - we turned on with Billie Holliday and Charlie Parker I think Miles Davis was there too but I don’t remember now him touching the weed.

Jack Keroauc was such a turned on guy - talking to him lit up my mind like one of those multi coloured 1950s style jukeboxes - playing the best music I ever heard – the only one who maybe matches his certainty of stance and existential interaction with life and quality of soul as a writer is Bob Dylan. – aint that the Beatest of the Blues - that Dylan should be a musician : - Yes Jack . . . ironic hey.

Talking to him in 1954 [Kerouac] you got the feeling that this guy for sure had a date with destiny - and that it was waiting just down the road. But who could foretell the darkness and desolation. After that last time, when he doubted his destiny as a writer - 1946, when he had possession of a gun and for a week or two while holed up in a cheap hotel down South seriously considering armed robbery of a petrol station!

The crossroads -  Yes he met those Desolation Angels and was taken up by them. He returned to New York City and worked on his manuscripts – the rest is as they say, all over now baby blue."
Jack Karlos, (Eternity Unzipped’,1966, unpublished manuscript)

1946, The Deal at The Crossroads - - when the deal went down.

Crossroads Deal

jumping swinging gates of wails
rolling dice
poverty or halls of jails

redeeming angels
take my pale
I have something to give
surely cant fail

the tanker ship's horn baughs
coming up from the docks
a mile from my doors
on the other side of the semi
wild industrial parklands

without within without
ten violins

                                     karl gallagher

Pete Hamill - ‘Jack, Jack’

"(...) For an hour, I drank beer alone at the bar [of the Cedar Street Tavern] and listened to arguments over centerfielders. Suddenly Kerouac and his friends came in, shouldering through the door, then merging with the other drinkers, three deep at the bar. Kerouac edged in beside me. He was drunk. He threw some crumpled bills on the bar. I said hello. He looked at me in a suspicious, bleary way and nodded. The others were crowding in, yelling, Jack, Jack, and he was passing beers and whiskeys to them, and Jack, Jack, he bought more, always polite, but his eyes scared, a twitch in his face and a sour smell coming off him in the packed bar that reminded me of the morning odor of my father in the bed at 378. Soon he was ranting about Jesus and nirvana and Moloch and bennies [amphetamine], then lapsing into what sounded like Shakespeare but probably wasn’t, because his friends all laughed." (New York, 1957)

1956, the famous image taken when he had only just come down
off the mountains and the firelookout job.

1960 the Dharma is lost, Jack's lost too - the booze madness, and despair. By 1955 he had left behind the beat scene - he had been tired of it anyway since as early as 1949 - that's clearly stated in his early journals. His involvment with Buddhism; and then his interactions with Gary Snyder was really the last 'scene' that he associated with with any enthusiam. Its true that as his alcoholism progressed and his feelings of loneliness increased with it - and that for a few years he missed Gary Snyder. But Snyder effectively ended any further connection via a thoughtless and ignorant  letter he sent Kerouac in effect telling him he was dumb - that he had no understanding at all of Buddhism. But Kerouac had a very good understanding of Buddhism. What Kerouac, or Snyder, did'nt understand was alcoholism, and it was that that brought him undone - not his grasp, or otherwise, of buddhism.

Kurt Vonnegut - Thunderstorms in the head

"I knew Kerouac only at the end of his life, which is to say there was no way for me to know him at all, since he had become a pinwheel. He had settled briefly on Cape Cod, and a mutual friend, the writer Robert Boles, brought him over to my house one night. I doubt that Kerouac knew anything about me or my work, or even where he was. He was crazy. He called Boles, who is black, "a blue-gummed nigger." He said that Jews were the real Nazis, and that Allen Ginsberg had been told by the Communists to befriend Kerouac, in order that they might gain control of American young people, whose leader he was.

This was pathetic. There were clearly thunderstorms in the head of this once charming and just and intelligent man. He wished to play poker, so I dealt some cards. There were four hands, I think—one for Boles, one for Kerouac, one for Jane, one for me. Kerouac picked up the remainder of the deck, and he threw it across the kitchen." (Hyannis, Mass., mid-1960s)

Norman Mailer

“ He was gone for all money, by 1958 he was talking jibberish after only two or three drinks. He was away with the fairies, sometimes he would be seen leaning on a bar talking to someone who wasn’t even there – sometimes for an hour at a time. The only reason he lasted as long as he did was he had stopped going out so much and mostly drank at home in front of the television set at his mother’s where he lived. Also, by then almost all of his books had already been written, if all not yet published. It was so sad and terrifying to see what had happened to him – he who had so much going for himself for everyone – so much greatness draped around him like a magic shaman’s cloak – probably the best writer of us all. Those later years - seeing Keroauc in a bar was scary. He was like one of those punchdrunk fighters that had taken a few too many bad beatings in the boxing ring. It scared the shit out of me – it haunted me for a long time. "
Norman Mailer (‘Advertisments for Myself’, 1959, the original manuscript: edited out).



There is a blessedness surely to be believed, and that is that everything abides in eternal ecstasy, now and forever.


Mother Kali eats herself back. All things but come to go. All these holy forms, unmanifest, not even forms, truebodies of blank bright ecstasy, abiding in a trance, "in emptiness and silence' as it is pointed out in the Diamond-cutter, asked to be only what they are: GLAD.


The secret God-grin in the trees and in the teapot, in ashes and fronds, fire and brick, flesh and mental human hope. All things, far from yearning to be re-united with God, had never left themselves and here they are, Dharmakaya, the body of the truth law, the universal Thisness.


"Beyond the reach of change and fear, beyond all praise and blame," the Lankavatara Scripture knows to say, is he who is what he is in time and time-less-ness, in ego and in ego-less-ness, in self and in self-less-ness.


Stare deep into the world before you as if it were the void: innumerable holy ghosts, buddhies, and savior gods there hide, smiling. All the atoms emitting light inside wavehood, there is no personal separation of any of it. A hummingbird can come into a house and a hawk will not: so rest and be assured. While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.

Jack Kerouac [The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, 1953]


★★★★★ five star hit

The 'Trans-Siberian' of Blaise Cendrar,
Introduction and translation by Ekaterina Likhtik

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Bio Slice . . . # 1

Parrot, 1990, painting by karl gallagher

I discovered I had some talent for art years ago as a thirteen year old but I didn't get serious with painting until I was twenty-one when I enrolled at the Art School of  R.M.I.T. in Melbourne. Early 1965, approaching my twenty-second birthday I moved into my first flat. It was a large bed-sitter. Outside my door off the landing at the top of the stairs was a small dark separate kitchen that I avoided using. The kitchen had a window looking down on the outside passage that went out to the backyard and laundry. I would eat in the cheap cafes along Gertrude St. I didn’t know how to cook so apart form the cafes I lived on bread and cheese or a boiled egg with toast.

The flat was in a rooming house in Gertrude St Fitzroy a hundred meters from Brunswick St. and the Champion Hotel on the corner. That was before the high-rise public housing flats were built opposite the Champion. Most of the buildings that got demolished to make way for the high-rise were still there empty and derelict. The shops along the two streets that contained the high-rise belonged to another time. The windows were coated in grime from the grit thrown up by the trams rattling past, and the exhaust soot from motor vehicles. Some of the windows had gold-leaf and red lettering advertising the nature of their business or the proprietor’s name.

Those early months in the flat I was occasionally depressed, and it was at that time that insomnia started to become a problem and would continue to plague me thereafter. I had cut myself off from most of my old friends and the outlaw life on the streets. Even though I was living in Fitzroy my old stamping ground since ’59 and where many of my old friends still lived or hung out I rarely ran into any of them. I was just starting to find my feet at the art school I attended three or four nights a week after work at the Paper Mills in Fairfield.
I was making new friends with some of the other art students; new dreams emerged.

Flowers, digital image, by karl gallagher

Meher Baba, 2004, painting by karl gallagher