Roger West: Haiku for Kerouac

We’ll be posting all kinds of material related to the Jack Kerouac Centennial through the year. Here are 15 haiku by Roger West, a poet and musician in France who has been to Lowell a few times for the annual Kerouac festival. With friends, he celebrated the 100th birthday of the author in the Kerouac family’s ancestral village in Brittany on March 12. He sent us these poems for our readers.


Jack Kerouac: a life in haiku

by Roger West


you think you know him

brawling breton buddha boy

but you don’t know jack


beaulieu street beau lieu?

father hollowed swallowed booze

mother haloed saints


cadillac highway

desert sky to rolling surf

freewheelin’ freestyle


now beat to his socks

phoretically speaking

the froth on the wave


ginsberg o’hara

burroughs baudelaire rimbaud

all bases covered


bebop bird cool trane

mellowing into mingus

frazzle dazzle jazz


lester bangs left bank

miles into kilometers

knows parker par coeur


la nuit est ma femme

luncheonette and cocktail bar

space hopper neon


red blue ribbon run

endless smith corona loop

typing not writing


rusty-veined scag head

spontaneous combustion

dash connecting breath


haiku right on cue

words curling then curtailing

need more syllables


kow-taoing to zen

marx mccarthy yin and yang

the soul’s abattoir


charmer self-harmer

karma lama dharma bum



your liver failed you

that 10 am glass of whiskey

or that bar-room fight?


so hit the road jack

the empty sky your witness

that you will be back






2 Responses to Roger West: Haiku for Kerouac

  1. David Daniel says:

    These haiku are fun — and better conceived than many of Jack’s own. Like brief splashes with a spotlight, they illuminate corners of the Beat world.

    I especially dig “frazzle dazzle jazz” and “haiku right on cue” — the master would’ve smiled.

    One friendly note to Roger (who as a Frenchman can’t be expected to know baseball): The “ginsberg o’hara/
    burroughs baudelaire rimbaud/ all bases covered” has one poet too many. :)

  2. Jim Provencher says:

    Kerouac called his American free-syllable haikus Pops, and this series from Mr. West snaps and crackles with the spark that jumps the gaps among the multi-layered complexity that was Jack’s writing life.