Haikus inspired by Kerouac

Above all, a haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi pastorella – Jack Kerouac

These past few months I’ve been very busy with PhD work and in between panicking about my lack of productivity, reading reams of unusable theory and wrenching measly ideas from nothingness, I’ve been writing lots of haikus. Not the usual form of haiku which I sometimes write and post on here (the 5-7-5ves) but ones inspired by the haikus of Jack Kerouac. Kerouac’s haikus are not in any way cordoned or restricted by meter or syllables or anything else, they are ‘free of all poetic trickery’, and are instead just 3 simple lines of writing using few words to channel an idea or ‘picture’. There is a real power and depth to them that is very therapeutic, both to read and write.

Simplicity. Minimal abstraction. Total freedom of thought. And occasionally, it feels almost like you’ve seen or even touched something profound.

Here’s a few examples of Kerouac’s haikus:

Drunk as a hoot owl

writing letters

By thunderstorm

Useless! useless!

-heavy rain driving

Into the sea

Halloween colors

orange and black

On a summer butterfly

Wild to sit on a haypile,

Writing haikus

Drinkin wine

Gull sailing

in the saffron sky-

The Holy Ghost wanted it

Barefoot by the sea,

stopping to scratch one ankle

With one toe

Perfectly silent

in the starry night

the little tree

Swinging on delicate hinges

the autumn leaf

almost off the stem

The red roof of the barn

is ravelled

like familiar meat

rain’s over, hammer on wood

-this cobweb

rides the sun shine

in the sun

the butterfly wings

like a church window

here’s a few of mine:

the swallows path

sketches the outline

of distant mountains

Words, shards,

jagged approximations

that get me by

Trembling

beneath packed ice

soon splashed crimson

A falcon perches

on the crash barrier

waylaid by human logic

During the eclipse

a beautiful brunette

smiles with glacial eyes

Where everyone else

saw only white walls

She saw scenes of snow

In some childish dream

he smeared finger paint onto my cheek

I tipped into infinity

Driving by night,

snow hit the windscreen

like stars at warp speed

a player piano

whispered Debussy

Into the empty bar

Will you fall

into these words

or stumble over them?

in heaven you’re

frontcrawling through

clouds of people

Gauguin humbled

by the people of the forest

who knew only truth

body aflame

mind soaring

on a higher plane

the jackdaw

with its charcoal wings

prances across the grass

NB: Kerouac’s haikus are sourced from ‘Book of Haikus’ edited by Regina Weinreich which was released in 2003.

14 thoughts on “Haikus inspired by Kerouac

  1. Hi Dec, “Words, Shards” made me think of how we “converse” in a language but do we really understand and use the language to it’s fullest? And “Driving at night” has happened to me quite often imagining I was hurtling through the cosmos! Great stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Kerouac got me into haiku, and he is truly great. What did he describe them as, ‘as simple as porridge’? But definitely ditch the whole 5-7-5 thing. Thanks for sharing these little gems

    Like

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