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
Philip Whalen (1923–2002) 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.
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.
Brian A. Unger is editor of Zen Monster, a literary and arts magazine.
“The scholarship is excellent (especially in the interspersed essays by Unger about Whalen’s life) and some of the material compelling and crucial to future scholars, in particular the autobiographical sections about Whalen’s difficult family life and entries written while he was on LSD.” —Susan M. Schultz, author of A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary Poetry