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Kerouac Literary Festival Offers Plethora of Free Programs

Photo by the Valley Dispatch

Valley Dispatch
By Peter McQuaid

LOWELL -- The centerpiece of this year's Kerouac Literary Festival will be the premiere of Jack Kerouac's only full-length play at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Both the literary festival and Beat Generation open Wednesday, Oct. 10, and run through Sunday, Oct. 14. 

But the festival, presented by UMass Lowell, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!, the Cultural Organization of Lowell and other community partners, also includes many free programs that draw on Kerouac's works and his history in his hometown of Lowell, as well as the next generation of writers inspired by his work. 

On Monday Oct. 8, "Walking Jack: Kerouac Loop Walk," will take visitors on a tour of the author's boyhood houses and other landmark sites on both sides of the Merrimack River. The tour goes from 1 to 5 p.m. and begins and ends at Kerouac Commemorative at Jack Kerouac Park at the intersection of French and Bridge streets. 

A previously unpublished poem by Kerouac and the next generation of writers inspired by him is featured in "Young Angel Midnight: An Emerging Generation in Lowell," the award-winning anthology, which will be celebrated with a reception and book-signing for the public on Tuesday, Oct. 9, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the historic Allen House on the UMass Lowell campus. Later that night at 7, the Lowell Film Collaborative will premiere The Typewriter, a documentary which explores the role of typewriters in the literary legacy of Kerouac and other great writers of the 20th century. 

The film will be screened at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center Theater at 245 Market St. 

Wednesday, Oct. 10, singer-songwriter Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses, The Breeders and Belly and writer Rick Moody -- The Ice Storm and On Celestial Music and Other Adventures in Listening -- will share their experiences toeing the line between making music and writing prose at a 3:30 p.m. event on the UMass Lowell campus. 

On Thursday, Oct. 11, Anne Waldman, co-founder of the Jack Kerouac writing school at Naropa University, will perform her own poetry for audiences at a special event for the public at UMass Lowell at 3:30 p.m. Later that evening, there will be an "Off the Road" tour of pubs visited by Kerouac in his days in Lowell and performances by local musicians and poets who are among his greatest fans. 

MIT professor David Kaiser will speak on Friday in an event titled "How the Hippies Saved Physics," at 2 p.m., at a location to be determined. Author Jay Atkinson, who retraced Kerouac's legendary On the Road journey and chronicled it in Paradise Road, will talk about Kerouac's days as an athlete, which began on Lowell High's football field and took him to Columbia University on a scholarship. Atkinson will speak at the Mogan Cultural Center in Lowell at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13.
"Writing and Music" is the theme of the festival and programs include a variety of events that meld the genres, including performances by Kerouac contemporary David Amram, a multitalented composer and conductor who has worked in jazz, Broadway, classical music, opera and more, scoring films including Splendor in the Grass, and The Manchurian Candidate. Amram is the author of books including the memoir, Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac. He will perform, read his works and present film screenings throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday at venues throughout Lowell. 

Saturday and Sunday are also filled with numerous other walking tours, concerts, and book signings relating to Kerouac's legacy in Lowell. For a full list of events, visit