Johnny Depp Recites ‘Chorus 113’ from Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues

In 1995 John­ny Depp made a cameo appear­ance on an improb­a­ble TV mini-series called The Unit­ed States of Poet­ry. The series was broad­cast on PBS and fea­tured high­ly styl­ized vignettes spot­light­ing a range of poets–Joseph Brod­sky, Derek Wal­cott, Czes­law Milosz and Allen Gins­berg to name but a few–along with some famous names bet­ter known for their work in oth­er fields–Lou Reed,  Leonard Cohen, Jim­my Carter–in six fast-mov­ing episodes, each tied to a theme. Depp appeared in “Show Five: The Word” to read from a poem by one of his own idols, Jack Ker­ouac.

In the scene above, Depp reads a selec­tion from Ker­ouac’s 1959 book of impro­vi­sa­tion­al verse, Mex­i­co City Blues: 242 Cho­rus­es. “I want to be con­sid­ered a jazz poet,” Ker­ouac writes in the intro­duc­tion to the book, “blow­ing a long blues in an after­noon jam ses­sion on Sun­day. I take 242 cho­rus­es; my ideas vary and some­times roll from cho­rus to cho­rus or from halfway through a cho­rus to halfway into the next.” Here’s the cho­rus Depp reads from:

Cho­rus 113

Got up and dressed up
         and went out & got laid
Then died and got buried
         in a cof­fin in the grave,
         Yet every­thing is per­fect,
Because it is emp­ty,
Because it is per­fect
         with empti­ness,
Because it’s not even hap­pen­ing.

Is Igno­rant of its own empti­ness–
Does­n’t like to be remind­ed of fits–

You start with the Teach­ing
         Inscrutable of the Dia­mond
And end with it, your goal
         is your start­ing­place,
No race has run, no walk
         of prophet­ic toe­nails
Across Ara­bies of hot
         meaning–you just
         numbly don’t get there

For more on John­ny Dep­p’s lit­er­ary inter­ests and Jack Ker­ouac’s lit­er­ary great­ness you can explore the Open Cul­ture archives, begin­ning with:

John­ny Depp Reads Let­ters from Hunter S. Thomp­son

Jack Ker­ouac reads from On the Road (1959)

Cel­e­brate Jack ker­ouac’s 90th Birth­day with Ker­ouac, the Movie

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