Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs
Beat Generation MuseBefore the Beat Generation became the Beat Generation, Joan Vollmer, mothered and loved the men that would become the founding fathers of the Beat Generation vortex.
When Lucien Carr came to get Jack Kerouac after killing David Kammerer, he came to Joan's apartment at 421 West 118th Street where Kerouac was sleeping on the couch with his girlfriend, Edie Parker.
Joan grew up near Albany, New York, the daughter of a prosperous father and a strict mother. When she went to Barnard College in New York City she began a short life journey that would end in Mexico in 1951 when her common-law husband, William Burroughs, accidentally shot her through the head.
These two deaths, Kammerer's and Joan Vollmer's represent the pre-history period of the Beat Generation.
Joan has been described as brilliant, versed in philosophy and literature, perceptive with a strong mind and an independent nature. A Beat chronicler writes that "her appetite for books was rivaled only by her appetite for men."
She thoroughly resisted the status quo and if the Beat Generation stood for cultural rebellion, then Joan Vollmer was the mother of its non-conformism.
A collective living arrangement existed for about a year in Joan's new apartment at 419 West 115th Street. The commune included Joan, Jack Kerouac, Edie Parker (Kerouac), Herbert Huncke, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and a variety of other Columbia students and Times Square denizens.
Consistently high on Benzedrine and other drugs, these men and women of the early Beat Generation deranged their senses, as their cherished Rimbaud dictated, and created a cultural movement that spawned a revival of poetry and art from New York to San Francisco. Hal Chase, a Columbia graduate student who lived at the apartment off and on said of the people engaged in the brief communal experiment: "they didn't want to learn, they wanted to emote."
Joan's influence on the group is undeniable. Allen Ginsberg wrote his momentous poem Howl after a dream he had had of Joan. William Burroughs, while serving only 14 days for the unfortunate killing of Joan, claims it was because of her death that he seriously began to write.
Joan, while there at the beginning, breathing life into the vortex, did not see it grow into a cultural phenomenon. By the time she got shot in the head, her body and spirit had been ravaged by drugs, specifically her beloved Benzedrine. Her struggle against the status quo over, she took her place as a blessed angel-headed hipstress.
Joan Vollmer AdamsBatting Record YEAR TEAM POS BA AB H HR RBI 1984 Beats of .173 75 13 1 8 1995 Beats c/if .268 403 108 15 49 1996 Beats c .227 696 158 10 56 3 Seasons .238 1174 279 26 113
Joan Vollmer at Literary Kicks
Vollmer & Howl
"I was not much surprised to hear of your hospitalization , as I've been claiming for three years (today being my third anniversary from Bellevue) that anyone who doesn't blow his top once is no damn good...No percentage in talking about visions or super-reality or any such lay-terms. Either you know now what I know (and don't ask me just what that is) or else I'm mistaken about you and off the beam somewhere-- in which case you're just a dime-a-dozen neurotic and I'm nuts."--Joan Vollmer Adams in a letter to Allen Ginsberg, 1949.
1997 Dharma Beats Roster
1997 Joan Vollmer Adams Cosmic Player Plate
Published: December 24, 1996
© 1996, 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association