The Selected Letters of John Wieners
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
Boston born and bred, John Wieners was a queer self-styled poète maudit who was renowned among his contemporaries but ignored by mainstream critics. Twenty-first-century readers are correcting this elision, placing Wieners back alongside his better-known peers, including Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, and Amiri Baraka. Wieners was a voluble letter writer, maintaining friendships with these contemporaries that spanned decades and tackling a range of complex issues that resonate today, including drug use, homosexuality, subcultures of the East and West Coasts, and the differing treatment of mental patients based on their economic class. The letters collected in this volume are greatly enhanced by Eileen Myles's preface and Stewart's thorough introduction, notes, and brief bios of the poets, writers, artists, and editors with whom Wieners corresponded. The result is more than the letters of a poet--it is a history that explores the world at large in the mid-twentieth century.
"The poems [Wieners] enclosed with many of his letters show how dedicated he was to his writing, even during hard times. . . . Reading this volume, in letter after letter, you can feel Wieners tugging the pull cord of a knowledgeable, excitable mind."--Hilary Holladay, The Gay & Lesbian Review
"John Wieners is not a minor poet. He is one of the major American poets of the twentieth century, sidelined by queerness, illness, addiction, poverty, and a refusal to professionalize. Yours Presently depicts the harrowing life of an artist in a country that has always been indifferent to its artists, teases out the networks of affinity that form the ecologies in which such artists survive, and furnishes essential insights into the conditions from which poetry arises. As Robert Dewhurst has written, it's a watershed, and a gift to all those who 'burn in the memory of love.'"--David Brazil, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Wieners is admired by other writers for his nonconformity, his tenderness, and his outrageous inventions. . . . Yours Presently, the new volume of letters edited by Michael Seth Stewart, shows Wieners cutting across various groups in American avant-garde writing."--Andrea Brady, London Review of Books
"Wieners' tremulous exuberance is apparent throughout Yours Presently, a generous selection of his letters edited and helpfully glossed by Michael Seth Stewart. . . . Diane di Prima, Robert Duncan, Joanne Kyger, Charles Olson, Michael McClure, Ed Dorn, Allen Ginsberg, Joe Brainard, Donald Allen, Anne Waldman--Wieners corresponded with all of them, honoring those relationships with his affection, openness, and candor."--Ron Slate, On the Seawall
"We shouldn't simply read Wieners's letters as a record of a vanished time, nor read his work in general as simply a record of trauma. Rather, both letters and poems are also displays of solidarity, improvisation, wit, tenderness, and vital energy. Indeed, in many ways they serve as prophetic--not simply of our present moment, but of a more just future that might surmount it."--David Grundy, Boston Review
"Yours Presently: The Selected Letters of John Wieners opens with his missives from Black Mountain to his friend and former classmate Robert Greene from Boston College. Attentively detailed, these letters are both gossipy reports on fellow students and various events happening at the college, and they are demonstrative of the strength of Wieners's self-introspection. . . . Inclusion of unpublished poems is a definite highlight of these letters."--Patrick James Dunagan, Rain Taxi
"Wieners was an oracular presence whose authenticity was unquestionable. His poems, journals, and, now, his letters are evocative dispatches from inside the traumas of addiction, mental illness, midcentury gay culture, and poverty. They're also radiant, jazz-struck testaments to the reverence with which he upheld poetry as a vocation. . . . Stewart, the collection's editor, and others who have tended Wieners's legacy . . . are to be commended for preserving this work for posterity."--Jeremy Lybarger, The Nation
"The passion, intelligence, and humility of John Wieners shines beautifully in Yours Presently. Michael Seth Stewart skillfully draws out the history and discusses constructions of literary coterie, small press activities, editing, funding, and performance to illustrate the primary concerns of poets in the mid-twentieth century while also locating those terms within the often troubled and sensitive reality of Wieners's experience."--Dale M. Smith, coeditor of An Open Map: The Correspondence of Robert Duncan and Charles Olson
List of Illustrations
"Until the dark hours are done": An Introduction
A Note on the Text
Part One. "a living that counted"
Chapter One. Spring 1955-August 1956
Chapter Two. January 1957-August 1957
Chapter Three. September 1957-December 1959
Part Two. "Absent Verse Forms"
Chapter Four. January 1960-May 1963
Chapter Five. October 1963-July 1965
Chapter Six. August 1965-November 1969
Part Three. "What can I do but shine / in memory"
Chapter Seven. January 1970-February 1971
Chapter Eight. April 1972-January 1976
Chapter Nine. July 1984-January 1997
Glossary of Names