March 12 has just passed us by… the birth date of the late Jack Kerouac, who would have turned 89 had he still been physically with us. I say physically, as despite his early death in 1969, Kerouac remains with so many of us; a potent literary force and beacon of inspiration.
For me, Jack, more than any other writer, continues to influence my artistic practice. Discovering Desolation Angels at age 27 will remain a defining moment in my life; the haunting loneliness, the longing, the confusion… I was right beside Jack when he wrote:
on Starvation Ridge
are trying to grow
His language was a spell and for more than a decade, it has both bound and freed me. In my writing, I have one mantra:
One day I will find the right words and they will be simple.
Words taken from Some of the Dharma, words that will guide me until the pen puts me down, or vice versa.
So Happy Birthday Jack!
To celebrate, this Lost Shark along with Julie Beveridge, Sheish Money & Jane Sheehy will be performing a handful of your poems at Confit Bistro (4/9 Doggett St, Fortitude Valley) on Wednesday March 30 as part of their monthly event The Back Room. The bar will open at 6pm and I hope you will join me…
Last night at the second of Emily XYZ’s workshops, we looked at our place on the cultural continuum, spoke about the artists/art/objects/places etc.. that have influenced us and then read a poem that demonstrated how we have taken those influences and shaped them into our own, original voice.
I read chapter 4 of Desolation Angels, a piece of writing that sings after countless reads; that still has the power to mesmerise, to light up my senses. Desolation Angels found me at a strange time of life, struggling with my own persoanl loneliness, so I was there on the Lookout with Jack, trying to find the truth in this world, just as he was. I then read the poem, January 29, 2009 (for John Martyn) to show how Kerouac’s spiritual connection with the land and ability to illuminate the ‘everydayness’ of living has greatly influenced my own work.
Emily talked often throughout the night about the importance of finding your tribe; to know that you are not alone and that there is a precedent for what you are trying to do. She also spoke about how poems come to us and that sometimed we are vessels, a landing place for poems. This really lit me up, as January 29, 2009 is the perfect example of a poem that landed on me. The appearance of the swallow coinciding with the news of John Martyn’s death wrote the poem, much more than I wrote the poem. For me, it was a matter of putting the words in the right order… the poem had as Emily said, landed on me.
This reminded me of the quote by Muriel Rukeyser:
“You only need be a scarecrow for poems to land on.”
and lead to this great article ‘The Poet is a Scarecrow’ by Melissa Broder. What struck me most about this article was Broder’s exploration of Barbara Guest’s theory that the poem is an active force exercising human imagination; is an entity capable of feelings. In Guest’s world, ‘a poem seeks out a certain type of artist; an artist who possesses the qualities of subjectivity or openness.’
I totally recommend reading this article… it certainly spoke to me. These workshops are proving to be the highlight of my week and are opening both me and my writing up to new trains of thought.