Biography of John Wieners
John Joseph Wieners (6 January 1934 – 1 March 2002) was an American poet.
Born in Milton, Massachusetts, Wieners attended St. Gregory Elementary School in Dorchester, Massachusetts and Boston College High School. From 1950 to 1954, he studied at Boston College, where he earned his A.B. In 1954 he heard Charles Olson read at the Charles Street Meeting House on Beacon Hill during Hurricane Hazel. He decided to enroll at Black Mountain College where he studied under Olson and Robert Duncan from 1955 to 1956. He then worked as an actor and stage manager at the Poet’s Theater in Cambridge, and began to edit Measure, releasing three issues over the next several years.
From 1958 to 1960 Wieners lived in San Francisco, California and actively participated in the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. The Hotel Wentley Poems was published in 1958, when Wieners was twenty-four.
Wieners returned to Boston in 1960 and was committed to a psychiatric hospital. In 1961, he moved to New York City and worked as an assistant bookkeeper at Eighth Street Books from 1962-1963, living on the Lower East Side with Herbert Huncke. He went back to Boston in 1963, employed as a subscriptions editor for Jordan Marsh department stores until 1965. Wieners’ second book, Ace of Pentacles, was published in 1964.
In 1965, after traveling with Olson to the Spoleto Festival and the Berkeley Poetry Conference, he enrolled in the Graduate Program at SUNY Buffalo. He worked as a teaching fellow under Olson, then as an endowed Chair of Poetics, staying until 1967, with Pressed Wafer coming out the same year. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. In the spring of 1969, Wieners was again institutionalized, and wrote Asylum Poems.
Nerves was released in 1970, containing work from 1966 to 1970. In the early 1970s, Wieners became active in education and publishing cooperatives, political action committees, and the gay liberation movement. He also moved into an apartment at 44 Joy Street on Beacon Hill, where he lived for the next thirty years.
In 1975, Behind the State Capitol or Cincinnati Pike was published, a magnum opus of “Cinema decoupages; verses, abbreviated prose insights.” For the next ten years, he published rarely and remained largely out of the public eye. In 1985, he was a Guggenheim Fellow.
Black Sparrow Press released two collections edited by Raymond Foye: Selected Poems: 1958-1984 and Cultural Affairs in Boston, in 1986 and 1988 respectively. A previously unpublished journal by Wieners came out in 1996, entitled The Journal of John Wieners is to be called 707 Scott Street for Billie Holliday 1959, documenting his life in San Francisco around the time of The Hotel Wentley Poems.
At the Guggenheim Museum in 1999, Wieners gave one of his last public readings, celebrating an exhibit by the painter Francesco Clemente. A collaboration between the two, Broken Women, was also published.
Wieners died on March 1, 2002 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, having collapsed a few days previously after an evening attending a party with his friend and publisher Charley Shively. Kidnap Notes Next, a collection of poems and journal entries edited by Jim Dunn, was published posthumously in 2002.
A Book of Prophecies was published in 2007 from Bootstrap Press. The manuscript was discovered in the Kent State University archive's collection by poet Michael Carr. It was a journal written by Wieners in 1971, and opens with a poem titled 2007.
His papers are held at the University of Delaware.
- Goodbye -new-
- The Lights In Town -new-
- Two Years Later -new-
- He's Not Here No One's There -new-
- Helen Go Mother Beth -new-
- Confession -new-
- The Murder Of Cheap Waitresses -new-
- Stone Girl -new-
- You Talk Of Going But Don't -new-
- Broken Hearted Memorys -new-
- Does His Voice Sound Some Echo In Your H... -new-
- Ailsa's LASt WILL and T E S T A M E N T -new-
- To Charles On His Home -new-
- After A Poem For Cocksuckers -new-
John Wieners Poems
Children of the Working Class
to Somes from incarceration, Taunton State Hospital, 1972 gaunt, ugly deformed broken from the womb, and horribly shriven
The Acts of Youth
And with great fear I inhabit the middle of the night What wrecks of the mind await me, what drugs to dull the senses, what little I have left,
A poem for vipers
I sit in Lees. At 11:40 PM with Jimmy the pusher. He teaches me Ju Ju. Hot on the table before us shrimp foo yong, rice and mushroom
A Poem for the Old Man
God love you Dana my lover lost in the horde on this Friday night,
A Poem for Record Players
The scene changes Five hours later and I come into a room where a clock ticks.
A Poem For Painters
Our age bereft of nobility How can our faces show it? I look for love.
Ailsa's LASt WILL and T E S T A M E N T -new-
Gas. A marriage that never existed, a death under investigation, and a Fortune stolen from M a d women in custody of itinerants. Who could say wealth provides security, when the truth of one's income lies upon inferiors, inferring supposed secretaries stoop against truth serums, unpatentd innoculations' dictum of an i mousity, valid jealousy beyond single trust. L E T I T B E S A I D goldberg Mellons make M o n e y, without reason, though attenuation begets square dollar c R U S T. from E U S T A C E M U L L I N S—inc* to ARTHur Burns, a few flattulences can bankrupt a relationship but Never sink the N A T I O N I n t e n t. Upon ousting Frederick Engels Marx, Einstein, Freud and Darwin.
To Charles On His Home -new-
Death is an unforgiven That's what we have in common language an act of sharing words. Coming tears will do it Where there's smoke THERe's a suitcase fairies never change into fire It's so hard to get to the top. Death is a failure there are so many of them. Dont trust her I don't care how old the races are. And I never have. for Cher.
After A Poem For Cocksuckers -new-
I have never stopped loving him from the first moment I cast eyes upon him although they made us rob Brink's whether up the chimney. he stopped loving me over their atrocities allegedly he never did over two years before even one Earlier Easter say two or more likely projected Jesuit patricide; at one permanent As. ante Yanagi, unmrd. edn.
Dead Poets of Queer Poems -new-
to Ms. Reid & Nana Will Never Forgive Me Commencement exercises inhibited by prevalent narcotics less habituated forbid association to prior or pending Cambridge excesses in vicinity of Harvard Militia action maintain clinic reporters au compagne duress as stated Walter Milli probe IRA nippon mirror jewels radioed design Dresden classic Elgin refuted Novena garb anticipatoryrobot news coverage due vendors civic observations from hard knocks park squat the bells rang twelve times in town two years here, must be Washington. Dipping in agression surfeit real estate express two confessions blameless ignorance Athaneum Trans E U R O P E A N Coin.
The Meadow Where All Things Grow Accordi... -new-
Destiny lies behind our forces and what lives in the soul dies not. It inhabits our dreams as perpetual as light. As the spring grass flowers, it sprouts out in hair on our chin and keeps birds thin with the perpetual gnawing of desire. The higher one goes up the angelic ladder remains the minute bits and ends of our life. Seeds there to recur when we are most unaware. Old faces, letters crop up again. Words from our poems Menace the night
Egg Nog -new-
The quality of mercy is not strained It lieth along the center road It falleth from the nude sky as gentle earth rained over green pastures He maketh it to abide by Misted Q lanes whosoever can tell what kiss brings forward HIS peace The quality of mercy is not strained It falleth from the gentle earth like heaven.
O poetry, visit this house often, imbue my life with success, leave me not alone, give me a wife and home.
Yes I put her away. But now life flares up As safe as China in a cup You hear the droppings of her heart.
A poem for vipers
I sit in Lees. At 11:40 PM with
Jimmy the pusher. He teaches me
Ju Ju. Hot on the table before us
shrimp foo yong, rice and mushroom
chow yuke. Up the street under the wheels
of a strange car is his stash—The ritual.
We make it. And have made it.
For months now together after midnight.
Soon I know the fuzz will