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Remembering Joy Walsh (1935-2011)

Joy Walsh, the Clarence Center-based poet who gained international recognition as the editor and publisher of a journal dedicated to the history and the cultural influence of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation of writers, died on October 9th following a brief illness.  She was 76.

Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, Walsh was a key contributor to the Buffalo area literary scene as a poet, editor, literary scholar and performer.  She was an active member of the Niagara-Erie Writers, and taught a writing workshop at Attica Correctional Facility co-sponsored by N.E.W. in the mid-1980’s. She joined the Earth’s Daughters Collective in the late 1970’s and became one of the co-editors of Earth's Daughters magazine—now the longest continuously published feminist literary magazine in North America—through the early 1990’s.  Walsh also worked for The Humanist magazine during the time it was based in Amherst, New York.

She was best-known, however, for founding, editing, and publishing “Moody Street Irregulars” (subtitled “A Jack Kerouac Newsletter”), a journal dedicated to a wide range of writing about or inspired by the Beat Generation of writers in general, and Jack Kerouac’s work in particular.

From 1978 to 1992, she published 28 issues of the journal, which quickly won an international reputation and readership for its essays, commentaries, interviews and original poetry featuring such Beat Generation luminaries as William S. Burroughs and Carolyn Cassady (wife of Neal  Cassady, the real-life model for “Dean Moriarty” in Kerouac’s “On the Road”), as well as important scholarly contributions from poet Tom Clark, who went on to publish a biography of Kerouac in 1995.

Michael Basinski, now Curator of The Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo, met Walsh in Professor Marcus Klein’s 20th Century American Literature course in his first semester of graduate school at UB. “She talked to me about an idea she had for a [Jack] Kerouac magazine and was I interested, and did I wish to work on it with her,” he recalls, “I said yes.”

Basinski went on to co-edit the first few issues of Moody Street Irregulars with Walsh, who was also assisted by Ana Pine on several subsequent issues.  What he remembers most about working with Walsh was her enormous enthusiasm for Kerouac and the project: “All along over the magazine's long life it was Joy Walsh endlessly committed to Kerouac—I think the great spirit of his writing—committed to his energy (less interested in criticism, or so to speak, 'figuring it out') more interested in the raw passion and energy that Kerouac could and would and still does generate.  I left after a few issues but it was always all Joy—all energy for Jack Kerouac—a commitment, a melding in the energy that was [Kerouac’s] writing.” 

Walsh’s Textile Bridge Press also published books by several prominent Western New York based writers and poets including Manny Fried, Marion Perry, Boria Sax and Ryki Zuckerman.

Walsh was born Joy Ann Staley in East Liverpool, Ohio on May 3, 1935.  Her family moved to Buffalo, where she was raised in the Langfield projects during the World War Two era and afterwards.  She married businessman Thomas J. Walsh—the owner of Bison Truck Parts on Walden Avenue in Buffalo—in the 1960’s and moved to Clarence Center, where the couple raised two sons.

Walsh attended SUNY-Fredonia—at first as a music major—before becoming enthralled with literature in general and The Beats in particular. She completed her B.A. in English and earned her Master of Arts degree in the Humanities at UB, writing her master’s thesis on critic and literary theorist Kenneth Burke.

She was the author four collections of her own Beat-influenced poetry, “Locating Positions” (Backstreet Press, 1983), “Hymn to Prometheus Transistor” (Atticus Press, 1984), “The Absent are Always in the Wrong" (Water Row Press, 1985), and “Mary Magdalen Sings the Mass in Ordinary Time" (Alpha Beat Press, 1989).  She was also the author of a critical study “Jack Kerouac: Statement in Brown" (Esprit critique series, Textile Bridge Press, 1984.)

In 1983, Walsh was awarded a writer-in-residence grant from Just Buffalo Literary Center.  Owing in part to her connection to the Beats, and to the post-Beat writing that she championed, her poems, essays, and reviews were published in magazines and journals throughout the United States, Canada, England, Europe, Australia, and Japan.

She is survived by her husband, sons Thomas and Christopher and their families, including 
eight grandchildren.

Former colleague Basinski remembers her as “full of wild crazy energy always,” while Ryki Zuckerman, a friend and one of her co-editors at Earth’s Daughters magazine, recalls Walsh as a non-conformist who "brought a sense of joie de vivre" to every project she was involved in.

She was quite an exceptional woman, for her own or any time.  The 40th anniversary issue of Earth’s Daughters magazine (Earth’s Daughters #80) will be dedicated to her.

--R.D. Pohl

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