David Schneider on Philip Whalen (early Whalen)

“Philip Whalen, Sensei, in his peaceful chair, my apartment living room, East 12th Street New York March 1984. he was visiting East coast to give readings N.Y. and Buffalo, calm poet. ‘What are you reading?’ ‘I’m not reading I’m just turning the pages.’ ” – Allen Ginsberg. photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate

The current (summer) issue of Tricycle contains an excerpt from David Schneider’s forthcoming Phil Whalen biographyCrowded by Beauty: A Biography of Poet and Zen Teacher, Philip Whalen. Schneider, currently, (since 1995), based in Germany (Cologne), studied and practiced at the Zen Center in San Francisco from 1971 to 1984, and is also the author of another great personal dharma-biography, Street Zen: The Life and Work of Issan Dorsy (which is still available in paperback). The chapter excerpted in Tricycle focuses on the friendship between Whalen and Gary Snyder. “Philip Whalen had no better friend than Gary Snyder”, Schneider writes, “Whalen’s life would have run a vastly different course had the 17-year-old Snyder not first seen him from offstage at Reed College’s theater, directing players in a student production, and been impressed with him..”. ┬áThe rest of the article is an illuminating read.

“Whalen would never have read in the historic Six Gallery reading had not Snyder put Philip’s name and poems literally in front of Allen Ginsberg’s face”, Schneider observes – the legendary Six Gallery reading of October 1955 (Whalen’s reading at the recreation of that event, six months later, in Berkeley, can be accessed here – courtesy of the Poetry Center Digital Archive – introduction is by Kenneth Rexroth. The Poetry Center has also made available Whalen’s December 12 1956 reading here).

Other notes by Schneider on Whalen may be found here and here and here.

More early Whalen – his reading at the 1963 Vancouver Poetry Festival

More on Phil to come on 20th of October, his birthday, we promise.

Meanwhile, this (edited by Michael Rothenberg) is an essential item.

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