Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Jack Kerouac - Master of Haiku

Did you know that Jack Kerouac, the American author and poet was a master of Haiku, the Japanese short form poem and was highly influential in popularising Haiku in America and the West?

Jack Kerouac is best known as one of the Beat Poets of the 50’s and most people tend to think of him as the author of ''On the Road”.

Kerouac was a drifter who along with his friends Allan Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady and others, founded the Beat literary movement, a group of writers and artists who burst on the American scene in San Francisco in 1955.

They were rebels who rejected the materialism of the post-World War II era in the West, and favoured dropping out of society to experience authentic life through road trips, jazz clubs and altered consciousness.

Kerouac discovered Haiku when he began studying Buddhism and he reformed the way that Haiku was thought about. He rejected the strict, traditional 17 syllable Japanese form, but kept the three short line form. He liked the idea that something so short could say so much.

"I propose that the 'Western Haiku' simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language. Above all, a Haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture . . ."

It was his opinion that a Western Haiku need not concern itself with the seventeen syllables since Western languages cannot adapt themselves to the fluid syllabic Japanese.

In 1956, he spent sixty-three days on Desolation Peak, meditating, reading, and thinking about Buddhism. In his collected Haiku, 72 were found from that experience.

Here are some examples of Kerouac’s work:

Crossing the football field,
coming home from work
The lonely businessman

In my medicine cabinet
the winter fly
Has died of old age

Wash hung out
by moonlight
Friday night in May

Empty baseball field
A robin,
Hops along the bench

Visit www.moonink.co.uk to see some examples of Western Tanka poetry, the 5 line version of a Haiku. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the free Poem of the Month.

Please contact MoonInk on info@moonink.co.uk if you have any questions.

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