Old Angel Midnight

Old Angel Midnight
Preface by Ann Charters, Michael McClure





The Times Literary Supplement

"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. Kerouac described this as 'multilingual sound representing the haddal-da-babra of babbling world tongues coming in through my window.' Onomatopoeic sounds of trees, birds and deer intermingle with childhood flashbacks and in-jokes about his current lovers, friends and rivals. Assonantal and alliterative effects abound: 'perts parts pans pools palls pails parturiences and petty Thieveries that turn into heavenly Buddha.' The stream of mixed-up language is habitually libidinous, peppered by Joycean wordplay ('Taxi crabs & murdercycles'), an orgy of made-up words that culminate in pure sound: 'ampho andiam yerka yama chelmsford alya booneavance koroom cemada versel."––Jules Smith