Poetry News

Gary Snyder, Joanne Kyger, David Meltzer, Huey Lewis & Friends Celebrate Lew Welch

By Harriet Staff

The City Lights blog has done a writeup of the recent Celebration of Lew Welch's Ring the Bone, which took place last week and had Gary Snyder gathering friends: "He brought Joanne Kyger, David Meltzer, Peter Coyote, Jerry Martien, Steve Sanfield, Tom Killion, and Huey Lewis (!) to the San Francisco Public Library for what was a very inspired and moving tribute to the brilliant poet." Apparently Huey Lewis was Lew Welch's stepson? "In addition to honoring his stepfather Lew Welch in his stage name, musician Huey Lewis paid tribute by singing the poem 'Graffiti,' which he said he thought of as a song, as Welch often sang it around the house." Welch, as you may know, died in 1971:

Lew Welch entered Reed College in 1948, and the following year moved into a house with Gary Snyder; they were soon joined by Philip Whalen. With the emergence of the Beat movement, Welch’s friends began receiving national attention and his desire to devote himself completely to his poetry was galvanized. He soon became a part of the San Francisco poetry scene. Despite his burgeoning success, Welch suffered from bouts with depression, and on May 23, 1971, Snyder went up to Welch’s campsite in the Sierra Nevada mountains and found a suicide note. Despite an extensive search, Welch’s body was never recovered.

As for the event (and you must see the incredible photos--that's Joanne Kyger above):

David Meltzer had the crowd laughing, as always. A poet and musician of the Beat era, he’s been described “one of the greats of post-World-War-Two San Francisco poets and musicians,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

As the poets read, the artwork of printmaker Tom Killion streamed in the background. Killion, who long studied Welch’s life and works, included Welch’s poetry in his book Tamalpais Walking: Poetry, History and Prints.

Poet, activist, and close friend Jerry Martien discussed how their group of friends went looking for Welch after he disappeared into the mountains and read a poem dedicated to him. Another close friend, Steve Sanfield, paid tribute to Welch. An award-winning author, poet, and folklorist, Sanfield is also strongly influenced by Zen in his writing.

There should be audio up there soon; for now, check out the full post, which also includes info on the book.