Philip Lamantia was born on this day. He died in 2005. He would have been 84. Obits from the San Francisco Chronicle, from the New York Times, and from the London Independent give the general picture. We’ve spotlighted already Andre Breton, but, for the Beats, for Allen, Lamantia was/is the essential figure, the key link between Beat culture and Surrealism. Garrett Caples writes on the Breton-Lamantia connection here.
And Allen himself had, in 1963, respectfully noted: “Philip Lamantia and I share old friendship and similarity of sources – our insight into an American voice, its “mechano hells” (his words): our longing for breakthrough into the more natural universe of self, all our true feelings: our prayer, public communication, poetry. His interest in techniques of surreal composition notoriously antedates mine and surpasses my practice in a quality of untouched-news, nervous scatting, street moment purity – his imagination zapping in all directs of vision at once in a cafeteria – prosodic hesitancies and speedballs – the impatience, petulance, unhesitant declaration, machinegunning at mirrors nakedly – that make his line his mantric own”.
A selection of Lamantia’s writing may be viewed here (five Lamantia poems from a 1947 View) An interview (with Thomas Rain Crowe, in Milk magazine) here (and Caples’ “Last Interview” with Lamantia here). Appreciations (by John Yau in The Brooklyn Rail, by Stephen Schwartz, and by Steven Fama) are also worth consulting. Viva Lamantia! – Jack Foley, in Poetry Flash, has an extensive review of 1997’s Bed of Sphinxes – New and Selected Poems 1943-1993.