The Jazz Age Visionary who defined a generation – Jack Kerouac


Song for Jack Kerouac Miles Davis – So What


In the second of our profiling poets series I look at the infamous American poet Jack Kerouac, who helped spearhead the beat movement in the mid twentieth century and who is considered one of the most important American literary figures of the twentieth century.

241st Chorus by Jack Kerouac 

And how sweet a story it is
When you hear Charley Parker
tell it,
Either on records or at sessions,
Or at official bits in clubs,
Shots in the arm for the wallet,
Gleefully he Whistled the
Anyhow, made no difference.

Charley Parker, forgive me-
Forgive me for not answering your eyes-
For not having made in indication
Of that which you can devise-
Charley Parker, pray for me-
Pray for me and everybody
In the Nirvanas of your brain
Where you hide, indulgent and huge,
No longer Charley Parker
But the secret unsayable name
That carries with it merit
Not to be measured from here
To up, down, east, or west-
-Charley Parker, lay the bane,
off me, and every body

Who was He?

On the Road – Manuscript

Jack Kerouac was one of the most important writers of the beat generation which also included writers and poets like Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and William Burroughs. He is well known as both a novelist and a poet, with his seminal novel ‘On the road’ being a landmark in 20th century American literature and a key work in the beat movement.

On the road is a largely autobiographical tale detailing his travels across America and Mexico, and is written in his unique free-wheeling, stream of consciousness almost scatological style. Kerouac famously wrote On the Road on long strips on tracing paper which allowed him to write without the interruption of reloading the typewriter. This speaks a lot of Kerouac as an author and a poet, his vision was that of the poet and writer as shaman in a lot of ways, channeling words in an automatic fashion, and very inspired by the jazz age ideas of improvisation and rhythm, with Kerouac once saying he wanted to “be considered as a jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jazz session on Sunday.”

How did I discover Him?

Kerourac is a writer and poet I discovered when I started exploring the beats, through discovering Allen Ginsberg whom I had first started reading during a poetry class I took for two years. I found his poetry interesting and it had a mystical element which I found fascinating, the links between him and Ginsberg were obvious, as Ginsberg himself was influenced heavily by his style as well as the other beats who in one way or another were in debt to his free flowing improvisational stream of consciousness style of writing. His is a very unique talent, and his poems have a musical, jazz like feeling to them, as well as a certain melancholy I find. They feel raw, yet celebratory of the mixed bag that is life, with a certain amount of observational almost absurdist humour as well.

Jack was a heavy drinker, and he died only 47 years old as a result of his drinking in 1969. He is remembered as the Father of the beats and as an incredibly accomplished and inspirational writer, poet and author, greatly influencing the counter culture of the 60’s and the Hippie movement (though his ambivalence and antagonism towards the hippies political posturing is a matter of record.)

This antagonism is obvious in this interview on The Firing line chaired by William F. Buckley Jr filmed in 1968,  just a year before his death in 1969.

Still his writing shows the same counter-cultural concerns and ideas which the beats and hippies would later explore include exploring Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, free love and drug use etc.

Ginsberg and Kerouac

Daydreams for Ginsberg
I lie on my back at midnight
hearing the marvelous strange chime
of the clocks, and know it’s mid-
night and in that instant the whole
world swims into sight for me
in the form of beautiful swarm-
ing m u t t a worlds-
everything is happening, shining
bhutiblazing in faith, I know I’m
forever right & all’s I got to
do (as I hear the ordinary
extant voices of ladies talking
in some kitchen at midnight
oilcloth cups of cocoa
cardore to mump the
rinnegain in his
darlin drain-) i will write
it, all the talk of the world
everywhere in this morning, leav-
ing open parentheses sections
for my own accompanying inner
thoughts-with roars of me
all brain-all world
roaring-vibrating-I put
it down, swiftly, 1,000 words
(of pages) compressed into one second
of time-I’ll be long
robed & long gold haired in
the famous Greek afternoon
of some Greek City
Fame Immortal & they’ll
have to find me where they find
the t h n u p f t of my
shroud bags flying
flag yagging Lucien
Midnight back in their
mouths-Gore Vidal’ll
be amazed, annoyed-
my words’ll be writ in gold
& preserved in libraries like
Finnegans Wake & Visions of Neal

Final Thoughts

Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion. – Jack Kerouarc (b. 1922 – d. 1969)

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