jack kerouac’s jazzy word spinnings

P13_SmithJules Smith at the Times Literary Supplement:

In February 1950, Jack Kerouac made a note of his “wish to evoke that indescribable sad music of the night in America – for reasons that are never deeper than the music”. This aspiration sounded throughout his later writings; at the outset of Mexico City Blues (1959), the only major collection of poems published in his lifetime, he declared himself “a jazz poet blowing a long blues”. He wanted musicality in his 1950s novels, experimental prose poetry and the self-invented free form haikus he called “American Pops”. The elegiac passages concluding On the Road (1957) and “October in the Railroad Earth” have long been celebrated for the flowing rhythmic beauty of their wordplays. But his modern jazz-inspired improvisational poetics took far longer to gain recognition, even though his friends Allen Ginsberg and Michael McClure, and the youthful Bob Dylan, were early advocates for Mexico City Blues, the latter calling it “the first poetry that spoke my own language”.

The year 1951 was formative for Kerouac’s ideal of spontaneity. In April he had typed the original scroll version of On the Road while on benzedrine. “Journal 1951” is the most significant new material in The Unknown Kerouac, kept from late August to November that year when he was in a Bronx veterans’ hospital being treated for phlebitis in his legs. It is both a diary (recording a somewhat matter-of-fact reaction to the news that William Burroughs had shot his wife) and a writer’s manifesto: he coins the phrase “the unspeakable visions of the individual” on September 10. The key entry occurs on October 8 while the author is listening to the “beautiful, sad, long phrases” of the alto saxophonist Lee Konitz playing “I Remember April”, with the perception that “he is doing what I’m doing with a sentence like ‘hints of heartbreaking loss that filtered in with chunks of October daylight from the street’”.

more here.