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Bowed some, chanted a little : Philip Whalen's zen journals and the San Francisco renaissance

Bowed some, chanted a little : Philip Whalen's zen journals and the San Francisco renaissance / edited and introduced by Brian Unger.
Tuscaloosa : The University of Alabama Press, [2025]
Physical Description
xvi, 343 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
"Philip Whalen (1923-2002) is a key figure in both the Beat and San Francisco Renaissance movements of the New American Poetry. Whalen authored twenty collections of verse, more than twenty broadsides, two novels, a huge assemblage of autobiographical literary journals, nine or ten experimental prose works, and dozens of critical essays, lectures, commentaries, introductions, prefaces, and interviews. But he came to regard his literary journals as his most important prose legacy. A professed Buddhist for most of his adult life, Whalen was ordained a Zen Buddhist monk in 1972 in what is arguably still the most influential Zen Buddhist training temple complex in North America. In some ways Whalen begs a comparison with Thomas Merton, the twentieth century's most significant Christian monk-poet. But where Merton contained himself within the conservative guidelines of Trappist-Christian orthodoxy, Whalen was a closeted homosexual (or bisexual) who inscribed an insider's account of his monastic community with an acid tongue and a keen sense of humor. His pen spared no one in the religious hierarchy he trained under. Whalen's literary work represents a significant turn in American letters, as he and his closest colleagues immersed themselves in East Asian literature and religion, reinvigorating strikingly new linguistic and aesthetic paths for North American writers and artists. However, until now Whalen's forty-plus years of journals-sixty small eight-by-six-inch notebooks-have been largely inaccessible, archived in the rare book and manuscript library at the University of California, Berkeley, undigitized and unavailable online. Thus, the publication of a critical scholarly edition of Whalen's journals and notebooks constitutes an important literary event and an invaluable resource for scholars, teachers, poets, and lay readers who follow twentieth-century North American poetry. In his complex and idiosyncratic poetics, Whalen adopts a unique mind-and-language-centered approach to the creation of a poem. Some of his finest works are "live action" scenes where he fuses moments of bald mental perception with the linguistic intricacies of his inner consciousness (i.e., the words, phrases, and observations that his mind forms, or that other people spill into his mind in the same block of time). The significance of Whalen's journals is manifold, Brian Unger argues, and goes beyond their mere availability. Unger argues that of all the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat poets of the postwar period, Whalen's roots in modernism are among the strongest. He was a voracious reader, as his journals show, and a keen student of earlier literatures. Furthermore, the journals conclusively overturn many misleading arguments about Whalen's personal life as related in the 2015 Whalen biography Crowded by Beauty by David Schneider. The publication of the journals would provide for the first time, and in Whalen's own words, an objective and self-substantiated account of his life with biographical information that has never before been generally available. The Whalen journals make clear as never before the primary psychological forces driving his personal life, his interior life as a poet and a religious monk, and they shed important light on the intriguing complexity of his philosophical and phenomenological poetics"-- Provided by publisher.
"The literary journals of a key figure in both the Beat and San Francisco Renaissance movements of the New American Poetry, and an ordained Zen Buddhist priest"-- Provided by publisher.
Added to Catalog
November 27, 2023
Modern and contemporary poetics.
Modern and contemporary poetics
Includes bibliographical references and index.
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