by Jack Kerouac. 2003. 200 pages. edited with an introduction by Regina Wienreich. Penguin Books.
Book Review by Michael Basinski
One wonders in this world of poems who will make it to 2050 (supposing society, culture, civilization still survives in some fragmented form - please let’s hear it for evolution!). I wonder who will be the definitive voices of the poetry of my time, our time on earth, and our era. It seems, more and more, as I approach my winter that Kerouac will be among that small number. His work as a body of imagination looms larger, larger than ever, more important now than ever, more innovative and vaster than previously considered. He: the word master, Zen master, philosophical master thinker, master action and one of the very, very few who can claim that too often tossed about title: poet. Kerouac’s still the best and the more unpublished works that come forward, reveal his literature to have profound depth and poignancy. Wow, I think - it took the world more than 30 years after his death to publish out of attics and archives and notebooks this collection of vital poems. Book of Haikus gives us again a real focus to see the splendid merger of poet, imagination, philosophy, life style and exploratory innovation that was/is Kerouac. What major writer can take this form, this form that is now the most populace of all poetic forms and make it unique, so unique that a real voice emerges from the 6 billion billion haiku everywhere. In these strange and troubled times, the notion of stepping back and listening becomes the only place to which the mind can retreat for sanity. In these poems, I hear cats and birds and I see again the simple places we might all have, in our tiny back yards, at the corner of the street, corner of the room, seeing an insect, being an insect? birds are poetry. You have to thank Regina Wienreich. Thank you. She makes this book have a context without imposing her own self upon Kerouac’s poems. Yet, she orders them, polishes the places for them, provides a haven. As one lives life, washes its dishes, has death steel all the garden hoses, it is important to have guides along the path. “Kerouac,” I think Willie Alexander and The Boom Boom Band once said and sang, “up on top of my shelf?” This is another book for that top