Epistolary Ecstasy

by Mark Chmiel

A while back, I read a selection of letters of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: Hand-written, wild-typed marvels and postcards, written and sent from around the world—on work, books, loves, life, loss, Dharma, and gossip.

I marked the following passages for one reason… or another.

AG: You ought to write a beautiful book someday which like Rabelais and Quixote and Boccacio is filled with tales, poems, riddles, lyrics, and secret phrases.

JK: On the Road is the name of this opus; I want to write about the crazy generation and put them on the map and give them importance and make everything begin to change once more, as it always does every twenty years.

AG: I have a new method of Poetry. All you got to do is look over your notebooks (that’s where I got those poems) or lay down on couch, and think of anything that comes into your head, especially the miseries, the mis’ries, or night thoughts when you can’t sleep an hour before sleeping, only get up and write it down. Then arrange it in lines of 2, 3 or 4 words each.  Don’t bother about sentences, in sections of 2, 3, or 4 lines each.

JK: Dostoevsky was the wildest writer in the world at 57; we’re young punks.

AG, on Howl: I realize how right you are, that was the first time I sat down to blow, it came out in your method, sounding like you, an imitation practically. How far advanced you are on this. I don’t know what I’m doing with poetry. I need years of isolation and constant everyday writing to attain your volume and freedom and knowledge of the form.

JK: He’s the most un-reassuring guy in the world.

AG: Neal looks older, Jewish, very serious and on powerful integrity drive.

JK: I’m at my last ten bucks in this foreign land [Mexico]

AG: I don’t write much, just a few hours a day—depression, beatness, unknown….

JK: … I would live life of mendicant thinker in this humble earth dream

AG: I will study Buddhism with you.

JK: I think I’ll become a wandering Taoist Bum… wanta come?

AG: In any case to share grating poverty with you for a season again would be a pleasure.

JK: I’m too old, I’m 33, to stay up all night drinking.

AG: Sensations hit like tracer bullets.

JK: Practice ONE long dhyana a day, because it takes twenty minutes to quiet the machine motor of the mind.

JK: So DON’T FLIP

AG: I wonder what T.S. Eliot will do. I wrote them each about you too. Funny letters to each. Imagine to T.S. Eliot.

JK: I just discovered Pound’s Cantos, never realized poetry was free till now.

AG: Is there a great mad wave of fame crashing over our ears?

JK: Conscious continual compassion and ordinary contentedness for whatever way of making it …

AG: Screw public relations let’s be kind and truthful. Who else dares?

JK: A nice Yiddish saint

AG: Teach gentler

JK: DIAMONDSHATTERINGBULLSHIT

AG: I don’t have your football energy for scrawling endlessly on pages

JK: I believe in Buddha kindness and nothing else, I believe in Heaven, in Angels, I eschew all Marxism and allied horseshit and psychoanalysis, and offshoot therefrom… beware of California.

JK: you know the greatest of all Balzac’s novels is Cousin Bette.

AG: And everything else is arbitrary conceptions.

JK: House is old Victorian type with banister to slide down from bedrooms….

JK: Bleakjawed Neal was mad….

JK: I have offers to read for money all over country and reject em all. Too bashful, goddamit I don’t like to be on a stage.

JK: All these well dressed people looking at me with slitted eyes, why don’t I just retire from the universe. Ah fuck it, I’m going back to Li Po.

JK: Wouldn’t it be wonderful of Ike and Dulles and Macmillan and DeGaulle and Khrushchev and Mao and Nehru should all sit around a table and smoke tea: what humor and openmindedness would result, what tender perception.

JK: There will be a great writer who will rise above us but I’m sure he will be a young American kid in about ten or twenty years, like after Melville and Whitman there came Twain.

JK: … and that will take up a thousand hours of energy

AG: … and realized I AM the emptiness that’s movie-projecting Kali monster on my mindscreen, projecting mindscreen, even.

AG: Just finished hamburger sandwich.

JK: Everybody should simply make a vow of kindness and let it go at that, try to stay sober too—start new party Vow of Kindness party.

AG: Brand new world a-coming.

JK: I have all your letters neatly filed here in my new steel office file and you can browse anytime and use them etc.

JK: What have we accomplished?  Good new poetry, that oughta be enough.

AG: Now we go out save America from lovelessness. I reverse Howl, I write white Howl, no more death O Walt Hello Jack!

Jack and Allen

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