- Jack Kerouac.
(A vastly updated old blog post)
Today is the anniversary of visionary, iconclastic writer and poet,Jack Kerouac being born. The shaman of the Beat Generation arrived today as Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac to a French-Canadian family in the factory town of Lowell, Massachusettsus USA. Variously called the Beat Generations apostle, poet, hero, laureate, saint? Through his own life story he created a work of fiction .Soared so high, that in the end unfortunately found his own human skin, then found himself out of his depth in bottled delusion, where the burning ship had become his own.
Kerouac learned to speak French at home before he learned English at school. Reportedly he did not learn English until he was six years old . His father Leo Kerouac owned his own print shop, Spotlight Print, in downtown Lowell, and his mother Gabrielle Kerouac, known to her children as Memere, was a homemaker. Kerouac later described the family’s home life: “My father comes home from his printing shop and undoes his tie and removes his1920s vest, and sits himself down at hamburger and boiled potatoes and bread and butter, and with the kiddies and the good wife.”
Jack Kerouac endured a childhood tragedy in the summer of 1926, when his beloved older brother Gerard died of rheumatic fever at the age of 9. Drowning in grief, the Kerouac family embraced their Catholic faith more deeply. Kerouac’s writing is full of vivid memories of attending church as a child: “From the open door of the church warm and golden light swarmed out on the snow. The sound of the organ and singing could be heard.”
Jack would earn a football scholarship to Columbia University, and planned to work in insurance after finishing school, according to the Beat Museum,http://www.kerouac.com/ which goes into detail about Kerouac’s rise to literary and cultural stardom. But his life only took a more hectic turn once he arrived in New York City, and he quickly clashed with his football coach. Jack dropped out of school, joined the Merchant Marines and then fell in with New York’s literary crowd. Around this time, Kerouac took several cross-country road trips with friend Neal Cassady that would later inspire his seminal work, “On the Road.”
In his life, he had been part of a culture and people, who burned like meteors. Jack Kerouac was the Beat Generations very own mythologiser, he and his band of brothers helped redeem a bit of America's soul. His legacy, like that of the Beat Culture, still alive, still relevant, still taking root.
This influential poet and writer who originated the term “beatific” as a the defining term for the group of artists and writers of the Beat Generation, who along with his friends, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferllinghetti, Gary Snyder etc, paved a way for a whole host of dreamers searching for risk, some form of adventure. Colouring our worlds with their crazy visions, their minds in revolt, searching for future's possibilities. Hand in hand with rebellion, against the conventions of the times.
Jack Kerouac in his eighteen books and many others under Jack's influence were to me important epiphanies on my own path of self discovery. He taught me about "Spontaneous prose." - writing without revising....... He called this " a spontaneous bop prosody." which is a bit like a jazz musician taking an improvised solo, and he took it as far as he could go, with no editing and no pause of breath. Sometimes what is left, has no meaning, a void, but often their is a glimmer, that spells hope, that can become endless, can run off the page, infinite but still accessible.
On my bookshelf at home Kerouacs influence groans on my bookcases, his own works, sharing spaces with others , that were touched by his inspiration. I a very grateful to a friend called Charlotte who recently added more to my personal collection.
There is something about his tragic, magic life that still resonates, hums, there will always be new connections, outhouses where seeds will forever drift. New poets will emerge, to experience, among the whole wide world, words will dance, impulsively between time, forever and forever. Enthusiasm will be shared, thoughts will be exchanged, and for some the personal will always be political.Passion will ignite.
Jack had a wild spirit, but such a dazzling voice, who through his writing revealed him as a believer in humanity, a dreamer, a doer and an explorer of metaphysical depth. He was however also a recluse, socially awkward, a drug abuser, an alcoholic and a man who became so overwhelmed with his own fame it ultimately destroyed him. Still yearning for his mother, but lost in a catholic guilt, that had always consumed him. Stuck in a sad exile,this mystical breath had grown tired , what was once beautiful had begun to drift towards bitterness. Jack was not immortal, though for me his words are, and he left this planet on October 21 1969, 47 years, related to alcoholism According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Kerouac “was known to consume 17 shots of Johnny Walker Red per hour, washed down with Colt malt liquor.” and because of this his search for inner lamentation was cut tragically far to short.
There are two types of people in this world; those that ‘get’ Kerouac, and those that do not. I am in the first category, of course, so happy birthday Jack, your impact continues to be felt , your satori breath released , and your legacy today is stronger today than ever ... om switchin on.... tomorrow's dawns chorus echoes,anesthesising the sky.... sentences littered with wild perception, language as a spell that leaves us forever hooked. In human existence our contradictions will abound, freeze framed, on the road to nowhere. Kicks joy darkness.blessed be you in golden eternity.
William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, 1953
Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Kerouac,
Greeenwich Village, 1957.
Jack Kerouac on the Steve Allen show 1959.
Jack Keroauc: I'm sick of myself, I'm not a courageous man
a rare interview of Jack in French with English subtitles to a Canadian Television show where he explains how he came up with the name that described the literary movement of his generation.
There are numerous pages and books devoted to Kerouac and the Beats , if you look you will find what your looking for, the searching is part of the journey In the meantime I offer you some of his poetry
POOR SOTTISH KEROUAC
Poor sottish Kerouac with his thumb in his eye
Getting interested in literature again
Through a mote of dust just flew by
How should I know that the dead were born?
Does Master cry?
The weeds Ophelia wound with
and Chatterton measured in the moon
are the weeds of Goethe, Wang Wei,
and the Golden Courtesans
Imagining recommending a prefecture
for a man in the madhouse
Sleep well, my angel
Make some eggs
The house in the moor
The house is a monument
In the moor of the grave
Whatever that means
The white dove descended in disguise?
A woman is beautiful
you have to swing
and swing and swing
and swing like
a hankerchief in the
I keep falling in love
with my mother
I dont want to hurt her
=Of all people to hurt
Every time I see her
she's grown older
But her uniform always
For its Dutch simplicity
And the Doll she is.
The doll-like way
Bowlegged in my dreams,
Waiting to serve me
And I am only an Apache
In old Cabashy
By the Lamp
The wheel of the quivering meat
Turns in the Void expelling human beings,
Pigs, turtles, frogs, insects, nits,
Mice, Lice, Lizards, rats, roan
Racing horses, poxy bucolic pig tics,
Horrible unnameable lice of vultures
Murderous attacking dog-armies
Of Africa, Rhinos roaming in the jungle
Vast boars and huge gigantic bull
Elephants, rams, eagles, condors,
Pones and Porcupines and Pills-
All the endless conception of living
Gnashing everywhere in Consciousness
Throughout the ten directions of space
Occupying all the quarters in and out,
From supermicroscopic no-bug
To huge Galaxy Lightyear Bowell
Illuminating the sky of one mind
AND THEN THEY GOT HIM
The Oil of the Olive
Cabbage soup made right
A hunk a grass
In a big barrel
Stunk but Good
Left the Tombs to go
and look at the
Millions of cut glass-
-a guy clocking them,
as you look you swallow,
you get so fat
you can't leave the building
don't tip over, breathe
in such a way yr fatness
deflates, go back to
ride the elevator-
he tips over again'
gazes on the Lights,
eats them, is clocked,
gets so fat
he can leave elevator,
has to stand straight
and breathe out the fat -
-hurry back to the Tombs
The sound in your mind
is the first sound
that you could sing
If you were singing
at a cash register
with nothing on yr mind-
But when that grim reper
comes to lay you
look out my lady
He will steal all you got
while you dingle with the dangle
and having robbed you
Which will be your best reward,
T'were better to get rid o
John O'Twill, then sit a mortying
In this Half Eternity with nobody
To save the old man being hanged
In my closet for nothing
And everybody watches
When the act is done-
Stop the murder and the suicide!
I am the Guard