From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"In Philip Whalen's poetry, offhand compositional elegance and the deep amusement of wisdom combine to produce one of the pure delights of contemporary literature."
"Philip Whalen is a great poet; I get as much wisdom and affection from his work as from that of any poet whosoever, dead or alive, having lived whenever. The range, the space, the humor are all considerable, kingdoms of cloud mind unscrolling into the most concrete of details. This is a very large spirit."