I had forgotten about a possible Kerouac-Dickinson connection until the other day when I was researching whether Kerouac had ever met Alan Watts. I knew they were contemporaries who opined about each other, but I couldn't remember a meeting.
Anyway, while thumbing through Gerald Nicosia's Kerouac biography, Memory Babe, I saw a passage I had marked up in which Nicosia was speculating about influences on Jack. In particular, he was focusing on Jack's use of a motif: "the slanting red light of afternoon sun" stirring "wonder in man" (1983, p. 312). Nicosia postulates that Jack may have learned to express this motif from the following Dickinson poem:
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.
None may teach it anything.
'Tis the seal, despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of air.
When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 'tis like the distance
On the look of death.
Jack Kerouac and Emily Dickinson. Can you imagine them collaborating? I know. Jack would fall in love with her and want to take her to bed. But afterwards, after all the fol-de-rol, when they got down to writing, wow . . . .