“decorate all these blank white pages”

Bookslut | “Beyond This Universe of Countless Words”:

While some might see this kind of writing as incoherent and lacking focus, the collage extends notions of self, memory, perception, and reflection in ways unique to Whalen’s modernist collage. Significantly, Whalen provides what Kenneth Burke has called ‘strategies for living.’ Such strategies provide readers with a richly textured poem that comments on the force of memory and imagination in the creation of everyday experience. Spiritual and philosophical introspection is often tempered with humorous outbursts of self-awareness, commentary on the concretely situated flesh-and-blood body in space, and historically framed contexts that give meaning to the accident of occasion. Such accidents appear in Whalen’s work in need of redemption from the peculiarities of chance. His work suggests instead that separation is an illusion, that things cohere as experience within a life remembered and continually re-processed and situated in the subtly shifting coordinates we all must ride. Poetry provides an imposed limitation on these phenomenal movements, for it demands translation of perception into a particularly ordered language. Again, in Burke’s terms, Whalen shows us how to expand our capacities of seeing, feeling, and thinking about the world and the particular environments we inhabit.

Particularly perceptive review of Whalen’s work in the the context of the recent Collected Poems. Whalen is by far my favorite of all the Beats. For the most part Whalen seems onto something entirely different than Kerouac Ginsberg Corso et al; his lumping in there is an accident of history.

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