Joan Anderson Found…

The Beat Generation Finds It’s First Beat… After the Break…

Joan Anderson Found…

Confession time… I’m not into poetry. I ‘know of’ such things as ‘slam poetry’ and ‘beat poetry’ but I couldn’t list ten poets right now if I tried. Let me try:

Dr. Seuss.

Jack Kerouac.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. And, the sad fact is… I know people who enjoy poetry so it’s not as though I’m completely disconnected from the poetry scene. Poetry just isn’t my activity. That’s how everyone is – We all have areas where we have virtually zero experience or aspirations to be in. There are some people who just aren’t interested in bowling. Some people are completely indifferent to interior decoration. Sailing? Some people just don’t care about it. It’s just ‘there,’ for them.

For a bunch of people, though, poetry is their life. There are people who are professional poets. There are people who aspire to be professional poets. There is a veritable army of amateur poets. Songs are said to be poetry set to music. Rap music (aka “hip-hop”) is poetry set to rhythm.

And a very big piece of poetry, thought lost forever, has just been found.

Jack Kerouac is considered the father of ‘beat poetry’ but, if he is the father, a man by the name of Neal Cassady must be the grandfather and, if not the grandfather than, at the very least, the father’s very bestest of friends and also muse.

Neal Cassady wrote what would become the stylistic template for Jack Kerouac’s famous book, “On the Road,” called “The Joan Anderson letter.” After reading Neal Cassady’s letter, Jack Kerouac scrapped an early version of his book and rewrote it so that it sounded and looked just like what he had read in the Joan Anderson letter. “On the Road,” of course, would go on to become a quintessential work and start a new genre of literature.

But the letter that inspired the style for “On the Road” got lost. It got misplaced. And, for many decades, no one knew where it was. As it turns out, in an attempt to get the letter published, the letter was sent to a publishing company that went bankrupt and then saved from the trash by a poetry enthusiast who happened to work next door to the publishing company (Hey, if you like computer games and the business next door is folding and is about to trash a bunch of computer games… Yeah, that would be great incentive to dumpster-dive, too). Yet the person who saved the letter did not realize what they had found and it would be several decades until the adult daughter of that person, while cleaning out her father’s house, discovered it.

I am at a loss for a gaming comparison but, here it goes: Imagine an alternate universe where the world was introduced to first-person shooters with “Blake Stone” as opposed to “Wolfenstein 3D.” Blake Stone gets all of the glory, gets all of the accolades, becomes synonymous with the rise of first-person shooters that we know of today. Wolfenstein 3D existed, of course, but only a few people ever saw it and those that did scrapped their earlier games to make their games look just like Wolfenstein 3D. Wolfenstein 3D, though, disappears except for the first two or three levels and only because someone thought to copy a primitive version of Wolfenstein 3D when they had the chance. Everyone thought that the full version of the game was lost until someone pulls a few disks out of a trunk one day and wonders to themselves whether or not if they’ll even load. And, lo and behold, the full game is found. Yes, it might not be as accurate an analogy as it should be but it’s better than nothing.

I’m not a fan of poetry but I’m a fan of finding lost media. I’m thrilled for the Beat community that this discovery has been made. No, it’s not the mythical “Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale” or “Bioforge Plus” or the 2004 Sam and Max LucasArts game. It’s not even the “did-it-exist-or-not” Polybius (whose legend grows larger with each passing year and, at some point, it’ll be claimed that it was a sentient artificial intelligence posing as an arcade game).

Our history is valuable. It is invaluable. It is priceless. And now we have another piece of it restored to us. That’s something to celebrate, regardless of how involved you are in the world of poetry.


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