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Kerouac Fest: Go! Go! Go!

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When we are young we all have dreams of  adventure, travel, love, and purpose. High school and college aged kids say to each other, “I want stories to tell. I want to lean against my rocking chair when I’m old and crippled, and think about the nights I got drunk in a small town off the coast of the Mediterranean; or about the time I had to sleep in a Parisian ally because me and my friends had to choose between a hotel room or a train ticket to Germany. I want to tell my grandchildren about the world and make them as excited and mesmerized by it as I was. I want to say I lived.” Young people promise that they’ll leave their homes and make memories, recklessly. But most of the time they don’t. The sad or the happy reality is that most of us make commitments. We devote ourselves to schedules; we get jobs; we meet someone and decide to marry.

Over 60 years ago, Jack Kerouac and his friends lived and wrote the stories that so many of us long or longed for. The Beat Generation, horrified by how most people- with their schedules, careers, and marriages- lived, fled normality in a panic. Kerouac himself came to embody this restlessness. He was a madman, a wanderer, a drunk, a free-spirit, a misogynist, a genius, a fool, a writer; and he was, like all of us, confused.

This month, The Orange Show will put on the very first “Kerouac Fest: Go! Go! Go!” The event, coordinated by Tanyia Johnson and Stephen Gros, purports to inform the public about The Beat Generation and its champion, Jack Kerouac. Kerouac Fest will be held at The Orange Show site on 2402 Munger St., all day March 9th, from 3 to 10pm. The event will feature poets, panelist, selected readings from Kerouac’s On The Road, food, and jazz performances - all Kerouac inspired.

For those who are seeking a more structured, traditional point of view on this sporadic, unconventional epoch, a panel discussion will be lead by scholars and experts on The Beat Generation. The panel will consider questions such as: the influence The Beat Generation has had on American literature, the principles of The Beat Generation, and the spontaneous mode in which Kerouac wrote. Two of the five Beat experts who will sit on the panel include Dr. Charles Taylor Jr. and Kelly Ann Ellis. Dr. Taylor is a professor of creative writing at A&M, award winning author, and manager of Slough Press. Like his Beat predecessors, much of Taylor’s work is dedicated to illustrating the lives of ordinary people, especially the working poor. Kelly Ann Ellis teaches literature at the University of Houston and is also an established writer. Her poetry has appeared in Ilya’s Honey, Small Wonder, and Texas Poetry Calendar. 

One of the new forms of poetry that the Beat Generation gave impetus to was spoken word. To honor that legacy, Kerouac Fest is bringing some of  Houston’s finest slam poets out to the event. This batch includes Salvador Macias and Marie Brown. Macias, along with being a poet, is a screenwriter and visual artist. In 2024, his poetry was featured in The Panhandler Quarterly, and in 2024 his first solo visual art show, “a New Loneliness”,  was exhibited. This past year his play “Of Water and Gasoline” appeared at Obsidian Art Space. Marie Brown is a nationally ranked slam poet and the first woman to win The Texas Bluebonnet Poetry Slam. Every year since 2024, she participates as a judge in the N.A.A.C.P’s Act-So Poetry Division.

Kerouac Fest will close with a performance by Houston’s acclaimed jazz band, The Free Radicals. If you’ve never heard of Kerouac or The Beat Generation, this will be a great event for you to learn and have some fun. Tickets are $10 in advanced and $15 at the door. For more information, and if you are interested in purchase tickets, please visit