Philomene Long

I’ve just heard that Los Angeles/Venice Beach poet Philomene Long has passed away.

I interviewed Philomene here on LitKicks last year. I was fascinated by the fact that she was a nun before she was a beat poet, and we talked a lot about religion during this interview. Philomene was also a filmmaker, as well as a close friend and creative partner of Charles Bukowski. You can read more about here at this Empty Mirror Books page or this other Empty Mirror Books page. Here’s an interview with the Santa Monica Mirror, and here’s an early LitKicks review of her movie, The Beats: An Existential Comedy.

But for the best link of all, check out Philomene and her husband John Thomas Philomene reading the great poem “Marriage” by Gregory Corso on YouTube.

5 Responses

  1. And Sekou Sundiata Passed
    And Sekou Sundiata Passed Last Month

    The poet Sekou Sundiata, who taught at Eugene Lang and, I believe, the New School for Social Research, passed away in July.

    An abstract of his NYT obit is here.

    He’ll probably always be best-known for his influence on the musicians, Mike Doughty (formerly the lead singer of the band Soul Coughing, and now a solo artist) and Ani Difranco (folk singer supreme). He released a couple of CDs, spoken-word / jazz hybrids that play like he was Coltrane and Ginsberg’s baby.

    Here’s a YouTube clip of him performing “Reparations” on Def Poetry Jam:


    And… it would have been in 2001, he and his band were actually the opening act for Ani Difranco’s spring tour. And, somehow – miraculously to me, really – I managed to make it backstage to interview him for a journalism piece (that ultimately, sadly, was never published).

    Those 3 or so hours we spent talking (he, me, and my then-girlfriend) were just incredible. He was spirit moving through body, riffing off everything in his, and his people’s history.

    And after his set was done, he came over while Ani played, watching her and hanging out with us. Absolutely incredible.

    I think… or at least, I’d like to think, that when the great ones make their way to that big poetry place in the sky, that their passing reminds us of how much more we’re each truly capable of acheiving.

    Be fearless. Because we might be the best, next.

  2. Long, ‘Linda’, etc.I must
    Long, ‘Linda’, etc.

    I must admit, I don’t recall ever encountering the names ‘Philomene Long’ and ‘John Thomas’ prior to Litkicks. They sound like two interesting characters, to say the least.

    Speaking of lesser-known Beat-era poets from the American west coast, there’s an old piece of film footage, shot circa 1961, floating around at the CBC here in Canada. It was part of a half-hour documentary on the Beat scene that was shot for some Canadian current affairs show of the day, and features a happening in Toronto (staged by two or three future Canadian comedy legends), an interview with an extremely pissed-off Bob Kaufman, and an inside look at three young beat-chicks–Patsy, Skippy and Linda–sharing a pad together in North Beach.

    The young long/dark-haired lady named Linda was revealed to be a painter and published poet, and was one of the most beautiful females I’ve ever seen on television. Does anyone know who she was (the girls’ last names were not given)? Is she still alive? Did she reach any level of fame-and-acclaim for her poems and/or paintings? I’d be interested in knowing–this has all the earmarks of a nice little ‘History Detectives’ sort of scenario.

    The piece has a memorable quote from Kaufman: “In the 1920s, America ran off to Paris and produced Ernest Hemingway. In the 1930s, we ran off to California and produced John Steinbeck. In the 1940s, we ran off to war and produced Norman Mailer. And in the 1950s, we ran off to North Beach and produced the Beat generation.” (Or something like that.)

    The piece was reshown on the CBC in the mid 1990s for a CBC nostalgia show called Sense of History. I taped the episode, but my VCR is currently busted, so I can’t milk the tape for more details regarding the other beats featured, the names of the streets and coffee houses where these scenes were going down, etc., etc.

  3. we are less nowThat was a
    we are less now

    That was a wonderful interview you did, Levi. She seemed like a really nice person. I’m very sad to hear that she’s gone. Feels like we’re less now, then we were before. Thank you for bringing this sweet person to our attention and for the links that we can remember her by.

  4. Philomene LongIndeed it is
    Philomene Long

    Indeed it is true that Philomene has left us. She died last weekend and her body was discovered last Tuesday by her friend Fred Dewey (director of Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center of Venice, CA.)

    Tonight (8/29)there will be a memorial service for Philomene at Zen Center Los Angeles at 7:00 pm. She and her late husband John Thomas were students of the eminent Zen teacher Maezumi Roshi who founded ZCLA in 1967 (he died in 1995.) There was an impromptu memorial last Sunday at the Poets Wall on the Venice Boardwalk.

    I first met Philomene in the mid-1980s but I didn’t get to know her until about 10 years later. She was a fine poet in her own right and a wonderful human being posessed of a remarkable wit and energy. Philomene was planning a trip to Ireland this autumn (her ancestral home,)and maybe she’ll get there in her next life.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!