Oh the unspeakable visions of Kerouac

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The name of this site and subsequently-named Insta handle come from Jack Kerouac’s “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose”, where he shares his list of essentials for writing. In this 100 Days of Writer’s Block, I’ve been trying to bust through some closed doors of the mind. Closed doors like “Who the hell are you to write? You have nothing interesting to say.” And then! I’m reminded of all of the unspeakable, beautiful and vital visions in each of our minds. I’d love nothing more than for all of you to start writing too. I’m deeply curious— maybe too curious— about the visions of the individual. I’m also deeply grateful to live in time when self-publishing is so easy, inexpensive and accessible. Otherwise I’d be handing out written essays in the town square all day and that sounds exhausting. Although… wait. Should I start a ‘zine? I think I should start a ‘zine.

“Beliefs & Technique for Modern Prose”
by Jack Kerouac, published in The Portable Jack Kerouac, edited by Ann Charters
(I noted some of my favorites)

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy

  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening

  3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house

  4. Be in love with yr life

  5. Something that you feel will find its own form

  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind

  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow

  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind

  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual

  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is

  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest

  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you

  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition

  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time

  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog

  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye

  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself

  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea

  19. Accept loss forever

  20. Believe in the holy contour of life

  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind

  22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better

  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning

  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge

  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it

  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form

  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness

  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better

  29. You’re a Genius all the time

  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

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I first met Jack Kerouac in the summer. I was in high school, working a summer job with the school district and came home each afternoon to read On the Road and lay in the sun. He stayed with me through college, where I hung a disturbing poster of him in my freshman dorm room (apologies to my roommate) and spent a fair amount of time writing bad poetry. I couldn’t get enough Kerouac and soon the book Dharma Bums took over as my touchstone. Sometime in my junior year, a fellow lost Beat poet lent me a copy of Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson and it opened my eyes even more to his world and, importantly, to a woman’s perspective of that world. Kerouac provided my first encounter with the pain of loving someone’s art even though I had my misgivings about him as a person.

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Years later, I read Big Sur while sitting on the porch of a yurt in Big Sur eating a California avocado with a Napa red wine. It’s an afternoon I remember well even though it was nearly six years ago. I found that particular book to be nearly incomprehensible but loved the moment all the same.

I think I’ll undertake the risky adventure of re-reading a bit of Kerouac soon. I’m eager to see whether they still live in my heart and imagination or, instead, if they’ve lost their charm and relevance for me. It’s sort of like when people warn you not to meet your heroes. These books were my heroes, and I’m nervous to meet them now in between loads of laundry and PBS Kids and a mortgage and juice boxes. Will J.K. be too bro-y for me now? Let’s find out.