Jack Kerouac haiku

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Jack Kerouac & Gary Snyder: Two Haiku Buddies

Last night I started reading my first Kerouac. Oh, I had tried On the Road many decades back, but I soon lost interest and got off the road. You know. Rest stop for 30 years or so.

The book I picked up last night was The Dharma Bums. I figured my interest in Buddhism would sustain me. That and the fact that the protagonist’s buddy, Japhy, was based on the Buddhist poet Gary Snyder.

After reading the introduction I learned that Kerouac, a good Catholic boy from Lowell, MA, dabbled in Buddhism himself. Thus, the book. The introduction made it clear that both Kerouac and Snyder thought highly of haiku. That’s right. The much-maligned (these days) poetic form taken over and held ransom by so many classroom teachers and their students.

First, here’s a haiku by Gary Snyder, called “A Dent in a Bucket”:


Hammering a dent out of a bucket
      a woodpecker
               answers from the woods

And here are three haiku written by Jack:


The bottoms of my shoes 
     are clean 
From walking in the rain


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


Useless! Useless! 
—heavy rain driving
into the sea


Kind of fun, that. The guy known for spontaneous writing (and it shows) in his novels playing within the most restricted, most succinct parameters on the poetry chessboard.

Hey, at least I’m expanding my horizons. Previous to this, the most exposure I had to Jack Kerouac was listening to Natalie Merchant’s gravelly voice in 10,000 Maniacs rendition of the song, “Hey, Jack Kerouac.”

Sing it, Natalie. You, too, Jack. In three lines only, like a good Buddhist boy from Lowell, MA….