Friday, 20 September 2013


A borrowed image of Neal and Jack
This week’s poem was written in a Juncture 25 workshop. I had set an exercise of writing a poem about a picture on a postcard. I also asked the poets to look below the surface and to reflect on more than what appeared to be going on.

I drew a photograph of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady that I think I bought in the City Lights bookshop years ago. When I began to write I tried to ignore the obvious, that here were two of the most famous Beats.

For some reason I focussed on Kerouac’s canvas trousers. Yeah, I don’t know why either. They looked more worn than Neal’s new Levi’s. I wondered how they had become worn and this was my entry to the poem.

Face the camera,
the could-be brothers do not smile.
The light will not bend true,
more than this lens is flawed,
the photo blurs with more than age.
These are none-twins,
Yin and yang,
At the heart each is the other,
Everyone wants to be Jack,
And Jack wants to be Neal.
So take in the details;
note his canvas strides, frayed from
too many mediocre nights,
streets walked toward the dawn.
He will drown in the spotlight,
Run back to his mother-again.
Drink himself to death-at medium pace.

I had another line at the end, it reiterated that I knew how this ends and when we discussed the poem, after I read it out I discarded it.

I had re-ordered the lines of the poem a number of times. It is always worth placing the ideas of a poem in a different order-sometimes it makes for a better poem.

I am ending with two videos today. The first is Alan Ginsberg reading Howl. This, for me, is a magnificent poem. Deep, rich and powerful. I love to hear Alan reading it.

The second video is 10,000 Maniacs singing Hey, Jack Kerouac. Natalie Merchant is a superb song writer.

Have a good weekend.


  1. Picture response poems raise the question of "do they and should they stand alone?" Is it OK to rely on the original picture for the poem to make sense? My view is that it is fine for the poem to need the picture, as long as the two are presented together like here. However, in this case your poem could happily stand alone, if it's got a title to help.
    Oh -- and I like the poem!

    1. Thank you. I wasn't sure at first that it worked alone-but I think it does too.