Like his college roommate Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen took both poetry and Zen seriously. He became friends with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Michael McClure, and played a key role in the explosive poetic revolution of the '50s and '60s. Celebrated for his wisdom and good humor, Whalen transformed the poem for a generation. His writing, taken ...
Like his college roommate Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen took both poetry and Zen seriously. He became friends with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Michael McClure, and played a key role in the explosive poetic revolution of the '50s and '60s. Celebrated for his wisdom and good humor, Whalen transformed the poem for a generation. His writing, taken as a whole, forms a monumental stream of consciousness (or, as Whalen calls it, "continuous nerve movie") of a wild, deeply read, and fiercely independent American--one who refuses to belong, who celebrates and glorifies the small beauties to be found everywhere he looks. This long-awaited Selected Poems is a welcome opportunity to hear his influential voice again.
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Publishers Weekly, 1999-03-29 Palpably realistic, Boswellian in detail, by turns cranky, amused, hungry or sated with experience, Whalen's verse remains uniquely personal, an artifact of one man's creative energy. A Buddhist abbot known for early, California friendships with Gary Snyder, Lew Welch and Allen Ginsberg (see Dharma Bums for Kerouac's impressions of those relationships), Whalen has remained in San Francisco for most of his career, a fact wonderfully reflected in his daybook-like verse: "I always say I won't go back to the mountains/ I am too old and fat there are bugs mean mules/ And pancakes every morning of the world." Gertrude Stein, Samuel Johnson, William Carlos Williams, Lady Murasaki and Japanese Zen practices are all perceptible influences, and even an evangelical urgency enters Whalen's verse at times, with a backwoods conviction in the virtues of conversion. But true to his credo, "I shall be myself," Whalen, critical and ironic, soars "free, a genius, an embarrassment/ like the Indian, the buffalo/ like Yellowstone National Park." As many of Whalen's books have dropped out of print, this generous volume, introduced by poet and critic Scalapino, and chronologically organized and selected by poet Rothenberg, is long overdue. It helps reacquaint us with a key figure who continues to work toward social and personal transformation. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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