Sunday, September 27, 2020



Further Notice

I can't live in this world

And I refuse to kill myself

Or let you kill me

The dill plant lives, the airplane

My alarm clock, this ink

I won't go away

I shall be myself —

Free, a genius, an embarrassment

Like the Indian, the buffalo

Like Yellowstone National Park.



Philip Whalen

The Collected Poems

edited by Michael Rothenberg

Wesleyan University Press, 2007


For nearly any other collected poems

one can almost assume cracking the book open

to the middle will well provide the reader

with some of the best poetry by the poet.

Not so Philip Whalen.

For the last 50 years I guided my Whalen trajectory

through my favorite book of his, On Bear's Head,

a book devised and brought into existence through the

tough work of James Koller, Bill Brown and Don Carpenter

after a little fight with the co-publisher Harcourt & Brace.

Coyote Books was the rightful instigator, as usual.

Whalen was hot from the start — say after he gets through

his apprenticeship in the 40s— from the 50s onward

he is sailing, and Michael Rothenberg's perfect book

for Whalen: cover jacket design and hundreds of poems

(what more do you need?) plus Whalen's drawings and

doodles and general Philip-energy, it's all here in the Wesleyan

edition and I've come during a virus pandemic and read it all (ALL)

now a second time. Reading Philip Whalen is like bicycling up

a hill while eating an ice-cream cone, and maybe it's a hot day

but it doesn't have to be. Energies transfix. You know you've

got a poet when everyone says he or she is reading him and

no one knows who you're talking about.