Lowell celebrates Kerouac with tours, events and a poetry festival

Chris Bergeron

Despite many detours, Beat Generation icon Jack Kerouac continues his never ending road trip thanks to a coterie of admirers who celebrate his life and legacy every year in his Lowell hometown.

Once again, "Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!" is holding a four-day festival to honor the author of "On The Road," the 1957 novel that sent countless hitchhikers, backpackers and spiritual vagabonds chasing kicks and salvation across the United States. Today through Sunday, the nonprofit is offering walking tours through Kerouac's old neighborhood, musical tributes by Renaissance jazzman David Amram and a "pub tour" to the Old Worthen Tavern and other local watering holes where the writer drowned his considerable sorrows.

On Friday at 2 p.m. at the Pollard Memorial Library, Amram will screen the classic underground film "Pull My Daisy" featuring himself, Kerouac and poets Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg, and at 9:30 p.m. Amram will play several instruments and provide backup for an open mike poetry reading at the Cafe Paradiso at the corner of Palmer and Middle streets.

On Saturday morning at 9:30, Roger Brunelle will lead a "Mystic Jack" Walking Tour of the neighborhood Kerouac described in "Visions of Gerard." Meet at the St. Louis Church at the corner of 6th Avenue and Boisvert Street. That evening at 7:30 p.m. Brunelle will lead a "Ghosts of Pawtucketville Night" tour of sites Kerouac wrote about in "Dr. Sax" including the Lowell Grotto, Moody Street bridge and his family home on Phoebe Avenue. Meet in front of Cumnock Hall, North Campus, UMass at Lowell, 1 University Ave.

On Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Visitors Center of the Lowell National Historical Park, author John Suiter will present a slide show on his book "Poets on the Peaks" about the summers spent by Kerouac as a fire lookout on Desolation Mountain in the Pacific Northwest.

Since this is the 50th anniversary of Kerouac's "The Dharma Bums," on Sunday in the Cafe Paradiso a marathon reading of the novel will begin at 10 a.m. To sign up for a time slot call Nancy Herbstman at 781-449-7173 or e-mail her at At 2 p.m., Brunelle will lead a walking tour of downtown Lowell as known in the 1940s by Kerouac.


WHERE: All events are in Lowell where Kerouac was born in 1922 and wrote about with nostalgic longing in several novels such as "The Town and the City" and "Maggie Cassady."


COST: Free

WHERE TRUE KEROUAC PILGRIMS GATHER: At the author's simple gravestone in Edson Cemetery bearing the inscription: "Ti Jean He Honored Life."

WHAT TO TAKE: That old paperback copy of "On The Road" that once inspired wanderlust and compassion for the self-destructive author, who couldn't handle fame, booze and failed dreams, and other lost souls who see themselves in him.

EXOTIC COFFEE AND PEOPLE: Stepping into the Brew'd Awakening Coffeehaus is like walking into a 1950s Bohemian bistro that offers cinnamon streusel crepe, hearty La Revolucion sandwichs and even doggie treats. Tucked away at 61 Market St. in downtown Lowell, it provides funky music, top quality people watching and an Aci-Mango smoothie that tickles the pleasure nodes in your brain. Where else can you get free WiFi, Belgian waffles, live music on weekends and a no-hassle atmosphere 7 days a week. Call 978-454-2739 for info.

WHERE TO EAT: For more than 40 years, Cafe Paradiso has satisfied many of the multicultural tastes of Lowell from its Tuscan salads to its All-American BLTs with rich pastries and richer sorbets and gelato for desert. Located at 45 Palmer St., not far from the Civic Center, Cafe Paradiso has been a downtown fixture since 1962. In warm weather, customers can sip a highly recommended white sangria on an outdoor patio watching life go by on the cobblestone streets. The atmosphere is part Florence, Italy, part North End, Boston and all Lowell.

BUST A RHYME: For 3 days next week, the first-ever Massachusetts Poetry Festival will be bringing some of the region's best-known poets to venues across Lowell. Oct. 10-12, poets as diverse as Robert Pinsky, Lucie Brock-Boido and wild man Nick Flynn will be reading their works, giving workshops and performing at sites across the city.

Featured reading will take place at Lowell High School Auditorium at 50 Father Morisette Boulevard on Oct. 10 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.; at Lowell High Freshmen Academy, 43 French St., Oct. 11 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.; and at the Lowell High Auditorium from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Also Friday, Oct. 10, at The Brewery Exchange, 201 Cabot St., from 9 to 11 p.m.

Lexington poet X.J. Kennedy and the Light Bridge, featuring area poets Barb Crane, Bob Clawson, Joan Kimball and Amy Woods will recite Saturday, Oct. 11, at 4 p.m. at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum.

Other festival events include workshops on self-publishing, readings of Cambodian refugee poetry, and outdoor activities for poetry-loving leaf peepers. Visit

FOR METROTEXTURALS: Quilters that is. The New England Quilt Museum's current exhibit, "Metrotextual: Art Quilts of the Manhattan Quilters Guild," features nearly 40 works celebrating life in the Big Apple through gorgeous fabrics and rich colors. Located at 18 Shattuck St., across from the funky Revolving Museum, the Quilt Museum offers classes, community projects, a shop and a serene atmosphere. Call 978-452-4207 or go to

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