"You will probably be our greatest living poet since Whitman."—Henry Miller, letter to Philip Lamantia, 1/26/55
The 59th installment of the Pocket Poets Series presents two long-lost books from the classic Beat period. Tau is Philip Lamantia's mystical second collection of poems, slated for publication in 1955 but suppressed by the poet due to his evolving religious beliefs. Mysterious and austere, the poems of Tau are an essential addition to Lamantia's published work, documenting the period between his teenage surrealist debut Erotic Poems (1946) and the religious poems of Ekstasis (1959), also the period of his closest association with Kenneth Rexroth. Later in 1955, when he participated in the 6 Gallery reading where Allen Ginsberg debuted"Howl," Lamantia read none of his own work, instead reading the poems of his best friend, John Hoffman (1928-1952), a legendary Beat poet who died of unknown causes in Mexico at age 24. An archetype of the Beat-era hipster—tall, lean, goateed, and bespectacled—Hoffman is depicted along with Lamantia and others in "Howl," as well as in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums (1958). Yet despite its literary and historical importance, Hoffman's work has never before been published.
Journey to the End makes available for the first time all of Hoffman's surviving poems, an event for scholars and fans of Beat literature. Presented together in a single volume, Tau and Journey to the End are two of the most significant recent additions to the Beat canon. The volume also includes Lamantia's commentary on his friend's life and work, poems by Lamantia dedicated to Hoffman, and detailed biographical notes on both poets.
Footage of readings from the Tau/Journey to the End celebration at Moe's Books in Berkeley on April 22, 2008
Praise for Tau and Journey to the End:
"Here are Philip Lamantia's light-scattering jewels of the Fifties!"
— Michael McClure, author of Huge Dreams: San Francisco and Beat Poems
"The rediscovery of Tau is the literary equivalent of finding lost treasure. Alchemical gold––blood of pure imagination––courses through these lines by the magus of American poetry."
—Andrew Joron, author of The Cry at Zero: Selected Prose