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Finding Aid to the Philip Whalen Papers, circa 1923-2002 (bulk 1960-1997)
BANC MSS 2000/93 p  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Alternate Forms Available
  • Related Collections
  • Materials Cataloged Separately
  • Indexing Terms
  • Acquisition Information
  • Accruals
  • System of Arrangement
  • Processing Information
  • Biographical Chronology
  • Scope and Content Note

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Philip Whalen papers
    Date (inclusive): circa 1923-2002
    Date (bulk): 1960-1997
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 2000/93 p
    Creator: Whalen, Philip
    Extent: 2 cartons, 36 boxes, 11 oversize folders, 3 oversize boxes, and 1 tube circa 30 linear feet 4 digital objects (5 images)
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Philip Whalen Papers, circa 1940-2001, consist of the writings (notebooks, poems, prose works), correspondence, professional papers, artwork and personal papers that detail Whalen’s dual life as poet (coming to prominence during San Francisco’s Beat era of the 50’s and often associated with his fellow Reed graduates, Gary Snyder and Lew Welch), and later, Buddhist monk.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.


    Collection open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Materials in this collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Philip Whalen papers. BANC MSS 2000/93 p, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley., BANC MSS 2000/93 p, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Alternate Forms Available

    Digital reproductions of selected items are available.

    Related Collections

    Auerhahn Press.
    Title: Auerhahn Press records, 1959-1967.
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/85 c
    Brautigan, Richard.
    Title: Richard Brautigan papers, [195-].
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 93/91 c
    Brautigan, Richard.
    Title: Richard Brautigan papers, 1958-1984.
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    City Lights Books.
    Title: City Lights Books records, 1953-1970.
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    City Lights Books.
    Title: City Lights Books records: additions, 1947-[on-going], (bulk 1970-1994).
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    Duncan, Robert Edward.
    Title: Robert Edward Duncan papers, 1948-1959 (inclusive), 1952 (bulk)
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    Duncan, Robert Edward.
    Title: Robert Edward Duncan papers, 1960-1977.
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    Duncan, Robert Edward.
    Title: Robert Edward Duncan papers, [ca. 1944-1966]
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    Ferlinghetti, Lawrence.
    Title: Lawrence Ferlinghetti papers, 1919-[on-going].
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    McClure, Michael.
    Title: Michael McClure papers, [ca. 1963-1975].
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    Spicer, Jack.
    Title: Jack Spicer papers, 1954-1964.
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/135 c
    Spicer, Jack.
    Title: Jack Spicer papers, [1956]-1963.
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    Materials Cataloged Separately

    • Printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
    • Videotapes/sound recordings have been transferred to the Microforms Collection of The Bancroft Library.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997
    McClure, Michael
    Sagan, Miriam, 1954-
    Scalapino, Leslie
    Snyder, Gary, 1930-
    Whalen, Philip--Archives
    Whalen, Philip--Art
    Whalen, Velna
    San Francisco Zen Center
    Beat generation--California
    Beat generation--Poetry
    Buddhism--United States
    Poets, American--20th century--California
    Zen Buddhism
    Japan--Description and travel
    Sierra Nevada (Calif. and Nev.)--Description and travel

    Acquisition Information

    The Philip Whalen Papers were purchased by The Bancroft Library on February 7, 2000. Additions were received in 2005 and 2008.


    Additions were received in 2005 and 2008.

    System of Arrangement

    Arranged to the folder level.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Dean Smith in 2002. Additions processed by Dean Smith in 2008.
    1923 Born the only child of Glenn Henry and Phylis Arminta Bush Whalen in Portland, Oregon. Childhood spent in a small town on the Columbia River southeast of Portland called, The Dalles.
    1939 Writes first poem in high school social science class. Mother dies.
    1941 Graduates from high school. Family moves to Portland, Oregon
    1943-1946 Drafted in to the U.S. Army Air Corps. Trained to teach radio operation and repair.
    1946 Attends Reed College under the GI Bill.
    1948-1949? Meets Lew Welch. Meets Gary Snyder soon thereafter.
    1950 Moves into rooming house where Lew Welch and Gary Snyder also lived. William Carlos Williams visits Reed on tour of western states. Whalen, Welch and Snyder give Williams their manuscripts for criticism. Also takes creative writing and calligraphy courses from Reed professor, Lloyd Reynolds.
    1951 Produces a small book of poems, Three Satires. Senior thesis project entitled, The Calendar. Graduates with a degree in Literature and Languages. Moves south to San Francisco, California and then to Venice, California, then returns to San Francisco.
    1952 Moves into an apartment with Gary Snyder. Spends the following three summers working at a fire station in the Skagit Valley of Mt. Baker National Forest.
    1955 Participates in the historic Six Gallery reading that included, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Soon after the reading he meets more of the Beat writers: Neal Cassidy, Gregory Corso, and Peter Orlovsky. Takes peyote for the first time.
    1955-1956? Has first experimental Zen sesshin (meditation practice) with Gary Snyder, Albert Saijo and a few others in a cabin in Mill Valley, California.
    1956 Lives in Berkeley. Meets Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer. Moves to Newport, Oregon for the following two years.
    1959 Returns to San Francisco. Evergreen Review 2: The San Francisco Scene, which includes Whalen, is published. Meets Richard Baker at Grove Press in New York.
    1960 First full-length book of poems, Like I Say, published followed by Memoirs of an Interglacial Age. Included in Donald Allen's New American Poetry anthology.
    1962 Recipient of the Poets Foundation Award.
    1963 Writes first novel, You Didn't Even Try, which was later published in 1967.
    1964 Receives V.K. Ratliff Award.
    1965 NET (The National Educational Television Center) film series, USA: Poetry films a portrait of Whalen. Receives, with the help of Ginsberg, a grant-in-aid from the National Academy of Arts and Letters which helps him pay for his move to Kyoto, Japan.
    1966-1967 Lives in Kyoto, Japan where he teaches English, tours and writes. Gary Snyder and family living in Japan at the same time.
    1967 Returns to California.
    1969 On Bear's Head: Selected Poems published.
    1970 Severance Pay: Poems 1967-1969 published.
    1969-1971 Second trip to Japan. Stays with Richard Baker and family for a brief period.
    1971 Returns to Bolinas, California. Zentatsu Richard Baker Roshi invites Whalen to visit the Zen Center in San Francisco which Whalen accepts. Begins formal Zen training.
    1972 A novel, Imaginary Speeches for a Brazen Head is published. Whalen requests ordination as an Unsui (Zen monk).
    1973 Ordained as Unsui.
    1975 Takes the position of Shuso (acting head monk) at the Zen Mountain Center, in Tassajara Springs, California.
    1976 The Kindness of Strangers: Poems, 1969-1974 published.
    1977 Decompressions: Selected Poems published. Attends the Centrum Foundation poetry conference in Port Townsend, Washington.
    1980 The Diamond Noodle, a prose text, is published.
    1981-1982 Resident head monk at South Ridge Zendo in San Francisco.
    1983 Heavy Breathing, Poems 1967-1983 published. Attends the International Poetry Conference, Rome.
    1984 Presides as Tanto (practice leader) at the Dharma Sangha, Santa Fe, New Mexico under the direction of Zentatsu Richard Baker Roshi.
    1985 Two Novels a reprinting of two earlier books, You Didn't Even Try and Imaginary Speeches for a Brazen Head published.
    1986 Receives the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
    1987 At the end of July Whalen's formal training as Zen monk successfully completed. Receives The Fund For Poetry award.
    1988 Returns to San Francisco were he serves as Godo (head of practice) at the Hartford Street Zen Center. In November works as master in residence in poetry at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
    1992 Becomes abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center, San Francisco.
    1995-1996? Retires as abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center, San Francisco.
    1996 Canoeing up Cabarga Creek : Buddhist poems, 1955-1986 published.
    1999 Overtime: selected poems and Some of these days: poems published.
    2002 Philip Whalen dies in San Francisco, California.

    Scope and Content Note

    The Philip Whalen Papers, circa 1923-2002, consist of the writings (notebooks, poems, prose works), correspondence, professional papers, artwork and personal papers that detail Whalen’s dual life as poet (coming to prominence during San Francisco’s Beat era of the 1950s and often associated with his fellow Reed graduates, Gary Snyder and Lew Welch), and later, Buddhist monk. The bulk of the collection dates from the late 1970s to 2001, but also includes Whalen's early poetry works when he attended Reed College in the late 1940s. These papers complement The Bancroft Library's other extensive holdings documenting the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance.
    Of special interest in the collection are Whalen’s notebooks from 1957-1989. The early notebooks record his daily experiences and observations regarding a variety of topics, e.g. his backpacking trips to the Sierras, various locations he lived in the Bay Area, ruminations about writing and his interactions with other poets and writers associated with the Beat scene, and trips abroad, notably his two extensive stays in Japan. As time progresses the notebooks deal increasingly with Whalen’s entrance into and studies in Zen Buddhism and his long association with the San Francisco Zen Center and its second abbot, Zentatsu Richard Baker-roshi, founder of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and Green Gulch Farm.
    An extensive array of correspondence, both professional and family, includes letters from professional colleagues in both the worlds of poetry and Buddhism. Much of the correspondence with fellow poets includes manuscripts sent to Whalen as gifts or for his professional review. His professional papers range from documents relating to the rights, permissions and royalty statements of published works to interviews, reviews and articles about Whalen as poet and Buddhist. Of interest are the numerous poetry reading announcements that show Whalen’s extensive interaction with his literary colleagues. Also included are notes and papers that Whalen compiled regarding literary and historical sources he used for his writings and on the subject of Zen Buddhism which he used for various courses he taught on the subject.
    Whalen dabbled in art and many of his drawings were used as illustrations in his books of poems. The artworks included in his papers reflect various themes and are often humorous or whimsical in tone. His personal papers, though brief, include such items as his astrological charts, his USDA Forest Service employment papers, a family tree and numerous datebooks that span the time period of the 1980’s - 1990’s. Also included is a folder on Issan Dorsey, founding Abbot of the Hartford Street Zen Center, San Francisco.
    The collection rounds out with materials Whalen gathered on Buddhism, from classic Buddhist texts to contemporary essays. There are also several folders and oversize folders of maps, brochures, and programs relating to Whalen’s visits to Japanese temples and shrines in Kyoto and his attending Noh and Kabuki plays as well as Buddhist art reproductions. At the beginning of the series are a smattering of folders related to the Zen Center and Hartford Street Zen Center, both in San Francisco.
    As noted by Paul Christensen in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, “Philip Whalen has managed to espouse the religious principles of Zen Buddhism without renouncing the world around him, retaining a humorous, whimsical balance in his poems, and mixing the pleasures of California life with contemplation in such a way as to persuade readers that the flesh and spirit may be enjoyed together in the fulfillment of one’s life.”