This month our guest essay is by current LPR contributor Bee Morris.
Mastery of any craft is a rare yet intensely desirable thing. I think of my poetry as a muscle, an
instrument— something that must be stretched and made limber, must be practiced in order to
achieve its full range of sound and beauty.
Few meditations on craft have made their mark on me the way Jack Kerouac’s “Belief and
Technique for Modern Prose” has. Structured as a numbered list of essentials, it is the great Beat
author’s explanation of his spontaneous technique. Favoring a pure sentence transcribed from a
glowing mind over a heavily edited phrase, Kerouac is known for his brief yet fruitful writing
sessions, including the original draft of On The Road, written in three weeks, and the short novel
The Subterraneans which he composed in 72 hours.
Jack Kerouac’s published poetry also appears in a mostly unedited form, comprised of sights,
sounds, and thoughts true to the moment. He believed in maintaining the truth of a work by
allowing it to exist in its most original form, even if it meant the inclusion of tangential thoughts,
sentence fragments, and a lack of proper grammar.
It seems to me that other writers and creatives shy away from such a technique because it
requires us to be proud of our work in raw form. When the first draft is the only draft, it is easy
to become discouraged by its imperfection.
A few years ago, inspired by Kerouac’s technique, I began ruminating on an idea I refer to as
Unpunctured Verse. Similar to spontaneous prose, any work written as Unpunctured Verse,
unedited and nonsensical as it may seem, is complete by virtue of existing. If the writing of a
poem does not result in immediate perfection, it at least serves as practice. There is no shame in
writing something underwhelming; the process itself is the purpose.
Now, I write multiple poems a week. Rather than tinkering with the pieces that do not meet my
standards, I leave them fully intact and move on to the next one. More often than not, the better
fragments from an inadequate poem will reappear in a later piece that I have pride in.
The process is the purpose. A perfect work is rare, but a pure work, transcribed from the mind in
its glimmering entirety, can be achieved every day. This constant return to the love and
enjoyment of stretching my creative muscles is the only path to eventual mastery that I can
Bee Morris is a poet living in South Florida. A finalist for the 2020 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize and runner-up for the Miracle Monocle Award for Young Black Writers, their recent work appears or is forthcoming in OxMag, Olney Magazine, No Contact, and elsewhere. They also run the newsletter Blackout Fascinations: blackout.substack.com.
*Art by Jack Kerouac