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


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

Continue reading “Haikus inspired by Kerouac”

Night in Amsterdam (beat-style poem)

let’s ditch sobriety we don’t have long…
through smoky neon corridors we stumble
ogled by locals who have left that sharp neurotic clarity
for a soft emerald haze

soon crumbs tumble over jumpers
scents ground into the coarse carpets of bug-infested halls,
the walls rumble with droning bass and electro-beat.

then the first wave came
with harrowing flashbacks
to pages of suicidal drivel on cheap paper,
nestled amongst a well-initiated initiated crowd,
Who playfully whittle this weakened grey matter,
Nudging and urging towards a world of incomprehension

soon I’m trapped and tangled and forgotten
in some wisp of time,

and cursed by a chain of petty words
to ponder for an eternity

I doggy-paddle out into that psychic vastness
in this bustling city,
surrounded by human artistry,
and religious cult,
scraping through that neurological realm,
I met the cast of Freudian epics
their Minds waving fibrous arms in the dark
seeking some logic

But finding only empty words.
Empty words. 
every itch and tic, tic, tic
reminds me of my body as machine
static arcs surge through my face and limb

By night I’m lost in a crowd

city teeming like a whorl of salmon,
Every glance is suspect.
I swallow a shriek as maps melt into Mondrians.

later the red lights
the cluttered exhibitions tap on glass
wearing velcro smiles,
a pity swarms these booths
The Lord of the Flies.
Wide-eyed hoodies lurk
whisper offerings of dust

like synthetic specters
slithering through the slender cracks in the crowd.

somehow, we escaped


NB: Featured image is by Michiel Buijse. You might have already guessed, but I was reading a lot of Ginsberg before writing this poem