So Long, Lamantia

Poet Philip Lamantia passed away last week at the age of 77. His obituary is available at the San Francisco Chronicle, but I thought, in tribute, I’d put up a couple of his poems. Please feel free to share your thoughts about the poet or his work.

I have given fair warning

I have given fair warning
Chicago New York Los Angeles have gone down
I have gone to Swan City where the ghost
of Maldoror may still roam
The south is very civilized
I have eaten rhinoceros tail
It is the last night among crocodiles
Albion opens his fist in a palm grove
I shall watch speckled jewel grow
on the back of warspilt horses
Exultation rides by
A poppy size of the sun in my skull
I have given fair warning
at the time of corpses and clouds
I can make love here as anywhere
There is this distance between me
and what I see

There is this distance between me and what I see
everywhere immanence of the presence of God
no more ekstasis
a cool head
watch watch watch
I'm here
He's over there . . . It's an Ocean . . .
sometimes I can't think of it, I fail, fall
This IS this look of love
there IS the tower of David
there IS the throne of Wisdom
there IS this silent look of love
Constant flight in air of the Holy Ghost
I long for the luminous darkness of God
I long for the superessential
light of this darkness
another darkness I long for the end of longing
I long for the
it is Nameless what I long for
a spoken word caught in its own
meat saying nothing
This nothing ravishes beyond ravishing
There IS this look of love
Throne Silent look of love

6 Responses

  1. A Poppy the Size of the
    A Poppy the Size of the Sun…

    “A Poppy the Size of the Sun:
    In Honor of Philip Lamantia.”

    A poppy the size of the sun
    Came up in my window
    When the day begun
    The scent nectar of light awakened me,
    Filtered through the curtains
    Psychedelically informed my senses…

    A poppy the size of the sun
    Showed the flowers which
    Way to turn their heads
    To follow the huge shining flower
    In the morning sky.

    A poppy the size of the sun
    Melted the sleet which came
    Down as rain and the water
    Began to run in riverlets
    Of shining crystal H20
    Down into the garden spot
    Below a hughmongus georgia pine.

    Meanwhile, the poppy the size of the sun
    Shines the way for Philip Lamantia’s Soul
    Which is flying toward God’s son
    For a wonderful judgement day…
    As we speak the muse for
    The soul of a beknighted one

    A seer of San Francisco
    Whose mind’s eye held
    The light of this glorious poppy.
    Who imagined in print for us to see-
    Reminiscing verses which nurtured our souls
    As we hoe our garden spot…
    We give this title back to him.

  2. Cool GraceSunglassed splendor
    Cool Grace

    Sunglassed splendor
    steppin’ outta limos
    all over town.

    Six Gallery reading
    Jack passin’ round
    the bottle, Whalen, Allen
    howlin, McClure, Snyder,
    Beat Surrealist obscuring
    the shade.

    Lamantia sliding into
    the fray, reading that
    started a revolution, call
    it no confusion, resonating
    till this very day.

  3. My words inadequateLamantia’s
    My words inadequate

    Lamantia’s voice is such a multi-dimensional tapestried voice, that all i can offer is more of his own words:

    Oneiric Reversal

    I implore the raven of dust to drop his signet, water-drawn, fury’s flower, dawn’s bucket, that reconnoiters the winding terrace to the absolute tuber.

    The Night in her golden lancet sings over the skyscraper I hunt, my doorway adrift to the heat the child’s mind leaps.

    A room of spiked faces replaced by the shredded lake-at-arms where she walks the street of floating sparks… and I, medused… What sleeps away returns an entrance kicked back by the shadow opening the great flower of Night…


    the evening side up

    black lipstick and corolla of thirst

    all the children are necrophiles at bay

    The river, peeling dust, salutes this walking prey: cobbled limestone of a glance more dangerous than clover’s sighing foot.

    The road to the pit in the sky: to see a dog typing into a cat’s liver. No breakfast for the flying spider. The dream of a labyrinth is the shark’s love for humanity leaning to the unknown the geometric wave’s scorpion biting on a window pane of sodomized glass.

    (from Becoming Visible, City Lights Books, Pocket Poets Series Number 39)

  4. Disciples of Disciplines”I Am
    Disciples of Disciplines

    “I Am Coming

    I am following her to the wavering moon
    to a bridge by the long waterfront
    to valleys of beautiful arson
    to flowers dead in a mirror of love
    to men eating wild minutes from a clock
    to hands playing in celestial pockets
    and to that dark room beside a castle
    of youthful voices singing to the moon.

    When the sun comes up she will live at a sky
    covered with sparrow’s blood
    and wrapped in robes of lost decay.

    But I am coming to the moon,
    and she will be there in a musical night,
    in a night of burning laughter
    burning like a road of my brain
    pouring its arm into the lunar lake.”

    (Selected Poems 1943-1966,
    City Lights Pocket Poets Series No.20)

    I held this poem out to my long hair, then, exactly 32 years ago, walking along the river Seine,
    and felt like I had imitated the crystal music, the halo spheres
    of his poems already during puberty and early twenties’ flows.
    Somehow associative writing I thought, stream of consciousness –
    but with another functional giving the order, the echo, wind chimes.

    And when I read this now, or that magnificent ‘Bed of Sphinxes’,
    I’m still amazed, touched, carried away, more than by my own poems which I thought were written with the same texure, at least for me.

    It’s like a rare meeting, of a fellow spirit, a special radiance within a gem, also time-dependent in its sparkle. For me, his work is also central-BEAT, for I’m no critic, I’m allowed to blur the boundaries.

    So long, beautiful mind !


    The load found its new way through magificent ashes
    primates’ greetings filling the air,
    the flowers kissed by rain
    that only they would find a tune
    a change a hollowed sign
    a mason’s portal eyes
    unsleeping veering
    daring clusters, within her nightbed’s ease,
    ridiculous sins swarmed the
    rivers unsleeping
    you wouldn’t leave anyway
    these losses of tracks, your shoes, the red of your cheeks
    real artistry on glassy threads, red-hot ravens,
    transitions, secrets in the cold hall
    interactions by the waterfall, crises, separations,
    dizzy multi-layers of solvents where
    the snake yawned at new-born children,
    bubbling colors of questions,
    monopoly of informations
    chalked paths to impregnated laughter
    tears efforts changes
    nothing to lose in all this strange dream
    petals, proposals and sometimes
    a good friend by the windmill or
    peeping from the cave
    and an eery taste of balance:
    morning’s first warmth
    a tender relief –
    your hand dripping

  5. Take It Cool, PhilHis poetry
    Take It Cool, Phil

    His poetry shows that he was well prepared for his passage hence.

  6. A Poem For PhilipGeorge
    A Poem For Philip

    George Wallace
    for Philip Lamantia

    a blind man walking in a city is a black bird flying through a burning forest. a black bird flying through a burning forest is a street map to a blind man. a blind man is a black bird flying at night through a burning forest who recognizes the smell of rain.

    in fact it is night. in fact it is raining. in fact a black bird flying through a burning city is a streetmap of rain to a blind man. in fact a blind man at night in rain recognizes the streets of a city like the back of his hand.

    in fact a blind man who recognizes the tender smell of rain in a burning forest is a black bird. in fact the back of a blind man’s hand is a burning forest when a black bird is flying through it.

    a black bird is instinctual. a blind man stepping off a curb into the streets of a city is instinctual. rain falling in a burning forest at night is instinctual.

    a blind man walking through a city is rain falling in a burning forest.

    a blind man who has a tattoo of a black bird on the back of his hand resembles falling rain.

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