I for one, am still looking. So many years have passed since Lew left my life and probably this world. Dan and I still write--occasionally poems, mostly nonfiction--though in different cities and in separate lives. I know now what I didn't know at 20--how difficult it is for a writer to pay her bills entirely by doing her "real job." At 45, I am as old now as Lew was when I first met him.
Whenever I travel, and drive into a new city, say Albuquerque or Pittsburgh or El Paso, it's become a habit to look carefully at the hard faces of men in bus stations or huddled in soup kitchen lines. I guess I'm still searching for Lew, though I don't really think Lew would have chosen to disappear into urban America. Maybe he's off living his hermit life, as he did that one winter on the Little Salmon River ("I saw myself/ a ring of bone/ in the clear stream/ of all of it"). I think about first hearing "Song of the Turkey Buzzard" at City Lights and I remember Lew's admonition to his friends in that poem:
There's one of Lew's poems I've kept taped to my kitchen wall in all the cities I've lived in during the last two decades. It's a poem that never fails to help me put my life into perspective. I recommend it highly:
Dan Mathews '71 and Louise (Lueez) Steinman '73 with Elwha Pootel, Chicken Little, and kittens. by Eleanor Mathews '67.
Ed. note: Mist Mountain Farm was started by Jo Robinson '69. Other people mentioned by first name in Steinman's article include Dan Mathews '70, Aron Faegre '71, and Peter Spitzer '70.
Louise Steinman is the author of The Knowing Body: The Artist as Storyteller in Contemporary Performance.Her essays and poems have been published in Zyzzyva: west coast writers; Los Angeles Times Magazine; Poets & Writers; L.A. Weekly; the Washington Post;and other publications. As cultural programs director for the Los Angeles Public Library, she curates literary series such as "Racing Toward the Millennium: Literature Without Borders."
Poems from Lew Welch, Ring of Bone: Collected Poems 1950-1971.Bolinas: Grey Fox Press, 1979. Edited by Donald Allen.
See Lew Welch,How I Work as a Poet & Other Essays/Plays/ Stories.Bolinas: Grey Fox Press, 1973. Edited by Donald Allen.