" Old Angel Midnight is one of the great delights of the boundless improvisational world. Jack Kerouac's ear is peerless, manifesting structures otherwise impossible. A masterpiece of the mind freed to fly. Read it aloud, for yourself, 'for the sake of reading, and for the sake of the Tongue … Let's hear the Sound of the Universe, son.'"— Clark Coolidge
Old Angel Midnight is a treasure trove of Kerouac's experiments with automatic writing, a method he practiced constantly to sharpen his imaginative reflexes. Recorded in a series of notebooks between 1956-1959, what Kerouac called his "endless automatic writing piece" began while he shared a cabin with poet Gary Snyder. Kerouac tried to emulate Snyder's daily Buddhist meditation discipline, using the technique of "letting go" to free his mind for pure spontaneous writing, annotating the stream of words flowing through his consciousness in response to auditory stimuli and his own mental images.
Kerouac continued his exercise in spontaneous composition over the next three years, including a period spent with William Burroughs in Tangiers. He made no revisions to the automatic writing entries in his notebooks, which were collected and transcribed for publication as originally written. Old Angel Midnight attests to the success of Kerouac's experiment and bears witness to his commitment to his craft, and to the pleasure he takes in writing: "I like the bliss of mind."
" Old Angel Midnight is the illuminated notebook, the ur-text, of Kerouac vision/voice/language. The golden rule Catholicism of New England mind in kahoots with free time Godhead consciousness. This is true beat pleasure. This is our music."— Thurston Moore
About the Author
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) was an American novelist, poet, and painter most closely associated with the Beat Movement of the 1950s. His most famous works include On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and Big Sur, several of which have been adapted into films. In 1959 Kerouac released his collection of poems Mexico City Blues. Few authors can claim as large an influence on American culture as Jack Kerouac and his examinations of youth and rebellion.
Read an Excerpt
Old Angel Midnight
By Jack Kerouac, Donald Allen
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1993 John Sampas Literary Representative
All rights reserved.
1 Friday Afternoon In The Universe, in all directions in & out you got your men women dogs children horses pones tics perts parts pans pools palls pails parturiences and petty Thieveries that turn into heavenly Buddha — I know boy what's I talkin about case I made the world & when I made it I no lie & had Old Angel Midnight for my name and concocted up a world so nothing you had forever thereafter make believe it's real — but that's alright because now everything'll be alright & we'll soothe the forever boys & girls & before we're thru we'll find a name for this Goddam Golden Eternity & tell a story too — and but d y aver read a story as vast as this that begins Friday Afternoon with workinmen on scaffolds painting white paint & ants merlying in lil black dens & microbes warring in yr kidney & mesaroolies microbing in the innards of mercery & microbe microbes dreaming of the ultimate microbe-hood which then ultimates outward to the endless vast empty atom which is this imaginary universe, ending nowhere & ne'er e'en born as Bankei well poled when he ferried his mother over the rocks to Twat You Tee and people visit his hut to enquire "What other planet features this?" & he answers "What other planet?" tho the sounds of the entire world are now swimming thru this window from Mrs McCartiola's twandow & Ole Poke's home dronk again & acourse you hear the cats wailing in the wailbar wildbar wartfence moonlight midnight Angel Dolophine immensity Visions of the Tathagata's Seat of Purity & Womb so that here is all this infinite immaterial meadowlike golden ash swimswarming in our enlighten brains & the silence Shh shefallying in our endless ear & still we refuse naked & blank to hear What the Who? the Who? Too What You? will say the diamond boat & Persepine, Recipine, Mill town, Heroine, & Fack matches the silver ages everlasting swarmswallying in a simple broom — and at night ya raise the square white light from your ghost beneath a rootdrinkin tree & Coyote wont hear ya but you'll ward off the inexistency devils just to pass the time away & meanwhile it's timeless to the ends of the last lightyear it might as well be gettin late Friday afternoon where we start so's old Sound can come home when worksa done & drink his beer & tweak his children's eyes —
2 and what talents it takes to bail boats out you'd never flank till flail pipe throwed howdy who was it out the bar of the seven seas and all the Italians of 7th Street in Sausaleety slit sleet with paring knives that were used in the ream kitchens to cut the innards of gizzards out on a board, wa, twa, wow, why, shit, Ow, man, I'm tellin you — Wait — We bait the rat and forget to mark the place and soon Cita comes and eat it and puke out grit — fa yen pas d cas, fa yen pas d case, chanson d idiot, imbecile, vas malade — la sonora de madrigal — but as soon as someone wants to start then the world takes on these new propensities:
(the way the craydon bi fa shta ma j en vack)
2. Flaki — arrete — interrupted chain saw sting eucalyptus words inside the outside void that good God we cant believe is anything so arsaphallawy any the pranaraja of madore with his bloody arse kegs, shit — go to three.
3 Finally just about the time they put wood to the poets of France & fires broke out recapitulating the capitulation of the continent of Mu located just south of Patch, Part, with his hair askew and wearing goldring ears & Vaseline Hair Oil in his arse ass hole flaunted all the old queers and lecherous cardinals who wrote (write) pious manuals & announced that henceforth he was to be the sole provender provider this side of Kissthat.
Insteada which hey marabuda you son of a betch you cucksucker you hey hang dat board down here I'll go cot you on the Yewneon ya bum ya — lick, lock, lick, lock, mix it for pa-tit a a lamana lacasta reda va da Poo moo koo — la — swinging Friday afternoon in eternity here comes Kee pardawac with long golden robe flowing through the Greek Islands with a Bardic (forgot) with a lard (?) with a marde manual onder his Portugee Tot Sherry Rotgut, singing "Kee ya."
Tried to warn all of you, essence of stuff wont do — God why did you make the world?
Answer: – Because I gwt pokla renamash ta va in ming the atss are you forever with it?
I like the bliss of mind.
Awright I'll call up all the fuckin Gods, right now! Parya! Arrive! Ya damn hogfuckin lick lip twillerin fishmonger! Kiss my purple royal ass baboon! Poota! Whore! You and yr retinues of chariots & fucks! Devadatta! Angel of Mercy! Prick! Lover! Mush! Run on ya dog eared kiss willying nilly Dexter Michigan ass-war-lerin ratpole! The rat in my cellar's an old canuck who wasnt fooled by rebirth but b God gotta admit I was born for the same reason I bring this glass to my lip —?
Rut! Old God whore, the key to ecstasy is forever-more furthermore blind! Potanyaka! God of Mercy! Boron O Mon Boron! All of ye! Rush! Ghosts & evil spirits, if you appear I'm saved. How can you fool an old man with a stove & wine drippin down his chin? The flowers are my little sisters and I love them with a dear heart. Ashcans turn to snow and milk when I look. I know sinister alleys. I had a vision of Han Shan a darkened by sun bum in odd rags standing short in the gloom scarey to see. Poetry, all these vicious writers and bores & Scriptural Apocraphylizers fucking their own dear mothers because they want ears to sell —
And the axe haiku.
All the little fine angels amercyin and this weary prose hand handling dumb pencils like in school long ago the first redsun special. Henry Millers everywhere Fridaying the world — Rexroths. Rexroths not a bad egg. Creeley. Creeley. Real magination realizing rock roll rip snortipatin oyster stew of Onatona Scotiat Shores where six birds week the nest and part wasted his twill till I.
Mush. Wish. Wish I could sing ya songs of a perty nova spotia patonapeein pack wallower wop snot polly — but caint — cause I'll get sick & die anyway & you too, born to die, little flowers. Fiorella. Look around. The burlap's buried in the wood on an angle, axe haiku. La religion c'est d la marde! Pa! d la marde! J m en dor. —
God's asleep dreaming, we've got to wake him up! Then all of a sudden when we're asleep dreaming, he comes and wakes us up — how gentle! How are you Mrs Jones? Fine Mrs Smith! Tit within Tat — Eye within Tooth — Bone within Light, like — Drop some little beads of sweetness in that stew (O Phoney Poetry!) — the heart of the onion — That stew's too good for me to eat, you! —
4 Boy, says Old Angel, this amazing nonsensical rave of yours wherein I spose you'd think you'd in some lighter time find hand be-almin ya for the likes of what ya davote yaself to, pah — bum with a tail only means one thing, — They know that in sauerkraut bars, god the chew chew & the wall lips — And not only that but all them in describable paradises — aye ah — Old Angel m boy — Jack, the born with a tail bit is a deal that you never dream'd to redeem — verify — try to see as straight — you wont believe even in God but tbe devil worries you — you & Mrs Tourian — great gaz-zuz & I'd as lief be scoured with a leaf rust as hear this poetizin horseshit everyhere I want to hear the sounds thru the window you promised me when the Midnight bell on 7th St did toll bing bong & Burroughs and Ginsberg were asleep & you lay on the couch in that timeless moment in the little red bulblight bus & saw drapes of eternity parting for your hand to begin & so's you could affect — & eeffect — the total turningabout & deep revival of world robeflowing literature till it shd be something a man'd put his eyes on & continually read for the sake of reading & for the sake of the Tongue & not just these insipid stories writ in insipid aridities & paranoias bloomin & why yet the image — let's hear the Sound of the Universe, son, & no more part twaddle — And dont expect nothing from me, my middle name is Opprobrium, Old Angel Midnight Opprobrium, boy, O.A.M.O. —
Pirilee pirilee, tzwé tzwi tzwa, — tack tick — birds & firewood. The dream is already ended and we're already awake in the golden eternity.
5 Then when rat tooth come ravin and fradilaboodala back-ala backed up, trip tripped himself and fell falling on top of Old Smokey because his pipe was not right, had no molasses in it, tho it looked like a morasses brarrel, but then the cunts came. She had a long cunt that sitick out of her craw a mile long like Mexican Drawings showing hungry drinkers reaching Surrealistic Thirsts with lips like Aztec — Akron Lehman the Hart Crane Hero of Drunken Records came full in her cunt spoffing & overflowing white enlightened seminal savior juice out of his canal-hole into her hungry river bed and that made the old nannies gab and kiss that.
6 0 he was quite racy — real estate queen — Europe & Niles — for pleasure — stom stomp absulute raze making noise — I can write them but I cant puctuate them — then he said comma comma comma — That skinny guy with black hair — Atlean Rage — in India in the last year he's getting even ignoring all common publications & getting Urdu Nothing Sanskrit by Sir Yak Yak Yak forty page thing Norfolk — let's all get drunk I wanta take pictures — dont miss with Mrs. lately in trust picture pitcher pithy lisp — that's an artistic kit for sex — Trying to think of a rule in Sankrit Mamma Sanskrit Sounding obviously twins coming in here Milltown Equinell Miopa Parte Watacha Peemana Kowava you get sticky ring weekends & wash the tub, Bub — I'll be gentle like a Iamb in the Bible — Beautiful color yr lipstick thanx honey — Got a match Max? — Taxi crabs & murdercycles — Let's go to Trilling & ask him — I gotta wash my conduct — Dont worry about nothin — I love Allen Ginsberg — Let that be recorded in heaven's unchangeable heart — Either bway — Rapples — Call up Allen Price Jones — Who is that? — They re having fun on the bed there — Soo de ya bee la — And there came the picture of Ang Bong de Beela — Fuck it or get it in or wait something for the bee slime — Then the ants'll crawl over bee land — Ants in bands wailing neath my bloody ow pants, owler pants — Ta da ba dee — He thinlis I'm competive in a long pleasant souse of Wishing all of ye bleed stay meditation everybody martini destroy my black — Allen ye better voice the stare, this beer these room sandwiches — Where did you get these? Big greasy socialists — Are you gonna konk, Allen? Mighty tall in the saddle — Anybody got a ceegiboo? — The moon is a piece of tea — (Under the empty blue sky, vertebrate zoology.)
7 And make the most malign detractor eat from the love of the lamb — and the pot that's for everybody not diminish when somebody comes — Tathagata, give me that —
Visions of Al
Women are so variously beautiful it's such a pleasure
Think happy thoughts of the Buddha who abides throughout detestable phenomena like lizards and man eating ogres, with perfect compassion and blight, caring not one way or the other the outcome of our term of time because celestial birds are singing in the golden heaven. In the golden hall of the Buddha, think, I am already ensconced on a tray of gold, invisible and radiant with singing, by the side of my beloved hand, which has done its work and exists no more to tone up the troubles of this birth-and-death imaginary world — And that's because the Old Angel Midnight is a Fike — that's because the Old Angel Midnight never was. And the story of love is a long sad tale ending in graves, many heads bend beneath the light, arguments are raving avid lipt and silly in silly secular rooms silly seconsular rooms full of height agee — Swam! reacht the other shore, folded, in magnificence, shouldered the wheel of iron light, and shuddered no more, and rowed the fieldstar across her bed of ashen samsara sorrow towards in here, the bliss evermore.
Saw sight saver & fixt him. — Love you all, children, happy days and happy dreams and happy thoughts forevermore —
Dont forget to put a dime in the coin box by dipping your finger in ancid inkl the holy old forevermore holy water & bleep blap bloop the sign a the cross, when facing the altar down the aisle when you're waltzing — Ding! Up you go, smoke
8 The Mill Valley trees, the pines with green mint look and there's a tangled eucalyptus hulk stick fallen thru the late sunlight tangle of those needles, hanging from it like a live wire connecting it to the ground — just below, the notches where little Fred sought to fell sad pine — not bleeding much — just a lot of crystal sap the ants are mining in, motionless like cows on the grass & so they must be aphyds percolatin up a steam to store provender in their bottomless bellies that for all I know are bigger than bellies of the Universe beyond — The little tragic windy cottages on the high last cityward hill and today roosting in sun hot dream above the tree head of seas and meadowpatch whilst tee-kee-kee-pearl the birdies & mommans mark & ululate moodily in this valley of peaceful firewood in stacks that make you think of Oregon in the morning in 1928 when Back was home on the range lake and his hunting knife threw away and went to sit among the Ponderosa Pines to think about love his girl's bare bodice like a fennel seed the navel in her milk bun — Shorty McGonigle and Roger Nulty held up the Boston Bank and murdered a girl in these old woods and next you saw the steely green iron photograph in True Detective showing black blotches in the black blotch running culvert by the dirty roadside not Oregon at all, or Jim Back so happy with his mouth a blade of grass depending —
hello — bugs
Race and swoop
Two ants hurry
to catch up
With lonely Joe
The tree above
me is like
A woman's thigh
Smooth Eucalyptus bumps
and muscle swells
I would I were a weed
a week, would leave.
Why was the rat
in the sun?
Because Buddhidharma came from the West with dark eyebrows, and China had a mountain wall, and mists get lost above the Yangtze Gorge and this is a mysterious yak the bird makes, yick, — wowf wow wot sings the dog blud blut blup below the Homestead Deer — red robins with saffron scarlet or orange rud breasts make a racket in the dry dead car crash tree Neal mentioned "He went off the road into a eucalyptus" and "it's all busting out," indicating the prune blossoms and Bodhidharma came from the India West to seek converts to his wall-gazing and ended up with Zen magic monks mopping each and one and all and other in mud koan puddles to prove the crystal void.
9 Lookin over der sports page I see assorted perms written in langosten field hand that wd make the 2 silhouetted movie champeens change their quiet dull dialog to something fog — ah, Old Angel Midnight, it will be all over in a year.
Dying is ecstasy.
I'm not a teacher, not a sage, not a Roshi, not a writer or master or even a giggling dharma bum I'm my mother's son & my mother is the universe —
What is this universe
but a lot of waves
And a craving desire
is a wave
Belonging to a wave
in a world of waves
So why put any down,
Come on wave, WAVE!
The heehaw's dobbin
Is a sad lonely yurk
for your love
I would I were a little tiny Jesus examining the mystery above the lightbody-cloud of the moon on still Marin nights, the flowers are my moon goddesses, & take craps naked. Horrible delightful the old retired harridan joys that wobble on the walking stick hill with nervous Collies yarking Yowk here in Journal Town where I wobble the card crate prayer bead Juju box with swing of wordage while Chas Olson reads my prose, man of the broad mysterious smoky Mountain Morn. (And everything is non-existent), heh. —
Excerpted from Old Angel Midnight by Jack Kerouac, Donald Allen. Copyright © 1993 John Sampas Literary Representative. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPublisher's Note on Poetry,
Old Angel Midnight,
About the Author,