Reading Jack Kerouac’s Collected Poems

When I was graduate school, the Viking Portable Kerouac came out and I read some of his poetry for the first time. And really didn’t get into it. I would, a few years later read Mexico City Blues, which I liked, but wasn’t sure why. Perhaps part of my reluctance to accept it was that I had plowed through Allen Ginsberg’s Collected Poems and really wasn’t all that crazy about it. I like a bunch of the poems, but overall, I felt bogged down by the book. To be fair, this is kind of true when I read most collected poem books. It’s rare to maintain my level of enjoyment through what is usually a pretty long volume, but I did enjoy Elizabeth Bishop’s and Sylvia Plath’s (which were shorter) and Jack Gilbert’s. I gave up on Ted Hughes, occasionally trying to convince myself that I can make it through that volume that I’m pretty sure can stop a bullet.

Which brings us back to Jack Kerouac. Kerouac, along with Hemingway, are two of my favorite writers, and as I mentioned earlier, I lost my Kerouac collection after graduate school. So I was in the used/remainder books section of one of the bookstores near my office and found a copy of Jack Kerouac’s Collected Poems. It was more expensive than other volumes but a huge markdown from list price, so I got it and started reading it. A few poems or pages (depending on the section). I read here and there for a few days as well, before settling down to actually reading the book, which I decided I wanted to do. I’m about a third in, which is usually the first time my interests starts to wane. But I’m still pretty excited about it.

This isn’t to say I think every piece is great art. Some of it is great and some it is not. But I like his energy. I find his poetry to have a certain structure his best prose has, and that he’s more consistent. I did feel The Scripture of the Golden Eternity dragged a bit, and it felt like he wasn’t quite sure about his footing, but it ended well. I skipped along a bit over some of the haiku, which I was surprised I did enjoy. Anyway, I’m enjoying it, and that’s probably the most important thing.

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