Kerouac Poetry

I’ve been reading Jack Kerouac: Collected Poems, which includes the works Mexico City Blues, San Francisco Blues, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity and Book of Haikus. The Beat Generation novelist and author of On the Road inspired my writing of poetry many years ago. Kerouac, Langston Hughes and Charles Bukowski taught me that you didn’t need an MFA to write poetry, as their art sprang from life experiences. They showed me the power of raw and real voices and stories expressed in the form of free verse.

Kerouac’s collection has more than 600 pages of poetry, but I found much of it gibberish—stream-of-consciousness thoughts, rantings and Buddhist and Catholic references. Yet Kerouac also delivers heart-crushing beauty within the pages of this doorstop.

The poem “Hymn” appears in a section entitled Pomes All Sizes.

“Hymn”

And when you showed me the Brooklyn Bridge
in the morning,
Ah God,

And the people slipping on ice in the street,
twice,
twice,
two different people
came over, goin to work,
so earnest and tryful,
clutching their pitiful
morning Daily News
slip on the ice & fall
both inside 5 minutes
and I cried I cried

That’s when you taught me tears, Ah
God in the morning,
Ah Thee

And me leaning on the lamppost wiping
eyes,
eyes,
nobody’s know I’d cried
or woulda cared anyway
but O I saw my father
and my grandfather’s mother
and the long lines of chairs
and the tear-sitters and dead,
Ah me, I knew God You
had better plans than that

So whatever plan you have for me
Splitter of majesty
Make it short
brief
Make it snappy
Bring me home to the Eternal Mother
Today

At your service anyway,
(and until)

I also enjoyed many of the pieces in the section Book of Haikus. I believe Kerouac’s haikus do not follow the strict Japanese pattern of three lines of five, seven and five syllables.

Here are some autumn-related selections:

Late moon rising
—Frost
On the grass

Waiting for the leaves
to fall;—
There goes one!

First frost dropped
All leaves
Last night—leafsmoke

Crisp cold October morning
—the cats fighting
In the weeds

A yellow witch chewing
A cigarette,
Those Autumn leaves

Kerouac, Jack. Jack Kerouac: Collected Poems. New York: Library of America, 2012.

The book also served another purpose for me. Late last night I found a nail sticking out of the cheap wood paneling in the bedroom of my apartment. I was worried my son would catch himself on it, but I didn’t feel like going to the closet to grab my hammer. So I used the book to bang the nail back into place. Thanks Jack!

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Meditations by Marcus

My end-of-summer reading list has ballooned with my “Currently Reading” page on Goodreads looking ridiculous with nine titles on view (although I’m actually only reading seven).

One book I’m reading is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Meditations: A New Translation Paperback by Marcus Aurelius and translated by Gregory Hays.

Even though his words were written centuries ago, Marcus’s observations are very prescient with keen observations for the living. This passage from from Book Two: On the River Gran, Among the Quadi hit home with me.

7. Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions. But make sure you guard against the other kind of confusion. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time—even when hard at work.

It inspired a short poem that sums up my activities both at home and on the job:

Not Done Yet

My whole life
is a To Do list
that never
gets done.

And a similar line of thought:

Multitasking

In the process
of multitasking,
I feel like I’m
half-assing
everything.

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Albert Camus: Notebook Prose

I finished reading Albert Camus’s Notebooks 1935-1942. Here’s my previous post about it.

The book is a writer’s journal, and it includes philosophical passages, descriptions of places, and raw narrative material that later evolved into scenes in Camus’s most famous novel, The Stranger. Camus’s prose is lyrical and poetic, and I find myself re-reading many of these entries because I am blown away by their beauty. And I think writers could use some of the passages as fiction or poetry prompts—cracking them open and taking them in any direction.

Here are just a few entries that stood out for me:

“The first almond trees in blossom along the road by the sea. One night has been enough for them to covered with the fragile snow that we cannot imagine standing up to the cold and the rain which drenches all their petals.”

“From the top of the coast road, the cliffs are so thick that the landscape becomes unreal through its very qualities. Man is an outlaw there, so much so that all this beauty seems to come from another world.”

1940

“Evenings on the terrace of the Deux Merveilles. The palpitation of the sea that is sensed in the hollow of the night. The quivering almond trees and the smell of smoke rising from the earth.

The rocks in the sea covered with white seagulls. With their gray mass, lit up by the whiteness of the birds’ wings, they look like luminous floating cemeteries.”

And I’m not sure if this passage made its way into The Stranger or became a scene in another short story or novel. But I found the imagery incredible:

“Lying down, he smiled clumsily and his eyes glistened. She felt all her love flood into her throat and tears come into her eyes. She threw herself on his lips and crushed her tears between their two faces. She wept into his mouth, while he tasted in these salt lips all the bitterness of their love.”

Camus, Albert. Notebooks 1935-1942. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1962. Ivan R. Dee, Translation, Reprint Edition, 2010.

I plan to read volume two of Camus’s notebooks, which covers the period from 1942 to 1951.

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A Camus Quote

I am currently reading Albert Camus’s Notebooks 1935-1942, and I found this little piece of wisdom from the section May 1935 to September 1937. I thought it was worth sharing, and I hope you find some value in the words.

“One must not cut oneself off from the world. No one who lives in the sunlight makes a failure of his life. My whole effort, whatever the situation, misfortune or disillusion, must be to make contact again. But even within this sadness I feel a great leap of joy and a great desire to love simply at the sight of a hill against the evening sky.”

Camus, Albert. Notebooks 1935-1942. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1962. Ivan R. Dee, Translation, Reprint Edition, 2010.

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Kindle Countdown Deal

I just wanted to let people know that I am running a Kindle Countdown Deal on Amazon for the ebook version of my poetry collection Outward Arrangements. It runs until May 11 and the price is $.99.

Outward Arrangements Cover

And the Goodreads Giveaway ends on May 9. You can enter the giveaway here.

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Outward Arrangements Available

My full-length poetry collection Outward Arrangements: Poems is now available in both paperback and ebook versions on Amazon.

Outward Arrangements Cover

The book includes 26 color photos that were originally posted to my Instagram account, inspiring the companion poems. I had previously posted a few examples here.  Now I thought I would share a few other excerpts from the collection.

The Last Leaf

The last maple leaf
did not want to leave the tree,
even though his mother
told him it was time to go,
time to break free from the limb
and fall to the ground.

The little leaf said,
“Why, why must I leave
when I can still cling to this tree?”

“Because,” his mother replied,
“it’s part of life, the cycle of nature—
we drop to the ground during fall
and return in the spring.
So come on, let go.”

“I will not. I will not,” the little leaf said.

But a stiff wind stirred and the leaf
lost his grip and twirled to the earth,
falling into his mother’s grasp.

“See, that’s not so bad, is it?” his mother said.
“No Mom,” the little leaf said.
But then he asked, “Mom, am I still a leaf
if I’m no longer connected to the tree?”

In Need of Houdini

You are wrapped in chains
and stuffed in a metal chest.
The key has been discarded
and the box dumped
into the ocean.

You can’t stretch your legs
or flap your arms,
and you’re stuck in the box—
unable to lift the latch
and swim free.

How long can you
hold your breath?

The Great Equalizer

The democratic nature of parenthood.
It doesn’t matter who you are—
man, woman or trans, gay or straight,
Black, white or any other shade,
tall or short, skinny or fat, rich or poor—
when your toddler is wailing
in a grocery store or shopping mall,
when the feet are stomping, the arms swinging,
the cheeks reddened and the tears rolling—
all you want to do is pick up the child
and make the crying stop.

Wealth, social standing and comely looks
mean nothing to kids; they’re not impressed
by your credentials and you can’t negotiate
with these little angels and tyrants who rule the world.
Two clichés apply here:
parenting wipes the slate clean
and levels the playing field.

All mothers and fathers desire the same thing—
the health, safety and
development of their offspring.
The goals are simple amid the frenzy
of a life marked by stress and lack of sleep.
They are: eat the chicken nuggets, drink the apple juice,
recite the alphabet, put away the toys, finish the milk,
wave bye-bye and go down easy at nap time.

An Epiphany

I’ve discovered
the key to happiness—
the realization that
there isn’t one.

You can’t coax
happiness or
make plans for it.

You can only
attain it by accident
through the act
of living itself.

Point of View

Look outward
beyond yourself—
flee the space
inside your head,
and seek the magic
of the world instead.

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