Beat Pilgrimage

I love the way history soaks into the streets of a town. Most of the time it leaves nothing more than a slightly coloured stain and you walk past, unknowing. Sometimes there is a hidden plaque.  Sometimes you know there were shattering events, but the traces are lost. I used to walk round the streets of East London trying to imagine the Cable Street riots.

We came back from a Sunday stroll to find two men on the kerb, clutching a battered red paperback, staring at our anonymous rented house. Oh, they said, do you live here ? Do you know who lived here in the sixties ? Lew Welch.

It turns out they were on a kind of Beat Poet pilgrimage. Lew Welch was part of the 1960s “San Francisco Renaissance”, was friends with Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and was apparently “Dave Swain” in Kerouac’s “On the Road”. He finished high school in Palo Alto and lived for many years in our house. He had success for a few years, and then one day he walked out of Gary Snyders’ house and never came back.

So we showed them round the house and we all tried to catch the vibrations for ten or fifteen minutes. Then they left to find the next station of the cross.

You can read about Welch here, here and here, and about the San Francisco Renaissance here. A collection of Welch’s poems, Ring of Bone, is on Amazon. Here is the title poem.

I Saw Myself

I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it

and vowed
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through

and then heard
“ring of bone” where
ring is what a

bell does

Advertisements

One Response to Beat Pilgrimage

  1. Sarah says:

    That’s very cool. I’m a big fan of the beat poets and writers. Maybe I’ll unwittingly turn up at your house one day too 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: