Sunday, March 12, 2006

Punk Poets


"On the Road" was a Beat novel by Beat poet Jack Kerouac, whose birthdate is today. He would have turned 84 if he had lived. Chance brought him into the orbit of (at the time) aspiring writers such as Allen Ginsberg and the already established William Burroughs. They were the voice of a new generation of hipsters in the 50s, perhaps reluctant spokespersons...but their influence on the world of arts and letters is undeniable.

Bob Dylan 1974
Bob Dylan made no bones about his appreciation of Kerouac - Jack's name shows up in his poetic liner notes...and if I can brag a little, a couple years ago, at my request, he recorded a lovely birthday message to Jack for a radio show I worked on...and so did Patti Smith, another poet turned rocker.

I think the punk attitude can be traced all the way back to the poets that influenced even the Beats - the French imagist poets of the 19th Century, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, Charles Baudelaire, Guillaume Appollinaire and a few others all lived the kind of life and wrote with the kind of sentiment that good punks everywhere and in every era want to express. Rimbaud had a brief writing career - he wrote from about ages 13 - 19, and then stopped writing to lead a wild life variously as an arms trader and explorer. He died young, at age 37...it sounds romantic on paper, but is tragic, to me at least. But Rimbaud's works during that brief period influenced poets and writers for centuries to come include Dylan, Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell and someone I always think of when I think of Rimbaud, Todd Colby a poet who fronted a NYC punk band called Drunken Boat. Drunken Boat is also the name of a poem by Rimbaud "Le Bateau Ivre" where the poet starts off wishing to be like a cork riding on the tide, letting the water take him where it will.

So, in celebrating Jack Kerouac, why not read a little poetry or prose? Jack's, Dylan's, Patti's, Hell's... Ginsberg, Burroughs...Jim Carroll...Nick Cave! There's a lot of great reading out there. And Patti Smith's "Horses" makes a great soundtrack for it too.

Its no secret to those who personally know me, and have since the 70s, that it was first Bob Dylan, and then Patti Smith who I really idolized specifically because of their obvious and acknowledged influence from the French poets. As a teenager studying French, it was the works of the Imagist poets that resonated most for me. Suddenly, all of Dylan's work took on new meaning. And then when Patti Smith came along, she seemed to me the ultimate rock star - a female Charles Baudelaire or Arthur Rimbaud. Jim Morrison and his love of the same poets meant nothing to me, it was Patti who really brought it home. With her books and that amazing debut album, "Horses," I felt like I found my gang...

5 comments:

Ms. Lori said...

Oh, hell yes! Patti Smith absolutely blew me away at fifteen when I first experienced her genius. What a goddess...

Anonymous said...

Yay! I heart Todd Colby!

Bradley GTO said...

Did you hear Kenny G's all day cake poem (by Todd Colby) over on WFMU today? Wonderful. Go to:

http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2006/03/cake_coversg.html#more

My favorite is the three yoear old kid reading TC's poem.

Danielle said...

why no photos of Todd Colby?

Danielle said...

Please post pictures of Todd Colby!