Philip Lamantia was born on October 23, 1927 in San Francisco, where as a teenager he discovered Surrealism and began to write poetry. Soon after he travelled to New York to meet Andre Breton, who immediately recognized the young man’s talent and began publishing his poems. Lamantia’s work appeared in Breton’s VVV, as well as Charles Henri Ford’s View and other experimental journals.
While in New York, Lamantia became friends with Carl Solomon and Allen Ginsberg and several other members of the crowd that would later create the Beat movement. Lamantia was first up to read at the Six Gallery poetry reading in 1955. Instead of reading his own works that night, he read several poems by a friend, John Hoffman, who’d recently died in Mexico, apparently of a peyote overdose.
Now classified, however incorrectly, as a Beat poet, Lamantia published several popular books of surrealist poetry, and has remained active in avant-garde circles.