A Case for Young Prometheans
“Five twenty-year olds massed together equal a one-hundred-year-old sage.”
– Letter from Jack Kerouac to Sebastian Sampas.
The Young Prometheans were a collaborative group of writers and thinkers who would meet informally to work together, share ideas, and discuss various topics; their collective objective being to make an impact through self-expression and to embrace the brotherhood of mankind. The group formed drama groups, recited poetry, wrote short stories, produced radio scripts, and sang to anyone who would listen. Members of the group included Sebastian Sampas and Jack Kerouac.
Their discussions were mainly fuelled by literature and politics, as they tried to determine how certain ideologies fit into their own notions of America and brotherhood. Growing up during the height of the Great Depression, the Young Prometheans saw the story of Prometheus, who gave man art and fire to relive his suffering, as a story full of hope and despair, that in many ways reflected the world around them. Their discussions and encouragements offered each other hope in a difficult time.
Jack and Sebastian both joined the armed services but continued a correspondence with each other, their letters being both deeply personal and inspiring, capturing the affinity that existed between them. Their letters not only revealed their growth as men, but also as writers, and a frequent subject and important influence on both being Thomas Wolfe, whose style of writing as the individual inspires them to examine their immediate surroundings for material, and to write from their internal investigations.
Jack and Seb wrote in bar rooms, parks, trains, and hotel rooms, getting their ideas out in a spontaneous style as they sought to capture the spirit of life. Their correspondence was an explosive impetus for the development of their individual writing skills. Often they would send each other their stories and poetry, which contained illustrations, margin notes, and interjections in a free association with their developing writing medium. Jack later adapted the style into a more universal theme of observer, using rhythms and sounds, which he dubbed “sketching with words.”
Jack said that at the age of seventeen, he decided to become a writer because Sebastian influenced him to do so. Surrounding oneself with a group of people that challenge, support, and inspire might just lead to the creation of wonderful things.
Published: October 28th, 2014