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This review is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

AMERICAN GRAFFITI JACK KEROUAC, Book of Haikus. Edited with an introduction by Regina Weinreich (Enitharmon) £8.95

To write about a book of haikus is a doubtful job. The brevity and conciseness of the verse and its form(s), the allusive and apparently easy wisdom/insight of the content - all these stand in quiet judgement of a judgement. The more you write about haikus, the more the haikus accuse you with a kind of ironic, elegantly wise look. From this collection, it is clear that Kerouac never misses the mark: the mark, that is, of brevity, conciseness and allusive wisdom, all combined into what might be called a Satisfying Whole. The question of whether any half-good haiku writer misses much - is this form perfect? and need the poet only be quite able to write in that superficial-deep, observe-and-think way for a bit? - does make a critical job more doubtful, and probably a little inconclusive.

This small but perfectly-formed book, as cool as you like from its cover to its layout, its editor's bits to Kerouac's picture and manuscript, containing an introduction, two books of haikus, four notebooks of haikus, notes, and a bibliography, feels like the whole package. So what is it a package of? Kerouac calls them 'American Pops'.

Then I'll invent
         The American Haiku type:
         The simple rhyming triolet:-
Seventeen syllables?
No, as I say, American Pops:-
Simple 3-line poems.

First, then, the traditional syllabic dictate is removed. Just the three lines remain. This partially removes Kerouac's haikus from the ...


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