In 1954, Jack Kerouac, raised in Catholicism and dabbling in Buddhism, was frustrated by the reality that he’d been unable to publish a book since 1950’s The Town and the City. He began writing a poem in a series of choruses, often under the influence of various drugs. He stopped writing his poem in 1957, when On The Road was published.
In 1959, his poem was published as Mexico City Blues (242 Choruses).
I want to be considered a jazz poet
blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam
session on Sunday. I take 242 choruses;
my ideas vary and sometimes roll from
chorus to chorus or from halfway through
a chorus to halfway into the next.
The choruses each take up a page, or less. (I would often read a chorus or two while waiting for a bus, and then think about what I’d read as the bus took me to my destination. It’s a nice format for commuting.)
Mexico City Blues contains thoughts on Buddha and Christ, observations of city life, descriptions of his friends, his experiences with junk, tea, and goofballs, and memories of his childhood, his brother, and his father.
Mexico City Blues (242 Choruses) has a free-flowing spontaneity to it, which I enjoyed very much. It felt like Jack Kerouac achieved his goal of becoming a “jazz poet”.
- A book of poetry