In Zen You can Just Play with the Beads. On the Death of Joanne Kyger. Barry Magid March 25th 2017

Joanne Kyger, one of the original members of the San Francisco Renaissance beat poetry scene, died this week. Barry reads a poem of hers in memory.

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Philip Whalen's Hat

I woke up about 2:30 this morning and thought about Philip's
It is bright lemon yellow, with a little brim
all the way around, and a lime green hat band, printed
with tropical plants.
It sits on top
of his shaved head. It upstages every thing & every body.
He bought it at Walgreen's himself.
I mean it fortunately wasn't a gift from an admirer.
Otherwise he is dressed in soft blues. And in his hands
a long wooden string of Buddhist Rosary beads, which he keeps
moving. I ask him which mantra he is doing - but he tells me
in Zen, you don't have to bother with any of that.
You can just play with the beads.

Joanne Kyger died this week, aged 82. Her name may not be all that familiar to most of you, but she was one of the original members of the San Francisco Renaissance beat poetry scene back in the 50's and 60's. One of the only female members among the group that included Robert Duncan, Michael McClure and Jack Spicer and then more well known people to us like Philip Whalen, Alan Ginsburg, and Gary Snyder.

Joanne Kyger and Gary Snyder in fact were married in the early sixties and she lived with him in Japan during the years that he was doing his Zen training there. She came back to the states and settled in San Francisco and Bolinas and became part of that local poetry scene.

In most histories of the day she probably counts as a minor figure. Yet, as a minor figure myself, I feel attention should be paid.

Looking back through her poems, trying to pick one to read to you today, turns out that I think one of her best, perhaps tellingly, is about one of her more famous male friends, Philip Whalen.

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