Lew Welch is one of many lesser known beat poets who were present at the some of the key events that constitute the 'beat legend'. He wrote beautifully and knew a lot of sadness. Welch disappeared in 1971, he left a suicide note but his body has never been found. Shortly after his already selected collected poetry appeared and in 2012 this was reissued by City Lights with a bunch of B-sides: poems not in the original (for good reason) and a "statement of poetics" Welch's observation on language and poetic language (very original, brilliant). I am not a great reader of poetry (I like bits of Kerouac, Ginsberg I find nearly unpalatable, Snyder only of mild interest, McClure hopelessly pretentious, Waldman a fake) but here I have found a voice to cherish. Google books has a preview. Only a zombie can ignore the silent beauty of this:
Notes From a Pioneer on a Speck in SpaceAnd this poem about a plant also deserves to be quoted in the context of this blog (how can you come up with the idea to write about a plant like this!!):
Few things that grow here poison us.
Most of the animals are small.
Those big enough to kill us do it in a way
Easy to understand, easy to defend against.
The air, here, is just what the blood needs.
We don’t use helmets or special suits.
The Star, here, doesn’t burn you if you
Stay outside as much as you should.
The worst of our winters is bearable.
Water, both salt and sweet, is everywhere.
The things that live in it are easily gathered.
Mostly, you eat them raw with safety and pleasure.
Yesterday my wife and I brought back
Shells, driftwood, stones, and other curiosities
Found on the beach of the immense
Fresh-water Sea we live by.
She was all excited by a slender white stone which:
“Exactly fits the hand!”
I couldn’t share her wonder;
Here, almost everything does.
Slowly in the swamps unfold
great yellow petals of a
savage thing, a
While no stilt-legged birds watch,
no monkey screams,
those great yellow petals