In the spring of 1958 Jack Kerouac went into the studio with tenor saxmen Al Cohn and Zoot Sims to record his second album, a mixture of jazz and poetry called Blues and Haikus. The haiku is a traditional Japanese poetry form with three unrhyming lines in five, seven, and five syllables. But Kerouac took a freer approach. In 1959, the year Blues and Haikus was released, he explained:
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 worry about syllables because American speech is something again . . . bursting to pop.
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.
The opening number on Blues and Haikus is a 10-minute piece called “American Haikus.” It features Kerouac’s expressive recitation of a series of poems punctuated by the improvisational saxophone playing of Cohn and Sims. The video above is animated by the artist Peter Gullerud. For more of Kerouac’s haikus — some 700 of them — see his Book of Haikus.
via The Allen Ginsberg Project
Jack Kerouac’s Naval Reserve Enlistment Mugshot, 1943
Jack Kerouac Reads from On the Road (1959)
Jack Kerouac’s 30 Beliefs and Techniques For Writing Modern Prose
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