Mexico City Blues
|Cover artist||Roy Kuhlman|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|Preceded by||Maggie Cassidy (1959)|
|Followed by||Book of Dreams (1960)|
Mexico City Blues is a poem published by Jack Kerouac in 1959 composed of 242 "choruses" or stanzas. Written between 1954 and 1957, the poem the product of Kerouac's spontaneous prose, his Buddhism, and his disappointment at his failure to publish a novel between 1950's The Town and the City and 1957's On the Road.
In his monograph on the poem, literary critic James T. Jones has described Mexico City Blues as
definitive documentation of Kerouac's attempt to achieve both psychic and literary equilibrium. He endeavored to express in a complex, ritualized song as many symbols of his personal conflicts as he could effectively control by uniting them with traditional literary techniques. In this sense, Mexico City Blues is the most important book Kerouac ever wrote, and it sheds light on all his novels by providing a compendium of the issues that most concerned him as a writer, as well as a model for the transformation of conflict into an antiphonal language.
Upon publication a review by the poet Kenneth Rexroth appeared in The New York Times. Rexroth criticized Kerouac's perceived misunderstanding of Buddhism ("Kerouac's Buddha is a dime-store incense burner") and concluded "I've always wondered what ever happened to those wax work figures in the old rubber-neck dives in Chinatown. Now we know; one of them at least writes books." Jones describes Rexroth's piece as "a model of unethical behavior in print" which "consigned one of Kerouac's richest works to temporary obscurity", and argued it may have been written in retaliation for perceived poor manners on Kerouac's part, or as an indirect attack on Kerouac's friend Robert Creeley, who had an affair with Rexroth's wife. Creeley himself published a more positive review in Poetry, as did Anthony Hecht in The Hudson Review.
In other media
When Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg visited Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts as part of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour, they visited Kerouac's grave where Ginsberg recited stanzas from Mexico City Blues. Footage of the two men at the grave was featured in the film Renaldo and Clara (1978). Ginsberg later said that Dylan was already familiar with Mexico City Blues, having read it while living in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1959.
- Jones, James T. (2010) . A Map of Mexico City Blues: Jack Kerouac as Poet (Revised ed.). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0809385988.
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