'Haiku (The taste...)' by Jack Kerouac

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The taste
of rain
—Why kneel?

Anonymous submission.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Haiku (The taste...) by Jack Kerouac: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Have you ever read a poem that made you feel like you're in a different world? Jack Kerouac's "Haiku (The taste...)" does just that. In a short yet powerful poem, Kerouac takes us on a sensory journey that leaves us pondering the meaning of life and the essence of existence.

This literary criticism and interpretation will delve into the themes, imagery, and structure of Kerouac's haiku, examining the ways in which he uses language to evoke emotions and connect with readers.


At its core, "Haiku (The taste...)" revolves around the theme of impermanence. The poem's opening lines - "The taste / Of rain - / Why kneel?" - immediately set the stage for this theme, as they suggest that the speaker is experiencing a moment of enlightenment or realization. The "taste" of rain is fleeting and ephemeral, much like life itself, and yet it is also powerful and profound.

The poem's second line - "Why kneel?" - adds another layer to this theme, as it suggests that the speaker is questioning the need for religious or spiritual rituals. If life is impermanent and fleeting, then what is the point of seeking solace in religion or any other belief system?

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the interconnectedness of all things. The rain is not just a physical sensation - it is also a metaphor for the interconnectedness of all living beings. The rain falls on everyone and everything, and in doing so, it reminds us that we are all part of a larger whole.


Kerouac's use of imagery in "Haiku (The taste...)" is masterful. He employs vivid, sensory language to create a rich and evocative landscape that pulls the reader in. Take, for example, the opening lines: "The taste / Of rain - / Why kneel?" These three short lines are packed with sensory imagery that immediately transports us to a rainy day. We can almost taste the rain on our tongues, feel the cool drops on our skin, and smell the wet earth.

Later in the poem, Kerouac continues to use sensory imagery to great effect. He writes, "Yellow / Yellow / Yellow -" which conjures up images of fields of yellow flowers or perhaps a bright, sunny day. There is a sense of joy and vibrancy in these lines, even as they underscore the impermanence of life.

The poem's final lines - "I put on / The boots of God / And walk / Into the sunset / Resolved / To wander -" also make use of vivid imagery. The idea of putting on the "boots of God" is a powerful metaphor for the speaker's sense of empowerment and connection to the universe. The image of walking into the sunset is both beautiful and poignant, suggesting that the speaker is at peace with their place in the world.


One of the most striking things about "Haiku (The taste...)" is its structure. As the title suggests, the poem is written in the haiku form, which traditionally consists of three lines and a syllable count of 5-7-5.

However, Kerouac's haiku does not adhere strictly to this structure. While the first two lines follow the 5-7-5 syllable count, the final lines do not. This nontraditional structure adds to the poem's sense of impermanence and fluidity. It also underscores the speaker's sense of freedom and willingness to break free from convention.

Another interesting aspect of the poem's structure is the use of repetition. Kerouac repeats the word "yellow" three times in a row, which gives the lines a poetic rhythm and symmetry. This repetition also serves to emphasize the joy and beauty of life, even in the face of impermanence.


Overall, "Haiku (The taste...)" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that encourages us to reflect on the impermanence of life and the interconnectedness of all things. The image of the rain and the taste it leaves on the speaker's tongue is a metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence, while the repetition of the word "yellow" underscores the joy and beauty of life, even in the face of impermanence.

Kerouac's use of the haiku form and nontraditional structure highlights his sense of freedom and willingness to break free from convention. The final lines - "I put on / The boots of God / And walk / Into the sunset / Resolved / To wander -" suggest that the speaker has found a sense of peace and empowerment in their connection to the universe.

In the end, "Haiku (The taste...)" is a beautiful and profound poem that reminds us of the beauty and transience of life. It is a testament to the power of language and the human spirit, and it leaves us with a sense of wonder and awe at the mysteries of existence.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Haiku (The taste...) by Jack Kerouac is a classic poem that captures the essence of the haiku form. In just three short lines, Kerouac manages to convey a powerful message about the transience of life and the beauty of the present moment. This poem is a perfect example of the minimalist style of haiku, which emphasizes brevity and simplicity.

The poem begins with the line "The taste of rain," which immediately sets the scene and creates a sensory experience for the reader. The word "taste" is particularly evocative, as it suggests that the rain is not just something to be seen or heard, but something that can be experienced on a deeper level. This is a common theme in haiku, which often seeks to capture the essence of a moment in a way that goes beyond mere description.

The second line of the poem, "—Why kneel?" is a bit more enigmatic. At first glance, it seems like a non sequitur, a random thought that has nothing to do with the first line. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that this line is actually a profound meditation on the nature of existence. The act of kneeling suggests a kind of submission or surrender, a recognition of one's place in the grand scheme of things. By asking "why kneel?" Kerouac is questioning the very idea of submission, suggesting that perhaps there is no need to bow down to anyone or anything.

The final line of the poem, "Life's dream," brings the two previous lines together in a powerful way. The rain, which at first seemed like a simple sensory experience, now takes on a deeper significance as a symbol of the fleeting nature of life. The act of kneeling, which at first seemed like a philosophical abstraction, now becomes a concrete expression of the human desire to find meaning and purpose in a world that often seems chaotic and meaningless. And the phrase "life's dream" suggests that perhaps the only way to find meaning in life is to embrace it fully, to savor every moment and appreciate the beauty of the world around us.

One of the most striking things about this poem is its use of punctuation. The first line ends with a comma, which creates a sense of pause and reflection. The second line ends with a dash, which suggests a sudden interruption or shift in thought. And the final line ends with a period, which brings the poem to a definitive close. This use of punctuation is typical of haiku, which often relies on subtle shifts in tone and rhythm to convey its meaning.

Another interesting aspect of this poem is its use of imagery. The taste of rain is a powerful sensory experience that immediately transports the reader to a specific time and place. The act of kneeling is a visual image that suggests a kind of humility and reverence. And the phrase "life's dream" is a metaphor that captures the ephemeral nature of existence. By using these images, Kerouac is able to convey complex ideas in a way that is both simple and profound.

Overall, Haiku (The taste...) is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that captures the essence of the haiku form. Through its use of sensory imagery, subtle shifts in tone and rhythm, and profound meditations on the nature of existence, this poem reminds us to appreciate the beauty of the present moment and to savor every experience, no matter how fleeting. Whether you are a fan of haiku or simply appreciate great poetry, this is a poem that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

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