Philip Whalen

American poet

Philip Glenn Whalen (October 20, 1923 – June 26, 2002) was an American poet and a Zen Buddhist monk.

Philip Glenn Whalen
Born(1923-10-20)October 20, 1923
DiedJune 26, 2002(2002-06-26) (aged 78)
San Francisco, California, US
EducationReed College
Occupation(s)Poet, Zen monk
Years active1950-2002
Known forSan Francisco Renaissance
Notable workScenes of Life at the Capital

Whalen grew up in a small town, The Dalles, Oregon. He went to public schools, and he wrote poetry for his high school magazine. He was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 but stayed in the United States. After the war he went to Reed College. His tuition was paid by the G. I. Bill. There he became a friend of poets Lew Welch and Gary Snyder.[1] They all met poet William Carlos Williams when he visited in 1950.[2] In 1951 Whalen got a B. A. in general literature.[3]

In the early 1950s, Whalen travelled around the West Coast.[1] At one point, Snyder helped him to become a fire lookout in the Cascade Mountains.[3]

He moved to San Francisco in 1955. On October 7, 1955, he read poems at the Six Gallery. He read with Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Lamantia, and Michael McClure. This has been called " birth of the Beat generation."[4] From this time, Whalen's friendship with Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac connected him to the Beat movement. The Six Gallery reading also was the start of the San Francisco poetry renaissance.[3]

In 1973 Whalen became an ordained Zen Buddhist monk. He lived at Zen Centers in San Francisco and Santa Fe, New Mexico.[2][1]

Whalen died in San Francisco in 2002.[5]


  • The Calendar, a Book of Poems. (1951)
  • Self Portrait from Another Direction. (1959)
  • Memoirs of an Interglacial Age. (1960)
  • Like I Say. (1960)
  • Monday in the Evening, 21:VII:61. (1964)
  • Every Day. (1965)
  • Highgrade: Doodles, Poems. (1966)
  • On Bear's Head. (1969)
  • Scenes of Life at the Capital. (1970)
  • Enough Said: Fluctuat Nec Mergitur: Poems 1974-1979. (1980)
  • Heavy Breathing: Poems 1967-1980. (1983)
  • Canoeing up Cabarga Creek: Buddhist Poems 1955-1986. (1996)
  • Overtime: Selected Poems by Philip Whalen. (1999)
  • The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen. (2007)
  • You Didn't Even Try. (1967)
  • Imaginary Speeches for a Brazen Head. (1972)
  • Off the Wall: Interviews with Philip Whalen. (1978)
  • The Diamond Noodle. (1980)
  • Winning His Way, or, the Rise of William Johnson: a diverting history for the instruction & improvement of the breed. (1983)
  • Two Novels. (1985)
  • Goof Book (for Jack Kerouac). (2001)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Philip Whalen". Poetry Foundation. 2023-02-18. Retrieved 2023-02-18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Schelling, Andrew. "Philip Whalen and the Wild Fox Slobber of Zen". Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved 2023-02-18.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Philip Whalen '51". Reed Magazine | In Memoriam. Retrieved 2023-02-18.
  4. Iorio, Paul (October 28, 2000). "A `Howl' That Still Echoes Ginsberg poem recalled". Retrieved February 18, 2023.
  5. "Philip Glenn Whalen". Find a Grave. 2023. Retrieved February 18, 2023.

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