ABA Mobile Menu
Stars Seen in Person: Selected Journals of John Wieners (Paperback)
A contributor to Donald Allen's seminal New American Poetry anthology, John Wieners was on the periphery of many of the twentieth century's most important avant-garde poetry scenes, from Black Mountain and the Boston Renaissance to the New York School and the SF Renaissance. Having achieved cult status among poets, Wieners has also become known for the compelling nature of his journals, a mixture of early drafts of poems, prose fragments, lists, and other fascinating minutiae of the poet's imagination. Stars Seen in Person: Selected Journals of John Wieners collects four of his previously unpublished journals from the period between 1955 and 1969. The first journal depicts a young, openly gay, self-described "would-be poet" dashing around bohemian Boston with writer and artist friends, pre-drugs and pre-fame. By the last book, decimated by repeated institutionalization (the first for drug-related psychosis, the rest the consequence of the first) and personal tragedies, Wieners is broken down and in great pain, but still writing honestly and with detail about the life he's left with. These journals capture a post-war bohemian world that no longer exists, depicted through the prism of Wieners' sense of glamour.
Praise for Stars Seen in Person
"Like Rimbaud in Season in Hell, or Baudelaire with Intimate Journals, there's an unguarded spark and trust in John Wieners because impulse and imagination reign supreme. In 1955 he writes, "I shall try the only true thing I want to do. I shall go to my poems." Predating The Hotel Wentley Poems, moving through Ace of Pentacles, and ushering us into his life before Nerves, Stars Seen in Person further illuminates John as our future/former best unkept secret."--Micah Ballard
"Thanks to Michael Seth Stewart's editorial legerdemain, at long last we have the magnificent John Wieners here before us, in his full undressed splendor: poet, stargazer, philosopher, shaman, fl neur, survivor. His journals--an inspiring monument, filled with taut provocations and purple illuminations--are valuable as cultural history, as lyric performance, as uninhibited autobiography, and as a motley, genre-defying epitome of gesamtkunstwerk aesthetic possibilities that seem as fresh and enticing as anything being dreamt up today."--Wayne Koestenbaum
"These pages of notebooks and poetry--so exhaustively exhumed and returned to light and breath--are equivalent to Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, but in reverse. John Wieners (forever young) evolved through his prose notes towards a sustained poetics of adolescence, holding that tormented phase on a long unyielding band-wave, resisting the sop of adult living with all his might and undergoing the inevitable punishments that such persistence brings."--Fanny Howe
"John Wieners remains one of the best poets of my generation. His work & life continue to influence younger poets. These journals reveal his deep commitment to poetry & the poem; they contextualize his constant questing & devotion to the art. I knew John during many of the periods his journals cover &, as always, remain amazed & moved by his deeply examined honesty & purity."--David Meltzer
John Wieners studied with Charles Olson at Black Mountain College, and later edited the small magazine Measure. He lived for a year and a half in San Francisco, where he wrote his breakthrough book, Hotel Wentley Poems (1958). In the early seventies he settled into an apartment on Boston's Beacon Hill, where he lived and wrote until his death in 2002.
About the Author
John Wieners was born in 1934 in Milton, Massachusetts. Dissatisfied with his Boston College education and electrified by the work of poet/scholar Charles Olson, he went to study under Olson at Black Mountain College for two nonconsecutive terms in the school's final days. Transformed by the experience, he returned to Boston and began editing the small magazine Measure, which brought together geographically and stylistically disparate poets like Black Mountain classmates Michael Rumaker and Ed Dorn, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, whose first published poems (from Mexico City Blues) appeared in the second issue. He lived for a year and a half in San Francisco, where he wrote his breakthrough book, 1958's The Hotel Wentley Poems, the first publication from Dave Haselwood's Auerhahn Press. Upon returning to the East Coast, his parents were so concerned for his drug-addled state that they forcibly committed him to the first of several hospitalizations, where he was administered electroshock and insulin coma treatments that left him forever altered. In the 1964 he published his first full-length collection, Ace of Pentacles (Phoenix Bookshop Press), followed by Pressed Wafer, Asylum Poems, and Nerves, which Ginsberg called "three magisterial books of poetry that stand among the few truthful documents of the late 1960s era." In the early '70s he settled into his apartment at 44 Joy Street on Boston's Beacon Hill, where he lived and wrote (including his monumental 1975 collection Behind the State Capitol, or, Cincinnati Pike) until his death in 2002. Michael Seth Stewart: Michael Seth Stewart lives in New York City. He recently earned his PhD, editing the complete letters of John Wieners. He teaches literature and film studies at Hunter College. He also edited The Sea Under the House: The Correspondence of John Wieners and Charles Olson (Lost & Found). Ammiel Alcalay: Ammiel Alcalay's books include a little history, from the warring factions, Islanders, neither wit nor gold, Memories of Our Future, and After Jews and Arabs. He is the initiator and General Editor of Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative.