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Sunday, 9 September 2012

Philip Whalen: Discriminations


File:Cyclamen persicum group.JPG

A bank of wild Cyclamen persicum, Lavi Park, north Israel: photo by Shlomo Jeret, 9 March 2007

Early morning hot moonlight
A catastrophe, the garden too theatrical
Feels wild, unearthly
H. P. Lovecraft could use his favorite adjective:

The "shooting-star" flowers that Mama used to call "bird-bills"
Bloom around the Hogback graveyard
Suzuki Roshi's great seamless monument
Wild cyclamen, actually, as in the Palatine Anthology
I go home and mend my rakusu with golden thread.

Tassajara, 24.ii.78

Philip Whalen (1923-2002): Discriminations, 24 February 1978, from Heavy Breathing, Poems 1967-1980 (1980)


Cyclamen persicum: photo by MathKnight, 7 February 2009


Cyclamen persicum flowers, Givat HaRakafot, Israel
: photo by MathKnight and Zachi Evenor, February 2010

File:Cyclamen persicum - Çevlik, Hatay province, Turkey.jpg

Cyclamen persicum,
Çevlik, Hatay Province, Turkey: photo by Maarten Sepp, 1 April 2009

File:Cyclamen 'Stirling'.jpg

Cyclamen persicum, cultivar 'Stirling', Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Tasmania
: photo by JJ Harrison, 24 June 2009

File:Japanese buddhist monk by Arashiyama cut.jpg

A Sōtō monk wearing his light-brown rakusu over his robes. Yuzen is a Buddhist monk from the Sōtō Zen sect. Here he is seen begging at Oigama, Arashiyama, Kyoto. Begging is part of the training of some Buddhist sects: photo by Marubatsu, 21 May 2006

The Hogback, above Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Ventana Wilderness area of Los Padres National Forest: photo by David Silva, April 2010

Mountain landscape near Tassajara: photo by David Silva, April 2010

Mountain landscape near Tassajara: photo by David Silva, April 2010




Beautiful beautiful beautiful -- "Discriminations," "shooting stars," Mountain landscape


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, planet next to black pine branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

and which will soon be here,
and so to it is in it

when used to say, “you must
know, you must forget”

silver line of sun reflected in channel,
waning white moon in cloudless blue sky

Anonymous said...

wonderful...!! love the mountains!

David said...

Thanks for including my photos of the Ventana wilderness surrounding Tassajara. Thought your readers might be interested: these are images taken the first Spring after the Basin Complex Fire severely burned all of the Ventana sourounding Tassajara. For an amazing account of the fire read Fire Monks by Colleen Busch. And, if you're interested, here's a link to photos I used in a self-published book I made about the fire, titled Regarding Fire and Birth: Photgraphy, Ecology and Zen.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Flowers indiscriminate
all over the place it would seem
poet thread
the eye
of your needle
like a monk would.

Last night went to see
what all the commotion was about

white stars on the ground white
in the moonlight
between ferns

Were they moon moths
or butterflies
white bats hanging
lovely as memories
too numerous to count.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

It is dry there
after the devastation
plus summer

but we see where
the Mummy has been

leaving a trail
to the future

to the secrets
of the ancients

hidden under some rocks.
I go begging
for these secrets

under the tutelage
of a master
in detection.
Hint: he is not the Mummy

Susan Kay Anderson said...

I've read about the particular
sadness of the lemon cake*
but the discriminations
of September 7th cake
takes the cake
at the foot
the mountain
once beautiful
with its unfortunate name.

Search & Rescue has begun
for the perfect
greeting card
say it better
or a tattoo
of a daisy on my shoulder
where she pulled
and always escaped
her leash
despite all the worry
all the focus.

*novel by Aimee Bender

TC said...

Whether in the moonlight at the foot of the mountain or among the shooting stars scattered below us on the ground or up and out there beyond the peak, it is of our gratitude to kind friends we would wish to speak; from here in the quiet night...

David, that's beautiful set of photos. And it's particularly helpful to have your comment. In putting this together I pondered the question of adding to your captions a bit of information about the fire, which of course occurred long after Phil composed this poem. But now you've done that for me; many thanks for that, and for attending with such great care and loving eye to this magnificent piece of the planet.

Anonymous said...

First Frank O’Hara and now Philip Whalen and the great legacy of 20th Century AmPo they represent – guaranteed to get my attention every time. We should all have a rakusu to mend with golden thread. PW unpacking boxes of books shortly after he had taken up residence at the Zen Center commenting that the recently published Collected FOH was a “doorstop” as if such a collection was somehow unseemly, but said, I think, with just a trace of envy.

TC said...


Well Phil was always so grumpy and crotchety about everything, bless his heart, and that book IS a doorstop... but a very solid foundation also, and too it was made possible not by committees or boards of academic wardheelers but by the grand expert thoroughgoing professional editorial work of Phil's gracious sometime host Don Allen. The care and competence beyond anything the past masters might get now.

Don of course did the editorial honours (among other services) for both these poets. Those lovely later books of Phil's were all his doing.

Back "in the day" there seemed no inconsistency in thinking about Phil's poems and Frank's poems in the same thought. Different speed and pacing, but with both, the sense of humour and vernacular grasp, American sophisticated intelligent high style.

After Frank's passing I placed Phil's The Garden up against Tony Towle's Sunrise Ode to Frank O'Hara in PR #41, 1967. That seemed a natural and respectful fit.

Don, as Frank's executor, having seen Phil's Four Poems in #46, then gave me ten great Frank poems ne'er before seen. Frank's set came out in the magazine in #47, 1968. I look back upon all this work and this landscape now as classic, these two poets as twin peaks.


Thanks for all this bit of history Tom -- Frank and Phil and Don and all, all "past masters" indeed

larry white said...

Such a magical golden oldie from Whalen. As if "you didn't even try." And, tho I might have read it long before, tho I doubt it, uncanny, if not eldritch, to read your posting of it (then following the rakusu thread on wikipedia) just after writing some lines inspired by Mary Butts' The Crystal Cabinet:

Today I rescued a dictionary
and vice-versa: not the OED
but the best I've got, Mom's 1963
graduation gift, The World Book's two big volumes
heavy enough for book ends,
to rescue me from the laziness and ignorance
shown in not looking up words
found in books, unknown,
only a few I stumble on via the internet.

Mary Butts' The Crystal Cabinet intervened
with such delights as begged to be defined
by turns of the printed pages at my side.
Next stop: the internet,
where 'coty-house' and 'scaifed' may not hide.