“…and I shambled after as usual as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes “Awww…..” says beat generation poet Jack Kerouac….
Jack Kerouac was the novelist who named the “beat generation.”His subject was himself and his method was to write as spontaneously as possible by threading a hefty roll of teletype paper into his typewriter and setting down his story on one continuous sheet. What he wrote or typed would later be forwarded to his publisher, but would never be revised, in principle, for he regarded revision as a form of lying. “On the road” was a novel he completed in only three weeks but had to wait seven years to see published.
Kerouac called himself a “dharma bum” and delved into Buddhism and was probably one of the first beat writers to look towards the east for inspiration.
Kerouac took many road trips, became depressed and addicted to drugs and alcohol, and did his most ambitious writing after having written “On The Road” which was published in 1957. Thereafter Kerouac became instantly famous, a spokesperson for the “Beat Generation”, young people in the 1950s and 1960s who scorned middle-class values. His classic book became the bible of the counter cultural generation. His writings covered topics such as Catholic spirituality, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. He became an underground celebrity!
Jack Kerouac was also a poet, a “beat poetry” specialist and he tried to “Americanise” the haiku form. He experimented with haiku which he called ‘pops,‘ a genre he defined as ‘‘short 3-line pomes.” He had his own defination for this form of the “American Haiku” which he described as :
The American Haiku is not exactly the Japanese Haiku. The Japanese Haiku is strictly disciplined to seventeen syllables but since the language structure is different I don’t think American Haikus (short three-line poems intended to be completely packed with Void of Whole) should worryabout syllables because American speech is something again…bursting to pop…. I propose that the ‘Western Haiku’ simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language. Above all, a Haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi Pastorella.
Here are some of Kerouac’s haikus:
“In my medicine cabinet,
the winter fly
has died of old age.”
“The bottoms of my shoes
from walking in the rain”
“Whatever it is,
I’ll let my breath out “
“Crossing the football field
Coming home from work –
the lonely businessman.”
On October 21st, 1969, at the age of 47, Jack Kerouac began to hemorrhage and died hours later, a classic alcoholic’s death. Upon his death he became a mythic figure, his writings directly influencing artists such as the Doors, Lenny Bruce and Bob Dylan. He is buried with the rest of his family near Lowell. His grave has been a site of pilgrimage for decades. Mourners leave cigarettes and joints, as well as whisky bottles……