Whalen, Philip (Glenn) 1923-2002
WHALEN, Philip (Glenn) 1923-2002
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born October 20, 1923, in Portland, OR; died June 26, 2002, in San Francisco, CA. Monk, poet, and author. Whalen earned a lasting place among the poets of the Beat generation whose work kindled a historic poetry renaissance in San Francisco in the 1950s. A compatriot of and sometimes mentor to the likes of Allen Ginsburg, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, and Jack Kerouac, Whalen created a voice that critics lauded as uniquely his own. Admirers cited in particular Whalen's ability to blend the principles of eastern spirituality with the earthly pleasures of everyday life and to express himself with a freedom that belied the discipline with which he approached his muse. He was described as a modest man who eschewed the celebrity of an academic poet in favor of a life of contemplation; he wrote, not for the critics, but for his own fulfillment. After spending several years in Japan, during which he produced the bulk of his published work, Whalen was ordained a Zen Buddhist priest in 1973. Taking the name Zenshin Ryufu, he served as a monk in the San Francisco area, including a term as abbot of the Hartford Street Zen Center. Whalen wrote nearly two dozen books, including a few novels, but it is for his poetry that he will be remembered. Selected titles include Memoirs of an Interglacial Age, Like I Say, On Bear's Head, The Kindness of Strangers: Poems, 1969-1974, Canoeing up Cabarga Creek: Buddhist Poems, 1955-1986, and Overtime: Selected Poems. For the originality and experimental nature of his work, Whalen received the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1985.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Independent (London, England), July 2, 2002, obituary by Tom Raworth, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2002, obituary by Tony Perry, p. B13.
New York Times, July 2, 2002, p. C18.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 27, 2002, obituary by Heidi Benson, p. A19.
Washington Post, June 29, 2002, p. B6.