A.D. Winans: An Essay

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Reflections On Turning 80 On 1/12/2016

I have dedicated my adult life to poetry and literature. In addition to my own writing, I edited and published Second Coming for 17 years that later became a press widely regarded as one of the best small presses of its era. I later sold the archives to Brown University.

I taught a semester at two Junior High Schools and published a book of the student’s work. I participated in the Folsom Prison Writers Workshop and other prison programs, and published several prison poets in the magazine as well as publishing 4 books by individual prison poets. I’m proud that of those poets released from prison, only one went back to his former criminal life and one became a minister. I worked for five years for the San Francisco Art Commission, Neighborhood Arts Program, under the federally funded CETA program. I organized a large number of poetry readings including a seven-day, three country Poets and Music Festival honoring the late poet
Josephine Miles, the late blues legend John Lee Hooker, and poet and community activist Roberto Vargas, and assisted in organizing a music event by the Sex Pistols following the tragic death of their lead singer.

I sponsored and participated in a “Night of Street Poetry,” a landmark reading at the U.C. Extension Center with Bob Kaufman, Jack Micheline and I.

I served four years on the now defunct Board of Directors of COSMEP (Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers), formed COSMEP West, which broke away from the parent organization, and later created and headed up Western Independent Publishers, and am currently serving as an advisory Board member on the Board of Directors of the New York Quarterly Magazine and the proposed San Francisco International Poetry Library.

Along with Charles Plymell, I fought the corruption and nepotism running rampant in the NEA Literature Program that resulted in our being blacklisted by the NEA. I further fought against the abuses of power at the old CCLM.I did this at a time when a NEA fellowship was being dangled in front of me by a powerful New York arts woman with powerful ties to the NEA.

I was accepted into PEN at a time when this was rare for small press poets, writers, and publishers. I was paid a handsome sum to write a ten thousand word autobiography published by Gale Research that went into thousands of libraries.

I’ve read my work with every past and present San Francisco Poet Laureate as well as poets like Jack Micheline, Bob Kaufman, Harold Norse, Josephine Miles, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Diane di Prima, Ishmael Reed, Al Young, and David Meltzer.

I have had over sixty books of poetry and prose published and have appeared in over 2,000 poetry magazines, journals, newspapers and anthologies. A poem of mine was set to music by Pulitzer Prize winning composer William Bolcom and performed at New York’s Alice Tully Hall.

Along the way, I received a literary achievement award from the SF Arts and Letters Foundation, a PEN Josephine Miles award for excellence in literature, a PEN Oakland Lifetime Achievement award, and most recently a 2014 Kathy Acker award in poetry and publishing. In 2012, Quiet Lightning featured me in their “Neighborhood Hero” program at “The Mansion” in San Francisco. My name appears on a plaque in North Beach along with noted Beat and post Beat poets and artists who have contributed to the rich literary history of North Beach.

I was privileged to be friends with Alvah Bessie, Bob Kaufman, CharlesBukowski, Harold Norse, Ruth Weiss, Josephine Miles, Jack Micheline, Charles Plymell, David Meltzer, and others to numerous to name.

I was blessed with meeting musicians like John Lee Hooker and Charles Musslewhite. One of the highlights of my life was shooting pool with Janis Joplin at Gino and Carlo’s Bar in North Beach.

I have spent considerable time looking back on my life and have decided it’s time to take a step back from poetry and Literature. Not abandon it, just put it in perspective. I only plan on giving a reading or two a year andwill concentrate on sending my work out to print venues, while not entirely
abandoning on line publications. I have two books of poetry I still want to see in print, one of them already spoken for.

I feel it’s time for me to take a deep breath and evaluate my priorities and that means cutting back on the time I spend on face book. I want to do some local travel, spend time when possible (we are all spread out) with family, and read, read, and read, while I try to make some sense out of why we are put here on this planet.

It has been a long ride filled with many ups and downs, but there is nothing I would change over the course of my life. The only regret I have is witnessing too many poetry politicians play their “trade for favors” game and that a great number of young poets out there have no idea of who or
what took place before them, before on line technology, when we published on mimeo machines, and then the magical AB Dick 500; a time when  COSMEP had close to 2,000 members, and there existed a close-knit camaraderie as compared to the existing cliques that abound today.

Don’t get me wrong, I value the large number of poet friends I have who are above the poetry politics. They are too many to name, but you know who you are.

I never quite took to technological advances. I don’t twitter, I don’t tweet, I don’t text, or have a smart phone, and I’ll always buy a book rather than read it on a computer screen. I guess that makes me a dinosaur.

It’s been a long and at times a wild ride. I’m pleased that the Second Coming archives and much of my own writing is at Brown University.

I’ll close with a poem:


Play me some Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash
Toast me with some sour mash
Invite six young women to do a dance
One dressed in a leather vest and pants

Carry my ashes to the top of Mount Davidson
A lone Monk trailing behind
Irish whisky vodka and tequila for all
Served by a French lass
With a saucy ass

Set up speakers on each side of the hill
Play some poetry by Kaufman and Micheline
Blast some Dylan to the birds flying overhead
Stir the juices in the living dead

Put a whiskey glass in the box carrying my ashes
A pen and a sheet of blank paper
No flowers no tears just that lone Monk
Doing a Buddhist chant

Let the sunset be my headstone
My poems my marker