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Overtime: Selected Poems (Poets, Penguin) Paperback – May 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

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.

Review

"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."
—Ron Padgett

"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."
—Alice Notley

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Product Details

  • Series: Poets, Penguin
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014058918X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140589184
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Arch Llewellyn on December 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
I didn't know much about Whalen's poetry until he died this year, but the terrific memorial reading for him here in San Francisco drove me to "Overtime" and man, what a find. The Beats were more learned than the 'first thought, best thought' aesthetic suggests, and Whalen's poems balance religion, philosophy and cranky Zen insight with a casual, conversational Americanese in a way few of his more famous contemporaries could touch. His poems draw from a deep past that embraces everything from ancient Chinese verse to classical music, but insist that it walk down the street in T-shirt and jeans. Whalen spent the last three decades of his life at the San Francisco Zen Center--his particular brand of Buddhism, so generous to human failings (starting always, comically, with his own) and never, ever doctrinaire, has to be one of the most attractive spins on Eastern religion I've read. Whalen was in it and of it, never above it. He gives the moment plenty of wiggle room in his writing, so that cats, friends and silly thoughts can all stray into the poems without being shoo'd out for art. Whatever Beat meant, Whalen shows it in about its best light. Poetry's a little thinner and more straight-laced with him gone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Suzi Winson on November 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
Philip Whalen is a national treasure, one of our most important living poets. This collection, masterfully assembled by Michael Rothenberg, is a great place to start if you're not familiar with Whalen's work, and a glorious visiting ground for those of us who have already discovered him. Don't let the word POETRY dissuade you. You will not be bored for a minute.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Hori on June 14, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If, as Leslie Scalapino suggests in the introduction to this book, Philip Whalen's poetry is about how his consciousness worked and utilized language, so that each poem is a gestalt of his thinking in process, then I think we must add that Big ZEN HA HA is present, ever-present in the articulate artifacts this poet of the hole-in-the-shoe and the shaven head (and I hear sadly mortal heart gunked up and out of incarnation by casual eating habits) left behind. Every turn of a trope ends in an undercutting of intention and meaning in the same way that the polyvalency of BIG ZEN HA HA (think "koans" here), undermines single meaning in every sacral utterance of Zen scripture. Of the See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil, Big Three of Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and Lew Welch, we pretty much understand the hooks on which Snyder and Welch hung their tambourines, but it's Whalen who seems the reticent, self-effacing, hard to clearly define (just as Zen is), guy. He comes across sometimes as a New York School Poet (though lacking the sophistication of an Ashbery or O'Hara but including all their allusions to pop culture), and sometimes as a collagist of texts, in a kind of casual West Coast surrealism, but always as a 5-to-75 cent word nihilist, ready with a stick of BIG ZEN HA HA to shatter the prisms he stacks up so carefully before phenomena to liberate the pure light of the momentary mind. (And sometimes his verbal gestures remind me of the outsider texts, as well as the outsider stance of Harry Partch.) I'm still reading Whalen's Overtime news, hoping to stick around long enough to hear him whine for a toy early in his next incarnation on the streets of Tomorrow.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
ON BEAR'S HEAD is a staple in my library of 20th Century poetry collections. Too often included in the same breath with Snyder, Kerouac and the beats, Whalen's work deserves to stand alone. This new collection is a must for anyone who appreciates true literary invention.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
"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."
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