Talking back to Kerouac

April 16, 2010

In a recent article by Ariel Gore, Can You Be a Writer AND a Mother?, she mentions the challenges women face when they strive to wear many different hats. To be a writer and a mother is a challenge that I definitely face (not to mention all the other things I work at to support those two things), so this article resonated with me.

Gore mentions writer Diane di Prima’s experience leaving a poets’ gathering, which included Kerouac, because she had to relieve her babysitter from watching her daughter. Kerouac drunkenly turned to her and said, “DI PRIMA, UNLESS YOU FORGET ABOUT YOUR BABYSITTER, YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BE A WRITER.” Well she did go home, and went on to be a successful “mother of five children, author of thirty-five books of poetry and several memoirs.”

Reading about this encounter put me in the scene, and I imagined what I would have said to Kerouac in my anger at being labelled, pigeonholed, and dismissed in such a way. So here is what I would have retorted back to Kerouac:

Mr. Kerouac,

I say to you with sarcasm, oh sure, let me give up on my duties of humanity to the whim of my selfish poet self… let me ignore the next generation and common human courtesy all in sacrifice of completely unfettered artistry. Well there is more than one type of poet. I will be that voice of the triumph of creative spirit over the mundane and wonderful aspects of responsibility. I will be that voice of the compassionate, the mother, the dreamer, the caretaker. And you, drunk old white man, poetic genius though you might be, solitary thinker though you might be, ego man, watcher man, standing as a beacon of all a poet could be if he were like a general leading the army of the subconscious to new standards of American lore, you, Kerouac, do your own thing, and respect the path of mine.

One Response to “Talking back to Kerouac”

  1. Patrick Sweeney Says:

    Kerouac wanted all his life to have what you have…children, a family…the poetry is in the life…

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