Jack Kerouac „Book of Haikus“

Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) was an American novelist and poet. He became famous with his beat generation novel „On the Road“ (first published in 1957), which has been translated into Estonian by Peeter Sauter. The title of the book in Estonian is „Teel“.

Jack Kerouac not only wrote novels, but he also loved to express himself in the form of haiku. Traditionally a haiku is a three-line, seventeen-syllable Japanese poetic form.

The collection „Book of Haikus“ includes more than 500 poems. Some two-line poems can be found in this book as well. One can argue if the author wrote only 100% haiku poems, because there are other literary genres like senryu, tanka, renku, etc which are related to haiku and which he seemed to practice as well. All in all it doesn’t matter how those short poems are being called or categorized. Let’s leave it to literary critics to analyze.

What matters, is that despite (or maybe thanks to?) his stormy life Kerouac managed to create quite a big amount of poetic pictures which are timeless. As for me, nature pictures in form of haiku were the most enjoyable part of this book.

As usual, reading short poetic forms requires concentration, peace and quiet. Take your time and you’ll be rewarded!

Here are some style examples by Jack Kerouac:

This July evening,
A large frog
On my doorsill
(p. 18)

The pine woods
In the mist
(p. 75)

Moth sleeping
on the newly plastered wall
– the spring rain
(p. 113)

The wind sent
a leaf on
the robin’s back
(p 175)


Edited by Regina Weinreich

Enitharmon, 2004

Check from the e-catalogue ESTER

Kadi Eslon
Department of Literature in Foreign Languages

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