Very Serious & Full of Vegetables

Crowded By BeautyI FINALLY finished Crowded by Beauty, the wonderful biography of Philip Whalen. David Schneider brings a Zen perspective to chronicle the life of a poet who, along with Gary Snyder and Lew Welch, was considered one of the NW Beat poets. A great review of the book is here.

I took 98 separate notes, so writing a comprehensive review is not my aim here, but the book is wonderful and essential for those interested in the combination of poetry and spiritual seeking. And the Beat movement if about anything, was about the rejection of mainstream USAmerican culture and an attempt to stay open, a task Schneider knows is no small feat here:

Conventional thought, mental provincialism, a subconscious narrowing of scope – these attach themselves to an artist’s capacity like barnacles to a ship. Staying open or spacious requires real work and guarantees little. Viewed from outside, a person attempting this might be called politely, “loosely strung.” Less politely, but more literally, a person trying to crack out of closing intellectual shells could be described as “crazed.” 

As I started this post, I had just finished reading a story about how U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump told a crowd of supporters in Alabama “get him out of here” and they began to beat a black man in the crowd who was protesting Trump. Yet poets are the ones who are described as “crazed.”

There were so many good quotes in the book, I put as many as I could into a poem and hope that will suffice as a “review” and a tribute to a legendary Cascadia poet who is a talent deserving wider recognition.

Very Serious and Full of Vegetables 1
Very Serious and Full of Vegetables 2
Very Serious and Full of Vegetables 3
Very Serious and Full of Vegetables 4

About Splabman

Paul Nelson is founder of SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) in Seattle, the Cascadia Poetry Festival and the August POetry POstcard Fest (PoPo). He has published a collection of essays, Organic Poetry & a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, WA, A Time Before Slaughter (shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and American Sentences, a book of 17 syllable poems drawn from the first fourteen of his 20 years of daily practice. The tenth anniversary edition of that book includes Pig War: & Other Songs of Cascadia. He’s interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Wanda Coleman, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, George Bowering, Diane di Prima, Brenda Hillman, George Stanley, Joanne Kyger & many Cascadia poets (see: has presented his poetry and poetics in London, Brussels, Bothell, Cumberland, BC, Qinghai and Beijing, China, Lake Forest, Illinois, Ukiah, CA, and other places & writes an American Sentence every day.
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3 Responses to Very Serious & Full of Vegetables

  1. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Speech as weapon? Would that make love a silence, not to be spoken of, spoken in, spoken to, spoken with, voiced, or moved with, as in two bodies moving together, in coit (us)?

  2. joe says:

    “…speech as weapon, tool” TOOL Yes, a rail against love being used as a rhetorical or identity tool, hammered into a desired idol to distinguish us from others…like angryfuck filled chimps (T Rump in his red baseball cap)…. I think Mr. Whalen would agree that love is to be allowed…not wanted, construed and allocated. Can we really make love? It’s too easy to miss the point of love and obliteration, so it may be best to put things like death and love in charge and let them carefully guide our words. Careful, if not descriminating use, of words such as love may be a good start.
    Thanks Paul, I take this as a reccomendation to read the book!

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