restricted access Decompressions: Selected Poems by Philip Whalen, and: Off the Wall: Interviews with Philip Whalen ed. by Donald Allen (review)
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Reviews 85 Closely related to Cooper’s perception of the sacred is his perception of Time. To this Axelrad rightly alludes. But, once again, the author is mistaken when he calls Cooper’s perception of historical time cyclical. If Cooper was the Christian conservative Axelrad claims, his perception of time would, by definition, have been strictly linear. These and other incon­ sistencies in the book cast doubt on Axelrad’s ability to synthesize. That is not to say the book is not well researched. It is. But Axelrad’s research has not, I believe, led to perceptions of truth or a better understanding of Cooper. In his preface the author rightfully notes that no definitive modem biography of Cooper exists. I would go a step further and say that no definitive book of criticism has been written about Cooper’s work. We sorely need more solid interpretaton of an author whose works have profoundly influenced all of western American literature, but Axelrad has not pro­ vided this interpretation. RICHARD C. POULSEN, Brigham Young University Decompressions: Selected Poems. By Philip Whalen. (Bolinas: Four Seasons Foundation, 1978. 85 pages, $3.50.) Off the Wall: Interviews with Philip Whalen. Edited by Donald Allen. Bolinas, California: Four Seasons Foundation, 1978. 88 pages, $3.50.) I mean it’s one of the manifestations of my character. But then, so is my interest in music, and in visionary experiences of various kinds, and in — being me. And, later on, people decided that what I was doing was called “poetry,” but to me, it’s something — just one of the things I do, part of what I see, feel. PW interview with Aram Saroyan Was it Yeats who said we must choose perfection of the life or of the work? Why? Why not have both, like Philip? He wants to live the life of poetry^ of beauty and reality, and so he does. Sometimes it’s had him in a bind or squeeze but he’s always held his ground. Now he’s a Soto Zen monk and seems to have found his final and perfect dress. Monk robes with small square apron. Soto Zen is a largely confratemal corporation dealing and bartering in the ideas of Buddha and offering a way or path to a state of being, original soul-less soul, peace-compassion, wisdom-light, claimed to be eternal (therefore indestructible) and immaculate. The corporate aim is to remain constant (like solar radiation in space) and knowing, while simul­ taneously impermanent and ignorant. Perfection of the life looks like perfection of the work, and vice versa. 86 Western American Literature Each of these books has a fine photograph of PW. In the Off the Wall one, he looks like a European friar, in his cups, not very successfully dis­ guised as a Zen Buddhist monk. In this photo, on left side, behind potted plant, I see a crucifix of the bloody-ghoulish Mexican kind, on the other side, behind a mysterious smear of light whooshing behind him, a Tibetan tanka of the bloody-ghoulish kind with flayed human skins and offering of dissevered eyeballs, tongues, ears and noses in human skull bowl. The photo with Decompressions shows him ingrown to monk habit, the beautiful expression on his face like he was looking back at us as he approached Event Horizon. I see some white of an inmost garment at neck, then two layers of kimono robe (gray then brown over?) with square apron over solar plexis. Elegant as nature. He’s got beads in hand. Head shaved. So what if you grew up in The Dalles, Oregon, as a Christian Scientist, when you see the light, you go for it, no matter how it bends your self image. What am I waiting for? A change in customs that will take 1000 years to come about: Who’s to make the change but me? His life is his work in progress, as much of it as he gets down on paper anyway, in his fine, italic hand. One humanoid (human-like) word clutch after another. Earthstyle. Direct, precise fitting of word to vision-feeling, like nut (internal female thread) fitting to male bolt and screwing down...


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