The Beats at Le Pompidou

Kerouac: “Everything belongs to me because I’m poor”

I went to really great exhibition on Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation at Paris’ Pompidou Musee a few days ago. I was pretty nuts about The Beats when I was in my twenties, reading Kerouac’s “On The Road,”Ann Charter’s great biography on Kerouac, Dennis McNally’s excellent “Desolate Angel,” Burroughs, Ginsberg, Snyder, McClure – all of it.

I hadn’t visited these old friends for quite some time, so this experience really took me to a place I’d nearly forgotten, but such an important influence on who I’ve become.

“Everything belongs to me because I’m poor,” read the projected type on the first wall of the exhibit. Was that a quote from Kerouac or St. Francis?

The music playing from different sources along the exhibit was appropriately Bop (Dexter Gorden, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie.) Kerouac was crazy about jazz and hated the stereotyped media portrayal of the bearded beatnik with “folk” guitar and bongos strapped to their backs.

Here’s a video from jazz singer Mark Murphy singing “Parker’s Mood” that includes a piece from Kerouac’s “On The Road” about the first time he heard Charlie Parker play. Fantastic!

Kerouac was very proud of his French Canadian Catholic heritage, and would still speak French when in the presence of his Memere, well after he became the famed, often vilified author. The exhibition had a really cool film of Jack interviewed for French television, with Jack proudly performing his talents as train conductor with a brakeman’s lantern.

<p><a href=”″>Jack Kerouac and the lantern</a> from <a href=””>questavita</a&gt; on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

There was a display the the teletype paper upon which Kerouac typed the entire manuscript of “On The Road”; wall projections of the cult film “Pull My Daisy” narrated by Jack; clips from Dylan’s film “Renaldo and Clara;” another film clip with Dylan and Ginsberg at a grave site in France (Baudelaire or Rimbaud?) Dylan says, “I want to be buried in an unmarked grave.” “No you don’t,” I thought.

Pompidou Rooftop

I loved the entire Beat Generation exhibit – absolutely awesome. There was also a second exhibit on Paul Klee, as well as sections dedicated to Picasso, Marc Chagal, and others. I’ll be sure to post pictures of these later.

“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty” – Kerouac/On the Road


One thought on “The Beats at Le Pompidou

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s