December 23, 2010

Iain Sharp's favourite beat poem

Iain Sharp couldn't make it to our Day of the Dead Beat Poets, and although his presence was missed I have to say that part of me is glad, because of how he wrote these things down for me instead, meaning I could read them and then read them again, as you will also want to:


Hi Karen

It occurred to me after we spoke that my all-time favourite beat poem is an untitled little one by Lew Welch that goes like this:

Step out onto the planet.
Draw a circle 100 feet round.

Inside the circle are 300 things
nobody understands and,
maybe, nobody’s ever seen.


How many can you find?

Poor Lew Welch! He seems, at heart, to have been such a nice man, but he was plagued throughout his short life by mental problems as well as alcoholism. In May 1971, while staying with Gary Snyder in a remote part of northeast California, he walked into the woods one day with a 303 rifle and killed himself. His body was never found. He left behind a heartbreaking note:

"I never could make anything work out right and now I'm betraying my friends. I can't make anything out of it - never could. I had great visions but never could bring them together with reality. I used it all up. It's all gone. Don Allen is to be my literary executor- use MSS at Gary's and at Grove Press. I have $2,000 in Nevada City Bank of America - use it to cover my affairs and debts. I don't owe Allen G. anything yet nor my Mother. I went Southwest.
Goodbye. Lew Welch."

Another of my favourite beat poems is the elegy Snyder wrote a couple of years later:

For/From Lew

Lew Welch just turned up one day,
live as you and me. "Damn, Lew" I said,
"you didn't shoot yourself after all."
"Yes I did" he said,
and even then I felt the tingling down my back.
"Yes you did, too" I said—"I can feel it now."
"Yeah" he said,
"There's a basic fear between your world and
mine.  I don't know why.
What I came to say was,
teach the children about the cycles.
The life cycles.  All other cycles.
That's what it's all about, and it's all forgot."


A footnote: the birth name of Huey Lewis (of "Hip to be Square" fame) was Hugh Anthony Cregg. He changed his surname to Lewis as a tribute to the stepfather who helped raise him -- Lew Welch.

Cheers,
Iain

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 05:30
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