Overtime: Selected Poems

Overtime: Selected Poems

by Philip Whalen
     
 

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Like his college roommate Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen took both poetry and Zen seriously. He became friends with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Michael McClure, and played a key role in the explosive poetic revolution of the '50s and '60s. Celebrated for his wisdom and good humor, Whalen transformed the poem for a generation. His writing, taken

Overview

Like his college roommate Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen took both poetry and Zen seriously. He became friends with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Michael McClure, and played a key role in the explosive poetic revolution of the '50s and '60s. Celebrated for his wisdom and good humor, Whalen transformed the poem for a generation. His writing, taken as a whole, forms a monumental stream of consciousness (or, as Whalen calls it, "continuous nerve movie") of a wild, deeply read, and fiercely independent American—one who refuses to belong, who celebrates and glorifies the small beauties to be found everywhere he looks. This long-awaited Selected Poems is a welcome opportunity to hear his influential voice again.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101177112
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/01/1999
Series:
Penguin Poets
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One

The Road-Runner


FOR L. J. REYNOLDS


Thin long bird
      with a taste for snakes' eyes
Frayed tail, wildcat claws
His pinions are bludgeons.


Few brains, topped
By a crown
And a flair for swift in-fighting—
Try to take it from him.

23:iii:5


Homage to Lucretius


It all depends on how fast you're going
Tending towards light, sound
Or the quiet of mere polarity


Objects: Slowness


Screen
      A walking sieve
Wide-open and nowhere
The mountains themselves
Picked up into turnips, trees
Wander as bones, nails, horns


And we want crystals,
Given a handful of mercury
      (Which can be frozen into a pattern vulnerable to body heat)


The notion intimidates us
We can't easily imagine another world
This one being barely
Visible:
      We lined up and pissed in a snowbank
      A slight thaw would expose
      Three tubes of yellow ice


And so on ...
A world not entirely new
But realized,
The process clarified
Blessyour little pointed head!

1952


"Plus Ça Change ..."


What are you doing?


I am coldly calculating.


I didn't ask for a characterization.
Tell me what we're going to do.


That's what I'm coldly calculating.


You had better say "plotting" or "scheming"
You never could calculate without a machine.


Then I'm brooding. Presently
A plot will hatch.


Who are trying to kid?


Be nice.


(SILENCE)


Listen. Whatever we do from here on out
Let's for God's sake not look at each other
Keep our eyes shut and the lights turned off—
We won't mind touching if we don't have to see.


I'll ignore those preposterous feathers.


Say what you please, we brought it all on ourselves
But nobody's going out of his way to look.


Who'd recognize us now?


We'll just pretend we're used to it.
(Watch out with that goddamned tail!)


Pull the shades down. Turn off the lights.
Shut your eyes.


(SILENCE)


There is no satisfactory explanation.
You can talk until you're blue


Just how much bluer can I get?


Well, save breath you need to cool


Will you please shove the cuttlebone a little closer?


All right, until the perfumes of Arabia


Grow cold. Ah! Sunflower seeds!


Will you listen, please? I'm trying to make
A rational suggestion. Do you mind?


Certainly not. Just what shall we tell the children?

28:ix:53
1:ii:55


If You're So Smart, Why Ain't
You Rich?


I need everything else
Anything else
      Desperately
But I have nothing
Shall have nothing
      but this
Immediate, inescapable
      and invaluable
No one can afford
      THIS
Being made here and now


(Seattle, Washington
         17 May, 1955)


MARIGOLDS


Concise (wooden)
      Orange.
Behind them, the garage door
      Pink
(Paint sold under a fatuous name:
"Old Rose"
      which brings a war to mind)


And the mind slides over the fence again
Orange against pink and green
Uncontrollable!


Returned of its own accord
It can explain nothing
Give no account


What good? What worth?
      Dying!


You have less than a second
      To live
To try to explain:
Say that light
      in particular wave-lengths
      or bundles wobbling at a given speed
Produces the experience
Orange against pink


Better than a sirloin steak?
A screen by Korin?


The effect of this, taken internally
The effect
      of beauty
               on the mind


There is no equivalent, least of all
These objects
Which ought to manifest
A surface disorientation, pitting
Or striae
Admitting some plausible interpretation


But the cost
Can't be expressed in numbers
Dodging between
      a vagrancy rap
      and the newest electrical brain-curette
Eating what the rich are bullied into giving
Or the poor willingly share
Depriving themselves


More expensive than ambergris
      Although the stink
           isn't as loud. (A few


Wise men have said,
      "Produced the same way ...
      Vomited out by sick whales.")
Valuable for the same qualities
      Staying-power and penetration
I've squandered every crying dime.

Seattle 17-18:v:55

Meet the Author

Philip Whalen spent fifteen years of formal Zen training in Santa Fe and San Francisco. He is currently the Abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco.

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