I started visiting Kerouac’s grave site at Edson Cemetery in Lowell, MA in the mid-1990’s when I worked in Chelmsford, MA. I would grab a sub, ride my motorcycle over to Lowell and have lunch with Jack at his grave at 7th Ave and Lincoln Ave.
Over the years, I started reading Beat poetry, mostly Ginsberg. HOWL really affected me, to the point that I got a HOWL tattoo – in Albertus typeface – on my right arm. Next was a tattoo on my left arm – “Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies, we are going through hell”.
While that quote is not technically from HOWL, it is from the introduction to “HOWL and other poems”, written by William Carlos Williams.
I never read “On the Road”. I kind of agreed with Truman Capote when he said “… they’re not writers. They’re typists.” I owned a copy, and another copy of “On the Road: The Original Scroll”. I perused it, but can not say I really read it. I saw the scroll at the NY Public Library in 2007. Impressive.
Reading my Beat histories, books about the Beat hotel, visiting the Beat hotel while in Paris kept me interested, but I didn’t get into Kerouac. I still wasn’t reading Kerouac.
I continued visiting the grave to see what people left as offerings – booze, drugs, writings – really bad 15-year-old girl adolescent poetry. It was fascinating, like things left at Jim Morrison’s grave.
My job brought me to Edson Cemetery where I asked the staff what happens to the writing and item left. I was told they occasionally collect it and the Kerouac estate takes it.
I decided to document the grave in photographs. I had the idea of taking a photograph every day for a period of time. When I realized the 100th anniversary of his birth year was coming, and Lowell planned many events, I decide to take the photo every day during 2022.
I moved to Lowell in 2019. I live a mile or so away from Kerouac’s birthplace and I walk by Kerouac Park often. I eat at The Worth House and have visited the Franco American Grotto.
I started doing test photos in November 2021, with an Anniversary Speed Graphic 4×5 camera from the 1940’s. My plan is to have one photograph, a contact printed 4×5 negative on a 8×10 print.
I imagine at least 365 different prints. One photograph of the grave for every day of 2022, and others showing details of interesting item found on the grave. Some larger prints – 16×20 or 20×24 – will be made and printed by Digital Silver Imaging in Belmont, MA, owned by my good friend Eric Luden. I worked with Eric at camera stores in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and I was his first employee at DSI.
The final body of work will be shown somewhere in 2023. I hope to have a few shows of the work-in-progress in 2022.