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Review of Lew Welch’s Ring of Bone
If he’s still alive, Lew Welch will celebrate his 86th birthday Aug. 16. A Reed College graduate and one of the half dozen or so poets, including Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Michael McClure, who emerged from the San
Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s, Welch was a misfit even among the Beats. For years, he held a 9-to-5 job writing and editing advertising copy for Montgomery Ward, the mail-order company. He also taught the University of California Extension Poetry Workshop, while crafting his own poems and short stories.
On May 23, 1971, he wrote a suicide note that read, “I never could make anything work out right and now I’m betraying my friends.” Then, with a gun in hand, he walked into the Sierra Nevada.
He has never been seen or heard from since, and his body has never been found, though fans have turned him into a cult figure, a fate he’d find ironic. A pop poet, Welch wrote for the hipsters, Beats and beatniks who gathered nightly, from about 1954 to 1967, in San Francisco to listen to jazz, drink cappuccinos and sip red wine.
Now, with the publication of “Ring of Bone,” a new collection of his poems, songs and drawings with a foreword by Gary Snyder, he’s on the cusp of recognition as a distinguished American author and the real stuff of American myth and legend. As Snyder writes, “This bright-eyed bardic spirit, Lew Welch still wandering and singing on the back roads – I imagine – at the far edge of the West – will be with us a long time.”
Read the rest of the review here. And if you’re in San Francisco this Thursday, don’t miss Gary Snyder, Joanne Kyger, and Tom Killion celebrating the release of the book in the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Public Library’s main branch. Details here.