Book of Blues

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Overview

Best known for his "Legend of Duluoz" novels, including On the Road and The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac is also an important poet. In these eight extended poems, Kerouac writes from the heart of experience in the music of language, employing the same instrumental blues form that he used to fullest effect in Mexico City Blues, his largely unheralded classic of postmodern literature. Edited by Kerouac himself, Book of Blues is an exuberant foray into language and consciousness, rich with imagery, propelled by rythm, ...

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Book of Blues

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Overview

Best known for his "Legend of Duluoz" novels, including On the Road and The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac is also an important poet. In these eight extended poems, Kerouac writes from the heart of experience in the music of language, employing the same instrumental blues form that he used to fullest effect in Mexico City Blues, his largely unheralded classic of postmodern literature. Edited by Kerouac himself, Book of Blues is an exuberant foray into language and consciousness, rich with imagery, propelled by rythm, and based in a reverent attentiveness to the moment.

"In my system, the form of blues choruses is limited by the small page of the breastpocket notebook in which they are written, like the form of a set number of bars in a jazz blues chorus, and so sometimes the word-meaning can carry from one chorus into another, or not, just like the phrase-meaning can carry harmonically from one chorus to the other, or not, in jazz, so that, in these blues as in jazz, the form is determined by time, and by the musicians spontaneous phrasing & harmonizing with the beat of time as it waves & waves on by in measured choruses." —Jack Kerouac

Although he is best known as a writer of prose, Jack Kerouac was an important poet, his work described by Michael McClure as "startling in its majesty and comedy and gentleness and vision." These eight extended poems, composed between 1954 and 1961, offer exuberant forays into language and consciousness that combine rich imagery, complex internal rhythms, and a reverent attentiveness to the moments.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The form of these eight long, previously unpublished poems written between 1954 and 1961, is, Kerouac writes, ``limited by the small page of the breastpocket notebook in which they were written.'' Each poem is actually a series of ``blues choruses,'' and they leap with drunkenly self-centered themes and wordplay, laced with some vivid, subjective observations of street scenes, as in Canto Uno of ``MacDougal Street Blues'': ``I mean sincerely/ naive sailors buying prints/ Women with red banjos/ On their handbags... They don't even listen to me when/ I try to tell them they will die.'' Girls, nonsense and the craft of writing are topics that figure prominently. Like all of Kerouac's work, these choruses live or die with the poet's enthusiasm, sometimes sunk in navel-gazing, sometimes stunning in their inspired leaps between images or thoughts. They beg to be read aloud and, like the jazz they are meant to reflect, some sections really swing while others are just keeping time. Sept.
Library Journal
Kerouac's poetry is oddly appealing, even when it isn't very good, which is often in this collection of "blues"-sequences of song-poems rooted in urban locales that range from San Francisco to Mexico City. The given limitation of each short poem is the size of a page in the poet's tiny notebook; in each sequence, a thread is carried over from one poem to the next, like song verses or diary entries interrupted by drink or sleep. Best known, of course, for his 1957 novel, On the Road, Kerouac always seems to be on the move. From the Bowery to Mexico City, he sketches what he sees: his vision is permeated with booze, suffering, and an admirable drive to get it all down on paper. His faith in the redemptive act of writing is particularly refreshing at this time of conservative backlash against the arts. These previously unpublished poems annoy and amuse and occasionally relax into beauty: "And raindrops/that don't know/You've been deceived/Slide on iron/Raggedly gloomy." For subject collections.-Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140587005
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/1995
  • Series: Poets, Penguin Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 943,976
  • Product dimensions: 5.13 (w) x 7.79 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack Kerouac(1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.

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Table of Contents

Book Of Blues Introduction by Robert Creeley

San Franciso Blues
Richmond Hill Blues
Bowery Blues
MacDougal Street Blues
Desolation Blues
Orizaba 210 Blues
Orlanda Blues
Cerrada Medellin Blues

Notes on Dates and Sources

"Jack Would Speak Through the Imperfect Medium of Alice," by Alice Notley

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