Philip Whalen


Born October 20, 1923
Died June 26, 2002

Beat Generation Writer

Philip Whalen was one of the six poets who read at the historic Six Gallery Reading in San Francisco on October 7, 1955. He read Plus Ça Change...

Whalen was born in Portland, Oregon and went to Reed College where he lived with Gary Snyder and Lew Welch.

During World War II, Whalen served in the United States Army Air Corps. Also, during the war, he began to read the work of Gertrude Stein.

His involvement with the Beat Generation vortex began in 1955 when he met Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and other poets and writers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In Kerouac's Dharma Bums, Whalen appears as the character called Warren Coughlin.

Jack Kerouac described Whalen one time as "180 pounds of poet meat."

Whalen spent time in Japan studying Buddhism and in 1973 he was ordained a Zen priest. Currently is the abbot of a Zen center in San Francisco.

Philip Whalen

Batting Record YEAR TEAM POS BA AB H HR RBI 1984 Beats 3b .257 525 135 12 58 1985 Beats if .182 11 2 0 1 1987 Beats of .297 360 107 8 39 1995 Beats if/o .307 635 195 22 101 1996 Pisces 3b .221 136 30 3 7 5 Seasons .281 1667 469 45 206

"Plus Ça Change..."

What are you doing

I am coldly calculating
I didn't ask for a characterization.
Tell me what we're going to do.

That's what I'm coldly calculating
You had better say "plotting" or "scheming"
You never could calculate without a machine.

Then I'm brooding. Presently
A plot will hatch.
Who are you trying to kid?

Be nice.
Listen. Whatever we do from here on out
Let's for God's sake not look at each other
Keep our eyes shut and the lights turned off--
We won't mind touching if we don't have to see.

I'll ignore those preposterous feathers.
Say what you please, we brought itall on ourselves
But nobody's going out of his way to look.

Who'd recognize us now?
We'll just pretend we're used to it.
(Watch out with that goddamned tail!)
Pull the shades down. Turn off the lights
Shut your eyes.
There is no satisfactory explanation.
You can talk until you're blue
Just how much bluer can I get?
Well, save breath you need to cool
Will you please shove the cuttlebone a little closer?
All right, until the perfumes of Arabia
Grow cold. Ah! Sunflower seeds!
Will you listen, please? I'm trying to make
a rational suggestion. Do you mind?
Certainly not. Just what shall we tell the children?

--Philip Whalen.

This poem was read at the Six Gallery reading.

SOURCE: Michael McClure, Scratching the Beat Surface.

1997 Dharma Beats Roster

1997 Philip Whalen Cosmic Player Plate
Published: December 24, 1996
Updated: October 31, 1997
Updated: June 26, 2002
© 1996, 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association