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Philip Whalen began his writing life as a poet dedicated to modernist literary techniques, later discovering his voice through experimental poetry that became increasingly influenced by his devotion to Zen Buddhism. During his early experimental phase, Whalen moved from job to job, including three summers as a fire lookout in Washington state. Even after achieving early fame through his participation in the 1955 Six Gallery reading, Whalen continued to search for spiritual meaning, making multiple trips to Japan to study Buddhism, during one of which he spent time with Gary Snyder, his roommate from Reed College and fellow participant in the Six Gallery reading. Whalen's interest in Zen Buddhism advanced to the point that he decided to dedicate his life to the practice and was ordained as a monk in 1973. Poetry continued to be an important part of Whalen's life, though he gradually devoted more time and energy to his administrative duties at the San Francisco Zen Center.
Philip Whalen, beat, beat poetry, beat movement, San Francisco
Carlson, Paden, "Philip Whalen" (2016). Beat Exhibit. 7.