As he continued his battle with cancer, John Clellon Holmes wrote letters expressing his concern about the collected volume of Jack Kerouac’s writing that he still hoped he and Ann Danberg could edit together for the Viking Portable Library series. During this time, his wife Shirley discovered that she herself was afflicted with lung cancer. Holmes remained in touch with Richard and Rosemary Ardinger, who continued to work on the new collection of his poetry for their Limberlost Press. In one of his letters dated June 23, 1987, Holmes answered three literary questions: about the form of his novel Go, about the ideas inherited by the Beat Generation from the literary American Renaissance, and about the source of the yearnings of his own character “Paul Hobbes” in Go. On March 30, 1988, Holmes finally succumbed to cancer of the jaw and died in the Yale-New Haven Hospital at the age of sixty-two. Less than two weeks later, Shirley passed away. One of Holmes’s final poems, “Sweet Charity,” was published a year after his death.
Keywords: cancer, John Clellon Holmes, letters, Jack Kerouac, poetry, Go, Beat Generation, American Renaissance