Lew Welch

All things considered, it’s a gentle and understanding
planet, even here. Far gentler
Here than any of a dozen other places. The trouble is
always and only with what we build on top of it.

-from Chicago Poem

Born: August 16, 1926, Phoenix, Arizona
Died: May, 1971 near Nevada City, California

Welch was a student at Reed College and roomed with Philip Whalen and Gary Snyder when he wrote a thesis about Gertrude Stein that captured the eye of William Carlos Williams. After dropping out of college and experiencing a nervous breakdown, he moved to San Francisco and continued writing poetry, most notably the poems that made up “Taxi Suite” while he was a cab driver.

Welch joined Kerouac at Ferlinghetti’s cabin later, where Kerouac wrote Big Sur. Welch is known in this book as “Dave Wain.” Continuing to write and published poetry, Welch suffered near mental breakdowns and was worried about being a “starving artist.” Yet, he wrote “Trip Trap,” published in 1957, and numerous other poems.

In 1971, Welch went to the mountains one day (near Snyder’s house, north of Nevada City, California) with his rifle–and was never seen again. It is presumed that he committed suicide.

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