Philip Whalen Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although he gave priority to his poetry, Philip Whalen (WAY-lehn) enjoyed success as a novelist. His first novel, You Didn’t Even Try (1967), drew upon his experiences in San Francisco in the years 1959-1964. In the year it was published, he began work on his second novel, Imaginary Speeches for a Brazen Head (1972), while in Kyoto, Japan. His third, The Diamond Noodle (1980), likewise had its origins in the 1960’s. Whalen also wrote nonfiction and journals, and he produced short volumes of calligraphic and “doodle” works, including Highgrade: Doodles, Poems, published in 1966.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Numerous literary organizations have recognized Philip Whalen’s importance in the American poetry scene. His awards include the Poets Foundation Award (1962) and V. K. Ratcliff Award (1964). A grant-in-aid award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters assisted Whalen in his move to Japan. In 1968, 1970, and 1971, he received grants from the Committee on Poetry. The American Academy of Arts and Letters further honored him with the 1985 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award, and in 2001, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Kherdian, David. Six Poets of the San Francisco Renaissance: Portraits and Checklists. Fresno, Calif.: Giligia Press, 1965. Provides valuable source material on the San Francisco Beat movement and Whalen.

Rothenberg, Michael, and Suzi, Winson, eds. Continuous Flame: A Tribute to Philip Whalen. New York: Fish Drum, 2005. A collection of tributes to Whalen, demonstrating the degree to which he served as an example and inspiration to other writers.

Snyder, Gary, Lew Welch, and Philip Whalen. On Bread and Poetry: A Panel Discussion with Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, and Philip Whalen. Edited by Donald Allen. Berkeley, Calif.: Grey Fox Press, 1973. A wide-ranging reunion discussion between three poet friends.

Suiter, John. Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Jack Kerouac in the Cascades. Berkeley, Calif.: Counterpoint, 2002. An illustrated exploration of the years the three Beat writers spent as fire spotters in the Cascades, including an interview with Whalen covering topics including his ordination as a Zen monk.

Whalen, Philip. Interview by Donald Allen. In Off the Wall: Interviews with Philip Whalen. Edited by Allen. Bolinas, Calif.: Grey Fox Press, 1978. An exploration of the attitudes and ideas of the poet in his early years of being a Zen monk.

_______. “Philip Whalen.” Interview by David Meltzer. In San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets, edited by Meltzer. San Francisco: City Lights, 2001. Whalen discusses his involvement in the San Francisco scene, his interest in Japan, and his training in Buddhism, along with his poetry.