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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
70 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2015 circles as a virtuoso of surrealism in English. But what of the fifth reader— a bookish, moon-faced, former Army radio technician from rural Oregon named Philip Whalen? In many ways, Whalen was not like the others. In a group of wiry, strikingly handsome young men, he was decidedly pear-shaped and already seemed mid- dle-aged, though he was still in his early thirties. The other poets had aspirations to be alpha males, but Whalen could seem nearly feminine or maternal, as if he was channeling the female muses whom he frequently called to his aid in his work. “Straightforward” was not quite the word for his writing; instead, his poems rambled affably among dis- parate kinds of material, often in mul- tiple languages. While Kerouac and Ginsberg cultivated very public voices, Whalen’s language was so personal, idiosyncratic, and even cranky that it could seem hermetic. One of the poems revieWs Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Abbot Jody Hojin Kimmel, Priest Ron Hogen Green, Dharma Holder Photo John Daido Loori Monastic Training and Retreats, Catskills, NY 845.688.2228 • email@example.com • zmm.mro.org Zen Mountain Monastery Lay Training and Retreats, Brooklyn, NY 718.875.8229 • firstname.lastname@example.org • zcnyc.mro.org Zen Center of New York City he read that night (“Plus Ça Change”) was improbably written from the point of view of a married couple gradually metamorphosing into birds: Listen. Whatever we do from here on out Let’s for God’s sake not look at each other. Keep our eyes shut and the lights turned off— We won’t mind touching if we don’t have to see. Two years later, Whalen would declare in a poem, “This poetry is a graph or picture of a mind moving.” By describing the topography of his own consciousness, he hoped to pro- duce maps of ephemeral internal states that might be useful for others. Or not. Unlike most of his Beat compatriots, Whalen didn’t seem to care much if his poems were even read. The primary pleasure of his work was in the craft itself. read, “I greet you at the beginning of a great career. When do I get the manu- script?” Gary Snyder went on to forge an incisive poetic amalgam of ecologi- cal awareness of place and Zen insight into the interdependent nature of exis- tence that would earn him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. Michael McClure, the youngest writer in the group, would become a boldly inventive and fearlessly controversial poet and playwright in his own right. The fourth “angel,” Philip Laman- tia, is primarily remembered in Beat croWDeD by beauty: the life and zen of poet philip Whalen by David schneider university of california press, 2015 325 pages, $29.95