American poet Jack Kerouac Essay

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American poet Jack Kerouac Essay

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American poet Jack Kerouac has been classified as the originator of the Beat Generation. He is known for his spontaneous confessional style, as well as his connection to Buddhism, Allen Ginsberg, and American self actualization. His rejection of mainstream 1950’s society is his trademark, and the core ideal behind the beat-nick culture he helped spawn. Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, to French-Canadian parents, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Kerouac was raised fluent in French, and didn’t start learning English until he was six years old.

While attending Boston College and Columbia University, he demonstrated extraordinary athletic ability in the game of football, until he broke his leg. After losing his football scholarship, Keroauc moved to New York. There he met the makeup of the group that would later be known as The Beat Generation poets. This group consisted of: John Clellon Holmes, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, William S. Burroughs and Herbert Huncke. He left the company of these men to join the United States Navy in 1943, from which he was discharged during WWII, for the psychiatric measure of having an indifferent disposition.

This is suspected by many to be the spark that inspired him to write his first work The Town and City, as well as On The Road. Many of Kerouac’s works were often rejected upon first submission to publishers. He was often overlooked, due to his experimental style, and socially conscious views. Not to forget, his excessive tendency towards drinking. This obsession with alcoholism is eventually the cause of his death in 1969, when he dies of internal hemorrhaging due to cirrhosis. Jack Kerouac has a very distinct and original style.

Upon first evaluation of his style, his work might be deemed as cliche, or showy self loathing libation; but it must be remembered that, Kerouac was one of the first to adopt his free flowing form of poetry. He is also noted for connecting his poetry to the beat-nick poets. Kerouac is most commonly referred to as the King of the Beats and the Father of the Hippies. This is largely due with the fact that his poetry is most immediately inspired by Jazz music, specifically bebop by Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker. He compiled this Jazz influence with a love of Buddhist studies, specifically Gary Snyder.

The name he dubbed his new found form is Spontaneous Prose. It is often compared to the literary technique known as stream of consciousness, which is often deemed as a literary mirror of a writer’s thought process. While writing, Kerouac took the first thought or line that came to his mind and went with it. This technique is most recognizable in his novels Visions of Cody, Big Sur, Visions of Gerard, On the Road, and The Subterraneans. The core concept this method revolved around is a breathing technique very similar to that of Jazz, or Buddhist meditation. It is most evidently represented by a dash mark in place of a period.

The practice of improvising words based on implied or inherently inferred meanings was another aspect of Spontaneous Prose. . The core concept this method revolved around is a breathing technique very similar to that of Jazz, or Buddhist meditation. In his statement on Belief & Technique For Modern Prose, in his top five pieces of advice Kerouac says, 1. Scribble secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy 2. Submissive to everything, open, listening 3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house 4. Be in love with yr life 5. Something that you feel will find its own form (Kerouac)

This is more the literary technique of an experimental thinker than actual literary scholar, or poet, during this era. Despite this, his style later becomes the format taught to most contemporary writers aspiring to be professional. Kerouac never really edited his poetry. In fact, the majority of his work was edited by fellow Beat Generation pioneer Donald Merriam Allen, who also served as an editor for Ginsberg. Acclaimed photographer Robert Frank made a short film personifying many Beat ideals called Pull My Daisy, in which Kerouac is scene reading his work in the films opening. The film itself is also based a play written by Kerouac.

The Beat Generation is an uprising that formed mostly on some of America’s best-known college campuses in the mid to late 50’s. It influenced students in the early 60’s to seek hard hitting answers to some of the complex questions posed to their generation. Addressing ideas like the coexistence of wealth and poverty, along side with racial prejudice resulted in the beat-nicks forming what would be considered the American New Left. An example of this is the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); which founded at the University of Michigan in 1960, it became one of the key organizations formed in reaction to Beat ideals.

The core belief of this student body was that Americans should practice direct democracy as apposed to representative democracy. This stemmed largely from the strict nature of Universities during that time in which students felt they were just numbers in a system dictating their existence. These students were also known for being supporters of the Black Power movement. These groups are also historic for being the most visible resource for developing protests against the Vietnam War.

This New Left was the child that the Beat Generation gave birth to, and its influence on American culture can be credited for many of the sociological changes in our society today. Jack Kerouac, along with the rest of the beat-nick poets, can be credited as well. They were the flame that sparked this generational chain reaction. In sum, when I read Kerouac’s work, I can’t help but notice that many ways his style has been adopted by American culture. The ideal of the creative minded young artist bathing in libation and pondering death and social inadequacies is the main image adopted by the majority of Rock n Roll groups today.

The majority of these bands probably don’t even know of Jack Kerouac. I’m not saying he was the first poet, or artist, to get drunk and create; but, I do acknowledge the ability of his free will to inspire so many others around him to create the cause to social change. He is pioneer and a leader, because he is fallowed beyond the grave.

Work Cited

Anderson, James C. “Robert Frank. ” Microsoft Encarta 2006 [CD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005. “Jack Kerouac. ” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 30 Jan 2007, 22:03 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 2 Feb 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jack_Kerouac&oldid=104426491


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