Monday, November 9, 2015

"Stars Seen in Person: Selected Journals" by John Wieners (City Lights Books)

ISBN: 978-0-87286-668-3 City Lights Books

"Stars Seen in Person: Selected Journals" by John Wieners (City Lights Books)

A poet's journal is always interesting, because it's looking into the mind of the poet, and one can trace the thinking pattern in what makes their work or writing happen.   Or in some cases, not happen.   It's very strange to come upon this book, because my dad, Wallace Berman, is mentioned in its pages - both in the introduction as well as in John Wieners' journal.  At the time of writing "Blauuwildebeestefontein" journal, he was staying with us in Beverly Glen.   So like a phantom, my dad does make an appearance, but alas, in the mind of Wieners it becomes a figure of importance, but alas, a faint mist. 

The poetry / writing of John Wieners is very romantic.  When he writes about his surroundings, or instance either Boston or Manhattan, it reads extremely glamourous.  The city I often felt, were not made for citizens to live in, but for poets to comment on.  The urban landscape becomes something else in the hands of a poet.   John was (or is) a fantastic poet.  He had an incredible eye for detail - in the sense that he was a great sketch artist capturing an image, but he would do it with words.   The journals in this book (four of them) are sometimes a diary, in a very loose narrative, or straight ahead poetry.  Sometimes a combination of the two - a narration as poetry.   Nevertheless he captures angst in his words, and some of it is painful read, specifically about his one female lover (John was gay) and the child that didn't happen.   Reading the unhappiness, I almost wanted to skip this part of the journal, but alas, it is either the pain or just his enormous presence on the page keeps the reader going. 

In its simplicity, I love the last part of the journal where he just mentions a celebrity and where he saw that person.  For instance:  

"George Sanders
passing in Cadillac"

"Peter Lorre outside upper
Times Square Theatre" 

The name that captured my attention is this section is Dean Stockwell and Bobby Driscoll, whom were not only actors, but very close friends to my dad and I have to imagine John knew them as well.   It's interesting that he put them in the "Stars Seen in Person" category. 

A beautiful book, with nice editing from Michael Seth Stewart, and a personal preface by Ammiel Allcalay, who met Wieners as a teenager.  On a personal note, John Wieners was also my babysitter.    A poet/babysitter is a very seductive quality for a future writer/publisher. 

- Tosh Berman

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