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Old Angel Midnight by Jack Kerouac

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.”

“Kerouac’s ambition to capture the living moment (crucially for him, recapitulating memory) developed poetic form in 1954 with his collection San Francisco Blues, and it reached greater fulfilment with the sixty-seven free-association passages of Old Angel Midnight. This new edition from City Light Books adds one more, found among Kerouac’s papers by John Sampas, concluding ‘Eyes of Ray Charles see Me here realize O Holy.’ Mostly written during April 1956 when Kerouac shared a shack with Gary Snyder in rural Mill Valley, outside San Francisco, Old Angel Midnight was likely facilitated by the ‘letting go’ technique he observed from Snyder’s Buddhist meditation.” – Jules Smith – The Times Literary Supplement

“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—
warlerin 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 forevermore
furthermore blind! Potanyaka! God of Mercy!”
Excerpt from ‘Old Angel Midnight’ by Jack Kerouac

Old Angel Midnight
Jack Kerouac
Preface by Ann Charters, Michael McClure
Collection City Lights/Grey Fox
Publisher City Lights Publishers
Paperback, $13.95
Pages 94
Publication 2016
ISBN-10 087286703X
ISBN-13 9780872867031

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