Lew Welch


"There you go Welch, flaying yourself again."  

from How I Work as a Poet

to Dorothy Brownfield, 28 September 1949

to Dorothy Brownfield, et al, 4 November 1950

to Philip Whalen, 7 July 1957

to Donald Allen, 18 December 1959

to Charles Olson, 9 August 1960

to Larry Eigner, 7 September 1961

draft of a letter to Robert Duncan, July 1962

to James Schevill, 16 October 1966

to Robert D. Wilder, 19 June 1969

from How I Read Gertrude Stein



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To Donald Allen,
from 728 Plumas Street, Reno,
18 December 1959

Don,    This was written when I was 23 despite the reluctance of the entire Reed staff (excepting Frank Jones who, even tho he could not read Stein looked upon being my advisor as a challenge, and worked with me with good glee).

I wrote it in 3 weeks and everybody thot it was very good. After my orals (which I, myself, with all that youth, conducted from a great overstuffed chair, tolerating all questions, answering magnanimously), the newcritic of the staff, Macrae, said:

        – I wonder why I would rather read you than Stein. and I said (high, on air and victory)

        – Some people would rather read anybody on anybody than anybody.

Which really hurt him and made me feel terrible because I have never been able to speak really comfortably from my arrogance.

Then Williams came to Reed on his tour (see his Autobiog.) and Whalen and Gary and I met him and we all wrote poems together, drunk, and when Williams opened his lecturing he said: "It is a pleasure to be here at Reed which is the only college I have seen that understands the importance of Gertrude Stein."

I told Williams I was coming to NY and he invited me to visit his home, which I did, and he offered to write an intro to the book (which he always called "your Stein script") and wanted me to give it to his editor at Random House.

And [at] this point my big freeze began. I thot: it isn't mature enough. It isn't smart enough. I don't know the difference between meaning and being. I ought to compare it to Dewey or something. I don't want to start a critic, I'm a poet. Etc.

Whalen used to say: "There you go Welch, flaying yourself again."

The freeze was a long one, another story, but anyway I didn't really try to do anything with it.

So the thesis has a story.

I think a lot of different things about it now. Pleased at yr. request to read it. It was typed up at great expense by an idiot steno, so you'll have to drive your wit through typos.          Lew

[P. S.] Allen also said he'd like to read it maybe, I'll leave that up to you — I worry about his finding time for real work.


"This was written": Welch is describing the B.A. thesis he wrote on Gertrude Stein at Reed College in 1950.