William Burroughs, with the amazing voice, recorded a number of works to musical backing. I find them fascinating and hypnotic.
Very explicit words.
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William Burroughs, with the amazing voice, recorded a number of works to musical backing. I find them fascinating and hypnotic.
Very explicit words.
I just felt like getting back into the old fifties Jazz. Jack Kerouac put some of his music to jazz music. It captured something of that mad time – jazz, sex and travel, reefer, zen and crazy. Life was for kicks and Sartori. There was no time to waste. Crazy, crazy, crazy, man.
Back when I was young these were like diamonds. You couldn’t get them. Thanks to the internet we have access to all manner of gems.
The only question is whether having such easy access makes everything less important.
Today I’m listening to Jack creating a whole new era out of black music and the search for truth. Go, Go Jack. You changed the world!!
I was honoured to be asked to contribute a poem to this limited edition poetry magazine put together by Matthias Kruger and Rebecca McLeish for Newington Blue Press.
The magazine celebrates what would have been Charles Bukowski’s 100th birthday on August 16th 2020.
It contains poems, writing and photos by, of, or about Buk.
Only a 100 copies are available for this beautifully produced edition.
Check them out at Newington Blue Press.
Meaning Jack and Allen (I wrote this one for Matt)
It is great to reconnect with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg every now and again. The visions they espoused created images in my head.
Allen altered poetry. He opened my head up and gave me eyes to see. He brought poetry to life from the rotting carcass it had been.
For me Allen’s forte was that there were no rules.
Allen wrote poetry in the same stream of consciousness that Jack wrote prose. It was a revolution.
That revolution brought a whole new way of writing, thinking and feeling. It created the modern world. Others had done it before – Henry Miller for one, but nobody connected in to that ‘reality’ the way Allen and Jack did. They were searching for the meaning in life, the ultimate kicks, to tune in to the craziness of life, to live.
They weren’t satisfied with the plastic, the superficial, the mundane; they wanted something that had depth; that meant something.
Society is empty.
Real living was to let everything out – all that emotion, feeling, energy and joy.
They wanted to live and life had to burn. If it wasn’t real it wasn’t worth a fuck.
We’re beat but we ain’t beat yet.
Meaning Jack and Allen
Searching for meaning,
Truth and beauty
In the back streets
Away from the plastic
Neon falsity of Mammon.
Searching for a raw
A burst of inspiration
Blast of energy
Among the processed
Refinement of rehearsed notes.
Searching for energy.
Searching for words of passion,
Fury and eloquence,
Words that are meant,
That are revealing,
Inspiring and awakening.
Searching for candour
Amid the controlled,
By the political correctness thieves
Who steal souls in the name of respect.
Searching for compassion
Among the dead
Who walk the well-lit streets
Without a mind,
And believing it.
Searching for someone to offend
And learn from.
Who has the balls to speak;
To scream the images
That adorn the inside of their skull.
Searching for reality
In the midst of a culture
That has sold its spirit
To both religion and business,
That is bankrupt,
Devoid of ideas;
That consumes the planet
In the madness of its death throes;
In a mindless self-fuck;
That thinks plastic is perfect –
It’s what the suckers want –
It makes bucks.
Searching for the spirit
Of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Cassidy
On one long crazy rapture
One night of endless madness
With no limits
Spitting words, dreams, visions and thoughts
On an endless drive
Roaring across plains,
In search of crazy.
In search of ultimate kicks
Goofin’ with eternity,
Lost in honking sounds,
And high on anything –
Just so long as it will never stop,
Never be understood,
Never be explained.
But it is there –
In the zen of an instant,
A rock, a sax solo, a raving stanza,
A drooling poem
Spontaneously bursting into existence
Climaxing from the tongue
In an orgy of sudden understanding,
So orgasmic and crude
That it throbs through your groin
To explode in your brain
With uncontainable joy.
Searching for an explanation
For the madness
Wreaked on humanity,
On the planet,
The poor trussed planet
The enslavement of humanity
Containment and boredom,
That causes people
In cruelty and barbarism.
Searching for the love
That melts the soul
In ecstatic waves
That swamp, crash and churn,
So that we are absorbed,
And reborn totally alive
Searching through words,
That squirm and metamorphose,
Through my mind
My dreams –
Searching for expression,
Substance and delirium.
Searching through images
Extracted from the mundane,
With shape, texture and colour
Never before glimpsed!
Creating poems to reflect
Truths that stalk the coils
Within the skull.
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I encountered Howl when I was seventeen years old – back in the heady days of 1967. Back then I was a rebellious youth full of angst and disillusionment. I did not like the society I was part of. I did not want the career directions being laid out before me. I saw it all as shallow, hypocritical and pointless. I wanted something with more meaning but I did not know what it was. I wanted a life that had some depth and purpose. I rejected the whole stupidity of comfort, status and ‘fitting in’ to a society that I considered unfair, unjust and with the wrong priorities. I was on a quest to find something better.
Back then my life was all about Rock Music, friends and girls. I was into freewheelin’ and living in the moment. I wanted excitement and adventure. I wanted to live life to the full.
Poetry had been ruined for me at school. I had been made to learn and recite reams of Tennyson and Wordsworth. It did not relate to me at all. I could not connect.
I rediscovered poetry through the lyrics of the fabulous music I was listening too. Things like the Beatles – ‘Here There and Everywhere’ or the Kinks – ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ and ‘Well Respected Man’ or Dylan – ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, ‘Ramona’, ‘Pawn in the Game’ and ‘It’s Alright Ma, I’m only Bleeding’. They spoke to me. I was in to lyrics and words. I was on the cusp. Little did I know that I was shortly to be knocked out by the likes of Captain Beefheart, Country Joe and the Fish and Roy Harper. Rock Music provided my poetry and opened my mind to real social issues, mystical thought and philosophy. It gave me insight into the meaning I was seeking and a different way of living a life full of passion, love, tolerance and fairness.
Then I rediscovered poetry. I had been reading Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, which transported me into a world that made much more sense to me. I wanted a life that was unleashed. On the cover of Kerouac’s ‘Dharma Bums’ was a photo of the mighty Allen Ginsberg. I found a copy of Ginsberg’s City Lights pocket book – ‘Howl’
The first moment I read those opening lines that Ginsberg had written way back in 1954 I was smitten. It spoke directly to me. I could relate to it. I interpreted it into my own life. I was being destroyed by the madness of my greed-ridden, war-mongering, wealth-obsessed society. I wanted out. I saw myself as that angel-headed hipster searching for that mystical connection to the universe. I was burning for it. I would rather be hungry and naked and real, rather that bloated and living in luxury in meaningless greed.
Suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore. There were other people who thought like me. I had discovered poetry.
These were the words that opened my mind:
‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,’
Poetry – Allen Ginsberg and seeing the light
Poetry was destroyed for me by school.
Firstly in Primary school there was the emphasis on memorising great chunks of turgid verse.
Each week we would be given a long poem by Wordsworth or Tennyson to learn by heart. You were called to stand and recite a verse. If you had not learnt it you had to stay in and miss your Physical Exercise. Now PE was something I really looked forward to and although I had a good memory I could not always be bothered to memorise the meaningless drivel. Many was the afternoon I spent watching morosely out of the window while the rest of the class were outside.
It did not get much better in Secondary school. We analysed the metre, rhyme and metaphor until the whole process was just a bore. I did not want it any more. The only highlight was the whole class excitedly chanting the Jumblies.
Poetry was moribund. It was the stuff of the old and dreary. It had no connection with my life or the world I inhabited. This was the sixties. There was loud music, parties, girls, motorbikes and excitement. Who cared about daffodils? I was young, wild and drinking in life. All that stuff pertained to a boring old world.
Then a friend gave me a copy of Howl. I was seventeen and the words leapt out at me. We were up against the establishment; a mouldering old set of values, a dreary, grey bunch of old foggies who were shoving careers and exams down our throats, who wanted us to settle down in suburbia, mow our grass, wash our cars and have two babies just like them. We were screaming for colour!!
We were alive and wanted to live, to burn and to run free. We didn’t want shackles, restraints and cages.
They hounded us from all sides and we laughed in their face.
Suddenly there was a poem for us. I saw the best minds of my generation trying to smash out of the cage, trying to piss in their petrol tanks, put sand in their gear-boxes. We didn’t not want in to that mortuary. We wanted to live.
Here was a guy I could understand.
I’d been bopping through those negro nights high on life, talking my head off, shouting up at the stars, drunk on being.
I devoured it like it was ambrosia from the gods.
I had discovered Allen Ginsberg. Poetry had come alive. We were all angel-headed hipsters looking for a mystical connection to the universe; wanting to make sense of it all.
Life was a wild journey and we had to wring every last drop out of it.
No more lawns to mow, cars to wash or careers to follow – this was a mad saxophone wail into the torment of the cosmos and I wanted my soul to be in that wail. I wanted to live.
There was a mind to explore, limits to transgress and all possibility to challenge.
I knew I had people to meet, places to go and minds to explore. There was ecstasy out there. There was truth, Zen and a whole teeming inferno to explore!
I had discovered Allen Ginsberg and he had opened my eyes.
Poetry was communication on a level that made sense at last!
Poetry could be about real life!!
Jack Kerouac – What he meant to writing, life and the sixties.
Jack opened a door and let a new stream of light come flooding in. It swept the old dull formula away.
Before Jack there was a structure and form. Everything had its place. There were rules, procedures, format and sequence. It was staid. It was dull. It was controlled.
Jack opened a valve in his head and the steam of ideas, words and stories gushed forth in one long screaming roar.
Jack put his words into life as if he was playing a never-ending saxophone line. They wailed, parped and spouted out in uncontrolled frenzy. They streamed along in a great torrent that gathered you up and bore you along with it.
There were no rules. There was no formula. It was a raging waterfall that cascaded along with a madness, exuberance and all the spontaneity of now. It wasn’t so much telling a story as relating the moment, describing now.
And what a now!
It was a now teeming with desires, madness and a thirst for life that could not be contained, had no limits, and was bursting to explode out of the confines of the shackles society puts on us.
Jack was too alive to sit still, too wired. He had to let loose. He sought fellow freaks to travel, open up new horizons and explore possibilities; rapping endlessly as they delved the depths of possibility – ecstatic on discovery. Discovery of self, of possibility, for awe and wonder, to wrestle the demons, open up the senses, to let go; to give rein to all the sensations possible and experience life. There was sex, drugs, fast cars, laughs, kicks, craziness and exaggerated, heightened possibility. There was meaning, purpose and kicks to be screwed out of the drabness.
Jack was in awe of the emancipated black culture and its propensity to let its hair down; its sensuous sexuality, unloosed vitality and wondrous creativity. The black culture was rich and thriving where white culture was constrained and uptight. He wanted to be as loud, as natural and as in touch with his inner self and let all that bottled up energy out. In the black clubs with the black music it was GO GO GO GO GO – crazy man. There were no limits. You went for it.
Despite all the racism and poverty the black American culture had style, had class and knew how to let it hang out. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. They burned. They grasped every second and knew how to extract the kicks out of it. It was wild. It was real.
After Jack how could one go back to living an ordinary life? To writing manufactured stories? – To following an ordained pathway into a career, a home and a life of tedium. This was a plastic culture of concrete and control. It was as dead as the dodo.
Jack had defied the cosmos and sought satori in the majesty of being.
How could you mow the grass and catch the eight thirty to the office?
Without Jack could we have had that sweeping liberalism of the sixties that swept the dowdy conformism away? Or would we be living in our little boxes, locked up inside as repressed as the society that spawned us?
Jack was the great liberator. Once the door was open then was no holding back the current. The dam gave way. The sixties was the flood that Jack unleashed.
I was swept along in that tide. Who could deny the energy and excitement? The freedom?
Allen Ginsberg howled and Jack roared down the highways of life. They both opened minds.
Allen Ginsberg single-handedly rescued poetry for me. I had it destroyed for me in Primary School. The teacher’s view of poetry was to get us (nine and ten year olds) to learn a poem by rote each week. We had the delights of Tennyson and Wordsworth to memorise. We would have to stand in turn and recite a verse on request. She would point to you and you would have to comply. If you did not know it then you had to miss PE (Physical Exercise), which we all loved, to stay in and learn it. I spent a number of afternoons peering longingly at the rest of the class outside. It instilled hatred. There was no attempt to look at meaning or appreciation. Poetry was merely a task, a pain, a punishment. In Secondary School all I can remember is the class reciting ‘The Jumblies’. Great though it was it did not fill me with joy. It was only when I read Howl that I really felt I had found something that related to me personally. I felt like that outsider stumbling through the starry night looking for some kindred spirits and a real connection to the universe. I was only fifteen and I felt like an outsider in this conforming society. I wanted reality. I craved reality. I wanted honesty, connection and passion. I hadn’t found it anywhere else. Ginsberg led me to Kerouac and I was away. The Beat Generation rekindled a love of poetry. They were honest!