Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Another Six Gallery poet's birthday: Philip Lamantia

Philip Lamantia in 1981
Recently, we have pointed out the birthday of two poets who read at the famous 1955 Six Gallery poetry event in San Francisco (Michael McClure and Philip Whalen, October 20). Today, we wish a happy birthday to another poet who read at that event, Philip Lamantia.

Lamantia was born this date -- October 23 -- in 1927, meaning he would be 92 were he still alive today. He appeared in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums as Francis DaPavia and in Desolation Angels as David D'Angeli.

At the Six Gallery event, Lamantia read the poems of a friend, John Hoffman, who had recently died (allegedly from peyote, to which Lamantia introduced Kerouac), but Lamantia was an accomplished poet himself.

In 1957 letters to Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen, Kerouac spoke with respect of Lamantia's visions and how they helped show the "general religiousness of 'beat'" (Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969, Penguin, 1999, p. 67):
Our Second Relig., whatever it will be, will be rooted in Gothic--greatest example (I name no names) is that amazing Lamantia who was a cool hepcat and then the Angel knocked him off the chair . . . . (Ibid., 68)
That same year, in another letter to Ginsberg, Kerouac said:
Lamantia was here and had mad days with him walking 5 miles down Broadway yelling--about God and ecstasy, he rushed into confession and rushed out, he flew off to Frisco, back soon, he got in big publicity interviews with me and was full of sacred eloquence. (Ibid., 107)
 Jack mentions Lamantia more in subsequent letters, but I will leave you to search that out.

According to Gerald Nicosia (Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, University of California Press, 1994):
For Lamantia, as for Kerouac, the "beat" attitude was the only means of spiritual survival after the atom-bomb apocalypse. (p. 366)
Suffice to say that Lamantia was an influential person in Kerouac's life.

In honor of his birthday, you can read more about Lamantia and some of his poems by clicking here.

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