Poetry News

Celebrating Lew Welch

By Harriet Staff

From the San Francisco HuffPo:

On a recent evening, hundreds of people gathered at the San Francisco public library to honor Welch and to celebrate the publication of by the fabled City Lights bookshop and publishers of Ring of Bone, an updated selection of Welch's writing. His good friend, the equally fabled poet Gary Snyder, put the event together and welcomed the packed crowd by saying, "I keep looking around to see if there is anybody who looks like Lew here!" Snyder was alluding to Welch's disappearance and to what has been called the cult of the turkey buzzard, for in one of Welch's final and most famous poems, "Song of the Turkey Buzzard," he gave instructions for what he wished done with his body after death: a "sky burial," long practiced in some parts of the planet such as Tibet, wherein carnivore birds are encouraged to ingest one's flesh and fly away with it. Coincidentally or otherwise, the Wall Street Journal that week published Nature's Undertaker, a review of a Life Everlasting, a new book on the practice by the great naturalist Bernd Heinrich.

Then, later, on Welch's influence:

Welch's friend and renowned poet, Joanne Kyger, also recalled his magnetic personality and remembered him saying, as lament or not, that "It looks like I am fated to be one to whom 'interesting' things happen -- perhaps aware even then of the Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times." Another veteran poet, David Meltzer, fondly recalled Welch as "a great tormented mentor"; actor Peter Coyote remembered Welch as a great entertainer onstage or off and as "the first proto-Buddhist I ever met." Huey Lewis -- yes, the rocker, who was sort of a son-in-law of Welch -- soulfully sang one of Welch's poems, and his friend Steve Sanfield, one of the last to see Welch alive, read a poem as if speaking to Welch himself, concluding "All day long we looked for you... I looked for your great wheeling bird; there were only the clouds."

Full article here.

Originally Published: July 23rd, 2012
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