On Vanity of Duluoz – 14 (Sebastian Sampas)

Sebastian Sampas (1923-1944)

Allen Ginsberg on Jack Kerouac’s Vanity of Duluoz continues from here

Sebastian Sampas, who was an early poetic inspiration…   let’s see….   Kerouac has gone crazy in the army. I mean (the) navy and is now.. The war is on, he’s in a navy psycho- ward, irritated, I think, or just given up, he’s just given up, I think,  and decided the world is crazy and  doesn’t want to have any part to do with it. He just wants to be a novelist but he doesn’t want to have any.. He doesn’t want to have any truck with the world or its responsibility.. So (then ) his father visits him, and then Sebastian Sampas, his old youth-time  Shelley-an poetic idealistic fellow friend

“Then in comes Sabby in a US Army uniform, sad, idealistic, crewcutted now, but dream-minded, trying to talk to me,”I have remembered Jack, I have kept faith” but the nutty manic depressive from West Virginia shoves him in a corner and grabs him by the private’s sleeves and yells “Wabash Cannonball” and poor Sabby’s eyes are misting and looking at me saying, “I came here to talk to you, I only have twenty minutes, what a house of suffering, what now?’  I say, “Come in the toilet”. West Virginia follows us yelling , it was one of his good days. I said, “Sabby, don’t worry, the kid’s okay, everybody’s okay..Besides”, I added, “there’s nothing for me or you to say…Except, I s’pose, that the when Bartlett Junior High School was burning down and my train was taking me back to New York prep school and you ran alongside, remember? in the snowstorm, singing “I’ll See You Again”…huh?  And that was the last time I saw Sabby. He was fatally wounded on Anzio beachhead after that. He was a medical corpsman”.

So that’s a late farewell to, I think,  the person that he felt closest to as a poet who died young so that’s Kerouac’s legend of the lost pure innocent poet, and I think  there was some, like a great love they had.  I remember, when I first went out, finally got admitted to Kerouac’s house through his mother’s wall of disapproval and.. Kerouac had a record from Sebastian Sampas that Sampas had sent him from Italy – it was an old scratchy pop-commercial record that you could make on a little machine for a buck, back during the war, like, record your voice and send it home to your family. So it was a recording of Sampas in a youthful voice, saying,
“I weep for Adonais, he is dead  O Jack, I weep for Adonais, he is dead”, and then going on and reading Shelley.. the end of Shelley’s Adonais,  beginning with “I weep for Adonais, he is dead”, which is like prophetical,  and which moved Jack because news of Sampas’ death arrived maybe a few months after he got that record from Italy (made in London, probably made in London as Sampas was shipped overseas and wound up in Italy and died, sometime after he got that little scratchy record (which is probably around, as the only record of Sebastian Sampas’ voice, in some attic in Lowell, where Stella Kerouac, his widow, is keeping manuscripts that are as yet unpublished. (Editorial note, Allen is speaking here back in 1977, needless to say, much has changed with publications and with the Kerouac Estate since then)

Incidentally, if you want to follow the sequence of his writings, the chronology, I guess there are bibliographies.  If you look at the dedication in “Howl”, I think there’s an accurate listing of the books written between..  after Town and The City.. 1950 and 1953. – written between 1950 and 1956, which was a period of enormous production, I think he did twelve or thirteen books..

Audio for the above can be heard here , beginning at approximately seventy-five-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately eighty-one minutes in  

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