Note: This essay was written after
re-reading the second printing of the original edition of Lew Welch's collected
poems,Ring of Bone, published in
1979 by Grey Fox Press. A new expanded edition, with a preface by Gary Snyder,
was published in 2012 by City Lights.
can I even start to discuss the widespread fascination with poets who die young
and tragically, either by their own direct hand or by the workings of madness
or addiction? What can possibly provide reassurance—to poets, to non-poets—in these
biographies of loss?
The Last Question
In May 1929, the final issue appeared of the seminal art and literary magazine,The Little Review. It was devoted to the results of a questionnaire that the editors--Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson--had distributed to (as stated) "more than fifty of the foremost men in the arts." As a historical document, it is particularly fascinating, and on several levels. Not only do we get the actual questionnaire and the actual responses, we get photographs of the respondents, and we get an overall picture of some of the feelings, ideas and beliefs of many modernists.