Sunday, April 22, 2018

Curation #38 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Book of Blues by Jack Kerouac

Item #38 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Book of Blues. It's a Penguin Books publication showing a copyright date of 1995 and that it's a 1st printing. 274 pages, this copy is in good condition except for some yellowing, dog-eared pages, highlighting, and annotations. The provenance is uncertain, although I probably purchased it used from Amazon.

John Sampas dedicated this book to Philip Whalen and to the memory of Lew Welch. As mentioned in a recent blog about San Francisco Blues, these poems reflect Kerouac's "system" of writing poems as if they were blues choruses, the length of which are constrained by the size of his breastpocket notebooks. Indeed, all of San Francisco Blues is here, along with 'RICHMOND HILL BLUES," "BOWERY BLUES," "MACDOUGAL STREET BLUES," DESOLATION BLUES," "ORIZABA 210 BLUES," "ORLANDA BLUES," and "CERRADA MEDELLIN BLUES."

Book of Blues begins with a stellar introduction by Robert Creeley and ends with a section titled, "NOTES ON DATES AND SOURCES" by John Sampas and, finally, a poem by Alice Notley, "JACK WOULD SPEAK THROUGH THE IMPERFECT MEDIUM OF ALICE." I don't know the backstory of concluding this book with Notley's poem -- maybe a reader can shed some light on it. It is a relevant and powerful poem, and Creeley's introduction mentions it.

As Creeley says, "these poems provide an intensely vivid witness of both writer and time." If you only ever think of Jack Kerouac as a prose writer and not a poet, Book of Blues provides evidence that he was indeed the latter.

Here's a teaser from the 9th Chorus of "ORIZABA 210 BLUES."

James Dean is dead?--
Aint we all?
   Who aint dead--

Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (19th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

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