|Philip Whalen (L) & Jack Kerouac|
Today we remember Beat poet Philip Whalen, who died on this date -- June 26 -- in 2002 at the age of 78. He appeared in several Jack Kerouac works: as Warren Coughlin in The Dharma Bums, and Ben Fagan in Desolation Angels and Big Sur.
Whalen was a force behind the San Francisco poetry renaissance of the mid-50s, and was one of the poets who read at the famous Six Gallery reading on October 7, 1955.
To get a sense of Whalen's place in Kerouac's world, I highly recommend reading John Suiter's Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen & Jack Kerouac in the North Cascades. This is my favorite Kerouac-related book of all time (a gift from my great friend, Richard Marsh).
Whalen was a Buddhist, close with Lew Welch and Gary Snyder (who all met at Reed College in Oregon), and a much greater piece of the Beat Generation puzzle than he gets credit for, especially the West Coast aspect. You can read a brief bio and some of his poetry HERE. Whalen and Kerouac were also close, evidenced by the more than two dozen letters from Kerouac to Whalen included in Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 (Penguin Books, 1999). Here is an excerpt from a mid-August 1957 letter to Whalen:
Got your letter about the malefic flashes and forms just in time to stick them into my article ABOUT THE BEAT GENERATION where I catalog the visions experienced by members of our generation to try to show the general religiousness of "beat" (including Lamantia's and Allen's and all)--(my own, Gary's, etc.)-- (p. 67)