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from - AP Breaking News - 6/7/02

Beat poet co-founder Philip Whalen dies at 78

(06-27) 14:07 PDT SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --

Philip Whalen, an original member of San Francisco's Beat poets who ignited the poetry renaissance of the 1950s and attended the historic Six Gallery reading, has died. He was 78.

Whalen, who died Wednesday after a long illness, was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest in 1973 and served as abbot at the city's Hartford Street Zen Center. Whalen became fascinated with Asian philosophy and poetry years ago after serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II. Born in 1923 in Portland, he attended Reed College on the GI bill after his stint in the military.

"He was a poet's poet," said friend and classmate Gary Snyder. "His intelligence and skill is very subtle and very deep. There are many poets who feel in his debt."

In 1955, Whalen met in a former auto repair shop with Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure and Philip Lamantia. About 150 people showed up for the Six Gallery reading that was organized by Kenneth Rexroth, the so-called "godfather" of the Beats.

Whalen's poetry was soon published in the Evergreen Review and appeared in "New American Poetry," the 1959 Grove Press anthology.

Whalen went on to publish several poetry books, including "On Bear's Head" published in 1967; "Canoeing up Cabarga Creek: Buddhist Poems 1955-1986;" and "Heavy Breathing: Poems 1967-1980."

Days before his passing, Whalen told his friends they were treating the discussion of his death too morbidly. "I'd like to be laid on a bed of frozen raspberries," he said.

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