Jack Kerouac is my James Dean, my George Harrison, my Tom Cruise (honesty is everything), and every boy I used to stare at on the cover of Tiger Beat all rolled into one.
With a dash of mandatory literary genius and lone soul-seeking wanderer on the side.
He was the fantasy of my bookish-angst-addled youth and is still my co-conspirator in nostalgia, myth-making and spiritual searching as I reread some his books as an adult.
Allen Ginsberg also kept me up many a night, wondering how it was humanly possible to write a poem about one’s mother that poured forth sacred secrets with such insane grace and searing candidness.
And the others: William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti … I would have given anything to sit with them in smoky bars, trying not to get so drunk that I could no longer read my words out loud or hear others belt out a stream of word-songs while scanning lustily around the room.
They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and lord knows I’ve tried to imitate them—especially Ginsberg. I spent the better part of a semester on this attempt way back when I was a young, fatalistic student temporarily dabbling in poetry. The results were mixed but I was happy.
Suddenly, Kerouac et al have popped back into my head with a vengeance. What to do? Reading them has always made we want to write even more than I already do. And they make me feel like my attempts at being concise and succinct are overrated (though I know this isn’t true—a girl can dream).
This time I wanted to try something slightly different than imitation, and ‘write’ using their own words. Yup, a remix!
The beauty of the Beats is that to do a remix of their words requires no effort do a long search for the ‘best’ or ‘most poetic’ work. In a way, the Beats as a whole are already one enmeshed entanglement of thoughts, feelings and word orgies. Their words to each other in letters, about their craft and personal lives, and in their published works can, in a sense, be read as one long homage to a lovely, bizarre, entirely mesmerizing Truth.
I borrow here from all the authors I listed above. My method was more or less this: choose quotes at will, relatively quickly. Remove reference to specific authors, cut and paste to my heart’s content, use no words of my own, and see what I end up with. No cheating, no over-thinking, no last-minute grasping at new quotes to fill in the blanks.
Oh, and I changed all the hims to hers, and left the few ‘hers’ I found untouched.
It was amazing to see how quickly a story emerged that I didn’t plan or construct in advance, and how emotionally involved I became with what I realized was a story from my heart.
Maybe this is the point: sometimes we get tired of our own words and the thoughts that inspired them. Using a gift pack of words that came before us can be a really refreshing tool to help us out of a rut, to see ourselves better – and engage in delicious flights of fancy at the same time.
I hope you enjoy!
Here Lies Life
Standing on a street corner one fine day I am awaiting. I want to be a saint. I’m running out of everything now. I want to create wilderness out of empire.
I experienced and loved and lost, and she would smile and look away, sigh and rise to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human anatomy, starving hysterical naked –
Oh, smell the people! yelled The Mover, compulsive, dedicated.
Her passing thoughts were extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul and
I am beginning to think she is a great saint, a girl who was going the opposite direction, sniffling, the first person on earth moving from one place to another to sacrifice all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of earth.
I feel there is an angel in me, she told me once, lying back languidly.
Who are with me? she’d say and stretch. There is no such thing as writing for yourself.
I went with her for no reason. Out of veins, out of money.
At that instant there was a kind of celestial cold fire that crept over us and blazed up and illuminated her sorrows and desires and made it an eternal place.
If you believe you’re a poet, she’d say, then you’re saved.
This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.
We think differently at night, humbly and sincerely, for there is so much work to do.
So here lies life, love,
Two piercing eyes glancing into two piercing eyes in an instant and
I miss you so much your absence causes me, at times, acute pain.
I like too many things and get all confused, her face out the window, family, friends, little short stories for children.
I touch your book and dream of our odyssey and feel absurd. Holy!
I am going to marry you.
Even my too-big world, trapped between 2 visual images, third coming, perpetually and forever, a renaissance of wonder.
Don’t you remember how you made me stop trembling in shame and drew me to you as the sharer?
It was a face which darkness could kill by laughter or light. And dash of consciousness, together.
Here lies love in lyrical delight, between incomprehensible and incoherent, and with one grand, beautiful dawn.
I don’t know if I can do it again.
We look into each other’s eyes, one grand boulevard with trees, the only people, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
Death hovers over me, a face as easily hurt, whom I am constantly shocking.
A pain stabs my heart. For me the mad ones are who love you, floating across the tops of cities,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space
and hung-up running from one falling star to another.
I stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame.
I am not mad. I am young, sorrowful, not necessarily man or woman, and have my generation dragging themselves till joined, elemental, jumping with sensation.
The best minds, she’d say, stand by the madhouse for one very beautiful, shining Revelation.
* original article published on elephant journal.