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Hannah Weiner: W-O-R-D  
Photo © 1975 Nelson Howe

Hannah Weiner (1928-1997)

An Online Tribute

Collected Responses from the Poetics List
edited by Loss Pequeño Glazier

Hannah Weiner Home Page | Bibliography | "Silent Teacher" | "astral visions"

Date:         Fri, 12 Sep 1997 08:07:34 -0400
From:	      Charles Bernstein 
Subject:      Hannah Weiner (1928-1997)

I have very sad news to report. Hannah Weiner has died. Word of her unexpected death reached me late last night. Apparently she died of natural causes in her apartment on East 12th street in Manhattan. Hannah meant so very much to me and I know to many other poets who were lucky enough to have known her and her inspiring and courageous work, her enthusiastic engagement with writing, her brilliant and acute (and often wickedly funny) perspectives on poets and poetry, her incredible performances. While her last few years weren't easy, she continued to produce amazing writing, pushing her own poetry and the possibilities for poetry into new zones of perception.

Hannah would have turned 69 on November 4.

I include here a bibliography of her work that I compiled a few years ago. It may not include some of her most recent pieces. There is also a LINEbreak interview with Hannah available via the Electronic Poetry Center (EPC) as well as a one hour radio show (with readings and an interview), produced by Ernesto Grosman, that is also up at the EPC.


"Well we all consider it quite remarkable that we
      hear each other almost entirely in her mind"


MS/Book Chronology


"a thought is not to be written      write it down"

Date:         Fri, 12 Sep 1997 10:09:59 -0500
From:         Maria Damon 
Subject:      Re: Hannah Weiner (1928-1997)

thanks charles for this sad news. tho i never met her her work came to mean a lot to me the moment i opened Spoke (thanks to your suggestion that i look into her work). out of shyness, i had been stalling sending her a copy of my essay on her, which she'd heard about and asked for last february. i've still got the pink stationery letter from her in my "to do" pile right by the computer. now she's become the silent teacher she had been in training for all these years, and i bet we'll continue to be surprised at how she enters our lives.

Date:         Fri, 12 Sep 1997
From:         Charles Bernstein
Subject:      Re: Hannah Weiner (1928-1997) 

Remembered Sequel:

Hannah Weiner's We Speak Silent was published by Roof books this past spring:

"what am I hanging on       a branch ok well thats a vision       you gotta
explain that seeing visions isnt all that easy"

"hassid: those who are hidden may be unhidden but those who are unhidden
may never be hidden"

"the best teacher is always your very own self"

"the dead speak too"

Plans are underway to have a celebration of Hannah and her work, at the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church, a place that was so close to her.

Date:         Fri, 12 Sep 1997 06:36:44 -0700
From:	      Douglas Messerli
Subject:      Re: Hannah Weiner (1928-1997)

This is truly a shock to the whole poetry community. I will be posting a wonderful story written by Hannah tomorrow morning or late this afternoon in tribute to this wonderful exploratory poet. Hannah's was certainly one of the most original contributions to American poetry ever. Her work was like no one else's, and its ability to combine the personal and linguistic experimentation should serve as a beacon to all those who mistakenly feel there is a split between self-expression and intellectual pursuits.

Douglas Messerli
Sun & Moon Press

Date:         Fri, 12 Sep 1997 12:09:04 -0700
From:	      David Bromige
Subject:      Hannah Weiner

The posts from Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman, Maria Damon, [Charles Alexander] and Douglas Messerli together speak volumes--from the starkness of Ron's announcement to the informative currency of Charles', to the keen insight of Douglas's observation that in her one found the personal and the linguistically challenging all of a piece...and to the poignancy of Maria's unanswered letter. It is sad to look for the last time, even sadder not to have done so. I extend my sympathies to Charles, who was I know close to Hannah for many years. And I can certainly overlap with Maria's feelings, for Hannah was a person I took to immediately & was looking forward to seeing when in New York next month--but with whom I did not get around to corresponding.

At least, we have her work (and more I hope will now be made available), and Douglas (one of her publishers--courageous publishers, one has to add, for her poetry remained a rigorous & unpredictable series of challenges) put his finger on the pulse of it in his tribute. An absolute original. What a loss to us.

I hate death/now she's out of it. Dear Hannah Weiner.

Date:         Fri, 12 Sep 1997 06:38:29 -0700
From:         Charles Alexander
Subject:      Re: ps to "Hannah Weiner"

At 12:18 PM 9/12/97 -0700, you wrote:
>(No more p.s.s for Hannah Weiner)
>Since posting, I have read the 2 radically different, yet both alike
>moving, obits by the two different Alexanders, for which, thanks to
>you both. David

One of the posts David refers to is mine, but I didn't post it to this list, rather to a local+Bromige list. So I'll repeat it here. It was actually a note sent to a local weekly arts/culture paper, which has often been friendly to various poetry interests here in Tucson, and some of the way in which I construct is specific to the general audience of this paper. I had earlier organized, for this paper, a memorial to Ginsberg. This is what I sent them today, and it is certainly indebted to Charles Bernstein, who I quote:

a cry

a hole

no voice

Hannah Weiner

This year has been one of losing writers -- Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Alan Harrington, and more. I think it's important to note that some great losses don't involve the most famous names. In any generation, many writers who do not become well known may be remembered decades or centuries later as the most interesting of their time. I tend to believe that for every Emily Dickinson recovered into our collective memory, there are probably several very fine writers who are not found.

One of the most important writers of our time, in my opinion, although not one of the most famous, has just died -- word reached me this morning that Hannah Weiner was found in her apartment, on East 12th Street in Manhattan, dead of natural causes. she would have been 69 years old on November 4. As a fellow poet, Charles Bernstein, wrote in a note,

"Hannah meant so very much to me and I know to many other poets who were lucky enough to have known her and her inspiring and courageous work, her enthusiastic engagement with writing, her brilliant and acute (and often wickedly funny) perspectives on poets and poetry, her incredible performances. While her last few years weren't easy, she continued to produce amazing writing, pushing her own poetry and the possibilities for poetry into new zones of perception."
Hannah wrote to me a few months ago, on a postcard with a photograph of a very young Bob Dylan, that New York was getting more difficult, wondering what it was like to live in Arizona, whether she should move here. I hadn't answered all of those questions yet, thinking there was a world of time.

Hannah saw words everywhere. She and her particular vision are missed -- immediately . . . and always.

charles alexander

Date:         Fri, 12 Sep 1997 16:31:46 -0400
From: 	      Jacques Debrot
Subject:      Re: Hannah Weiner (1928-1997)

Anyone who is interested might want to check out Mark DuCharme's brillaint discussion of Hannah Weiner in the latest issue of *6ix* magazine. Among other things, he reads her psychic ability as a kind of "trope" for the way in which "all writing is in some sense *perceived*, stolen, appropriated."

He ends the essay by arguing that her "neutralization of the distinction between public and private experience -- between ordinary language/ordinary consciousness, and the poetic, is coterminous with her desire to neutralize the distinction between poetry and . . . exterior life." Such a utopian possibility is enormously appealing -- at least for me.

Also, Weiner's poem "Silent History" in *Chain* 4 is yet another persuasive reason to check out that magazine.

Date:         Fri, 12 Sep 1997 16:27:03 EST
From:         Keith Tuma
Subject:      Re: Hannah Weiner (1928-1997)

She was Spokeless in the unacknowledged world of Big Wheels.

Among my best students, she was one of the poets most often honored by imitation. For the fun of it (period).

Keith Tuma

Date:         Sat, 13 Sep 1997 08:31
From:         Ron Silliman
Subject:      Hannah

I first met Hannah on my first literary trip east of the Mississippi, circa 1980, at an opening as I recall of a show of Lee Sherry's. I was in the midst of telling Lee how much I liked the work when Hannah walked up, paused for a moment, declared in something akin to a stage whisper "It says 'go away'" and stalked off, offended. My eyes dilated, I tracked her down and got that straightened out. It was the first -- and last -- argument we ever had. And from it grew a friendship that, like her writing, was simply impossible to duplicate.
Little Books/Indians

Hannah would call maybe once a month (more often during the bad times), sometimes insisting that I had "told" her to call (especially if she was calling at an inconvenient time of night). We would discuss her latest problems, which often had to do with the American Indian Movement or various publishers, my kids, readings, friends, her interest in music (she was a 60s folk rock fan), whatever. Depending on how she was doing at the time, the calls could range anywhere from absolutely straightforward to utterly impossible.

Hannah was as insecure as any writer on this list, but for her this never came out as worrying about this or that revision -- she had absolute confidence in her writing practice-- but instead in her publications. I always felt that her paranoia about whether this or that publisher was going to slight her work, especially through delays was more pronounced since, not working and with no immediate family, publishing literally was her life -- even moreso as she became more and more reclusive. While I had a completely easy time with her and her work in In the American Tree (in sharp contrast with a couple of folks), it seemed apparent, from her accounts as well as theirs, that Hannah was an absolute terror to her book publishers. All of them are to be praised for the infinite patience it must have required to complete each book.

In the mid-80s, Hannah came to California and stayed with Krishna and I in San Francisco as we gave readings at the Arts Commission Gallery and in Mill Valley. It was her first trip west and we were prepared to show her all the sights, but she had no interest whatever in going outside once she was at our house. Getting her to and from the readings was work enough. (This was before either Krishna or I had learned how to drive, so it was all public transit.) Afterwards, I realized that I'd learned in an unspoken way just how disorienting and even frightening the external world had become for her. She was profoundly interested in it, but was very protective of her psyche and quite conscious of her limits. She was a remarkably quiet guest during those few days. In fact, I probably received phone calls in which she said more than she did while at our house.

Hannah was very interested in kids, especially in the idea of having boys. At various points, Asa Watten, Ben Sherry, Felix Bernstein and my son Jesse were all identified by her as "silent teachers." While she and Jesse spoke on the phone a few times and he's heard the works that refer to him, they never got to meet in person.

I was raised by a grandmother who was psychotic and don't take the circumstance lightly. When Hannah was on her meds, she could be remarkably matter of fact about her own situation, but often she was not on her meds and they tend to be the sorts of things that can get mixed and muddled too easily. When, in the 60s, psychiatry in this country moved literally millions of people out of institutions back into communities, there was an assumption (even stated boldly in places such as California) that local governments would set up the resources to support them. I know from my experience in the Tenderloin that, with help, it's not that difficult. (My wife did this for a living for years with many clients in far worse shape than Hannah.) I often felt that Hannah would have benefited greatly from a program such as the one Krishna had worked in. Now I wonder if she might not still be alive if it had existed for her. It's not a fun thought.

I've written about Hannah's work before, so won't duplicate that here, but I do want to note that when I used the word "realism" in the subtitle of Tree and as the title of a selection of langpo in Ironwood, it was Hannah's work specifically that brought me to this realization. She was an awesome documentarian of a minority reality and if you read her use of pauses, punctuation (including half-erased lettering), and multiple voices, you discover both how complex and completely realized her texts are.

I miss her terribly,


Date:         Sat, 13 Sep 1997 12:27:58 -0400
From:         Michael Heller 

Saddened by news of old, old friend Hannah. We met in '64 in Kenneth Koch's New School poetry workshop. She was even then thinking of alternative poetries, and when she visited me the following year in Spain during my expatriate number she'd already begun to draft out Code of Flag Behavior in which I performed as a signal man at G Stern's loft in the late sixties. Many memories now, not only of her highly original poetry but of her sweetness, her generosity and the exercise wherever possible of her canny and genuine zaniness.

Date:         Sun, 14 Sep 1997 11:02
From:         Tom Mandel
Subject:      Hannah Wiener

When with Hannah Wiener you knew you would be recognized for what you radiate. When through a locked door you hear a sound, voice wanting to enter, it is not from beyond it is the door you have to open. No friend more difficult than truth, in which everything simple is so subtle, ineluctable. I befall you; I am an accident. Whom will you find to leave me behind?

Tom Mandel

Date:         Sun, 14 Sep 1997 07:15
From:         Douglas
Subject:      Hannah Weiner


Hannah cared immensely about her writing, and she was interested in having people read and hear her work. In memory of Hannah, I am posting one of her later works, an incredible story/memoir/fantasty/ journal titled "astral visions." This will appear in MR. KNIFE, MISS FORK: PERFORMANCES. "astral visions" © 1997 by Hannah Weiner.

Charles Bernstein saw the original performance of this. Perhaps he will recount some of his impression of it.

Douglas Messerli

Date:	      Sun, 14 Sep 1997 12:58
From:         AERIALEDGE
Subject:      remembered sequel

This is a review written a few years ago which I never published thinking to say more. Hannah thought it was done. Looking at it now, she was right.


on silent teachers / remembered sequel, Hannah Weiner, Tender Buttons, $7.95.

particles marm, have we discussed particles

The thing about being
clairvoyant is the multiplicity
can't be divided. Time
causes the trouble of keeping
up. Seeing so much simultaneously
that the depend & the enact
gather the motion into each
each-- it can get kinda

i free     i see     super working silent

Location leads to narrative.
Narrative leads to namings (i.e. motions (i emotions ( in others (i, i, i, i))).

(also drumming) -- a bunk
as in bed that implicates
all friends. Hannah has
Technical talk:
Narrative of where is it.
No Nylon.
Nobody won't not

publish this in this since--

they all see words w/out

since. That's a key

(canons in cities) which being brightly (like a phone call from fire) would cause one to speak 3-D SO all I mean is read this book out loud period period dot & period

Rod Smith

Date:	      Sun, 14 Sep 1997 12:26
From:         Hank Lazer
Subject:      Re:Hannah Weiner (1928-1997)

My condolences to Charles Bernstein & others who were close to Hannah Weiner. Over the past ten or twelve years, I taught Hannah's writing in my contemporary poetry classes, and I corresponded a bit with her about her writing and about teaching her work. Initially, her writing would evoke great skepticism (particularly among the graduate students in creative writing). Of course, we found various analogous writings in our immediate surroundings--mystic script writing of a number of folk artists, for example (JB Murry, the Reverend Perkins, Howard Finster, Fred Webster, and so on). Others have commented on the fusion of the personal and the experimental in Hannah's writing; I was also struck by the politics of it, especially with regard to Native American activism. Once in my life, I was invited to read in NCY, and did so at The Ear Inn. I was absolutely thrilled when Hannah introduced herself to me. When I was teaching her work, at some point the intensity and vulnerability of her word-vision experience hit me, and continues to hit me.... In many ways, she has helped me to see words in ways I had not known before.

Hank Lazer

Date:         Sun, 14 Sep 1997 22:49
From:         James Sherry
Subject:      Hannah Wiener's Last Book

Roof Books published Hannah's last book: _We Speak Silent_ in 1996. Hannah had been ill off and on for a few years, but no one expected her death. She came to a reading of mine as recently as May 1997 and was vigorous if distracted. She was a wonder and a trial to me for 20 years. I will miss her very much.

James Sherry

Date:	      Mon, 15 Sep 1997 13:03:15 -0500
From:	      Robert A. Harrison
Subject:      for Hannah

for Hannah Weiner

i see polar bears and ice fields
silent with the rags falling
to your eyes. your hair is
like stealing, you beside me in the taxi
the last i'd seen you
to the taxi. thieves coming
in the sheet filled night for you
without a silent thought, a silent
word on your skin your laugh
begins with your HandHeart. on our walks
you taught me how to change things
going from the world
of leather strapped down living, medications
to another place more funny
places, spoken
lighted breathing
circles giving all at once

Robert A. Harrison

Date:         Tue, 16 Sep 1997 22:42
From:         Loss Pequeño Glazier
Subject:      Re: Hannah Weiner (1928-1997)
: Biblio Whee graphy :

: for Hannah Weiner : some Annotations :

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

*A Journal Entry*'s (1975) striking cover photo
the - w - o - r - d - floats; it is upon a forehead
this is the forehead upon which we spe - a - k -
cast like hand puppets on a curtain - full caps s
& ghosts of - l - e - t - t - e - r - s - as o, Taos

of *little books/indians - a composition book* (8
indige'nes mention the ladinos o no sajones (0
on the roof of speckled black and white bords

"& it didn't
(39) caps and verticality nearly dizz (iness)

turning tuning to a *spoke* - seven faced with
tongues from the Beatus of Ferdinand II &
Sancha of Aragon Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid
"name calls it the point" (104) in latters or
gondola-crossing bridges of lines - fragile as
letters lattice bridg waters as thy must. the
prose fast (1992) its blak tiger con leopard
leaping into paper smooth day milk from bare
legs & linen " a neat 3X4 inch piece of cloth
was in its place on the floor
" (15)

* w e e k s * photog 90 b barbar rosenthal
mac spread palettes - i c mac type - i c dot
mtrx - pointilsof img - photo montage - type
faced and pointilate - "the latest finger-
print technology" (unpaged) "were hit with
" (unpaged) "there is no other peace-
ful way to reform
" (unpaged) sumptous shape
and weighty planes in pink bold cover stock

(1983) AWEDE * S 1 6 I 1 6 X 1 6 T 1 6 E 1 6
E 1 6 * moves in white paper slips "within it
was written we are enlarged pancreas
" (unpa)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"W R I T E I T D O W N - sixteen sentences s
G R A N D M O T H E R - een this summe 1982
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
the following is ALL SEEN AS WORDS BEFORE i
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
seen through a half slip of half-light the
translucent inserted sheet printed in red

muted mouth and blazed chalk board wiped
* sileNt teachers : remeMbered sequel * (199
4) "spelling error off the continue"(17) who
what 'classical' b&w pose - for the classi
i fe i phd
" (38)
a lesson to all who value educachievement

*CPDE* {OEMD (1982) "from the INTERNATIONAL
CPDE OF SIGNALS for the Use of All Nation
the closest I have seen to poems in hex
code or how the 8 bit or 7 binary hex dex

Loss =?iso-8859-1?Q?Peque=F1o_?= Glazier
maysheekos antiguos? Or the son who con-
fused his words and instead of tex-mex
called me techno-mex. Vale! The Trans-Pe-
cos and Rio Grande delta. Mexico City
how letters speak from xwords from xfor

:U=i :Ui : "In addition each flag has a
name; A, Alpha, B, Bravo, C, Charle, etc
rich with code and black palettes upon
which in scratchmarks engraved are point
s & boxes mores or bin or MARC morse cod

:U=i :Ui : "<font color=yellow>In addition each flag has a<br>
name; A, Alpha, B, Bravo, C, Charle, etc</font>"<br>
rich with code and black palettes upon<br>
which in scratchmarks engraved are point<br>
s &amp; boxes mores or bin or MARC morse cod<br>

*Nijole's house* in white covers white card
stock and folded endpages 1981 ("WHICH
") (written on Tuesday (son)
con IfnNXIO pIN~EIRO su Cuatro Palomas)

until finally *we do speak silent we speak si-
lent* (1996) tex al mos com for tab ly spr'e'd
out lent op ulent of graphs t words have azes
axes aztec hu nk ed for whitesp ace in the so
"1 funny 2 hilarious i am imperious 3 struck"
(21) or for bob dylan (as post card indicates)

Post Neo's *WRITTEN IN THE ZERO ONE* this g
ray coverstock is sumptu a size iz red
courier but big type as if pressed into
gray ripples of the 'bord' the ex panse i
s where amid this good size for page ii
expn broad blanks o backsides and the wh
ii te is a wealth of what is y iznt in its
ordered steps like ladders or diamond pat
terns on the ball court walls (1990):

Leaping ... Fast

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

is what it
is called and
this is the last
page still slanti
out to the margin

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Loss Pequeño Glazier

Colophon: These responses were collected from from the Poetics List and other sources. Editing and layout by Loss Pequeño Glazier. Copyright for these works remains in the names of their authors. All of Hannah Weiner's work © Hannah Weiner. Special thanks to Douglas Messerli of Sun & Moon Press for permission to include "Astral Visions". Please see note at the end of that text for Sun & Moon's address. This online version features white type on a celestial blue background (bgcolor="3B3BCC"). Text is pure white with featured type in canary yellow. All link phrases are in yellow and are underlined. Words by Hannah Weiner appear in yellow. This file is maintained by the Electronic Poetry Center (Buffalo).

These words are dedicated to the memory of Hannah Weiner.

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