Lew Welch


If it is accurate there will always be beauty.

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 Charles Olson,
from 1713 Buchanan Street,
San Francisco, 9 August 1960

Dear Mr. Olson,   Just read your letter [of 6 May] to Dave Haselwood praising my poem and want to use this as a way to start writing you — something I've wanted to do for some time. Thanks for the appreciative remarks — coming from you, they mean a great deal to me.

You "missed my previous stuff, mainly because all through the dark early fifites I certainly didn't want to appear in any mag. I knew of — went underground, tried to keep writing despite the carping and all. I don't have the strength of temperament to go it alone. What happened was a gradual retreat into overplainness and severe constipation. Chicago. Where 10 lines a year was pretty good production and people honestly used to challenge me (as I tried to get on the way to talking about something) at the level of whether or not there was such a thing as "pride" and "truth." Poor babies, they honestly don't know.

Then began reopening correspondence with Whalen and Snyder (old classmates from Reed where we really had something going about 1950 — comparable, but smaller and different, to the scene you got under way at Black Mountain — our Buddhas: Stein and Williams: trying to learn to trust our own ears and breath).

But I strayed off into the bleakest regions of 'Murca and let them badly bend me around for awhile. Then huge rebirth in 1957 or thereabouts: 80 pages of damned up stuff squirting out of me in about 30 days. Whalen, it was mainly, that got me valves unglued again. Then back to these mountains, this coast which made me. It's been real good lately.

Enough of this — as the mad old Kraut says "stop yammerin' about how you got out from under it all. All I care about is your masterthought."

Am now working along the path started in Wobbly Rock: trying to set down the truths I learned from Mahayana — but religiously straight (no reliance upon Japanese forms, images, things). It must be made in terms strictly found in my part of this planet — to use yr. phrase, the "breathing" must be ours. The gesture ours. Our rocks. For this is how I know it and "after all you can only tell what you know in the only way you know of telling it. Of course, it may not interest anybody, in which case too bad." Only I know (just as she did) that it's almost sure to interest everybody if done truly. So I have always gone only on the standard of accuracy. If it is accurate there will always be form. If it is accurate there will always be beauty. If it is accurate it will have to count. So it's fierce and starkly simple: you don't have to worry (or even consider) these things.

Which is why I especially prize yr. remark: ". . . such individual acts (instead of the whole damned heavy machinery of the age etc.)." I come on pretty quiet for lots of folks right now. And while I'm definitely the sort that feeds on, that gets big nourishment from the wilder temperaments that got us off our asses, still I just ain't of that breed of cats (though too nutty to get jobs and/or impress our $20,000-a-year-cold-ladies). It's a very exciting time. The whole thing rests squarely on self/other. The bone is perception. The strongest stance of mind: the alert repose described by all them swingin' Asiatics who not only made it, but who so lucidly tell us how they got there. Anyone can SAY "there is no separation" — the point is to PERCEIVE this, knowing you perceive it, and not (somehow) letting this knowing fuck everything up. Fascinating exercise! Crazy university of endless courses and no diploma! All process (the rub — only the rubbing!).

And yet, as I've been insisting to Duncan in a recently started correspondence, the poems must be about something. Naturally. It's the weddings we record. Now we might (as we all do) spend fascinating hours with Gertie's essence of the going — but man, that gas is always the same. What I want to know is WHAT'S GOING ON OUT THERE? Like those satyrs you saw on that beach. Yes!

(always remembering there is no separation)

Right now it's a book on self/other: LEO POEMS:  THE BOOK OF LEO WITH COMMENTARIES BY A RED MONK

I have a quiet room and this magic typewriter (a new Royal: notice the type face? The pretty "k" etc?). I have no excuses.     Lew


"those satyrs": "The Lordly and Isolate Satyrs."