John Wieners

John Wieners was born in 1934 in Milton, Massachusetts. Dissatisfied with his Boston College education and electrified by the work of poet/scholar Charles Olson, he went to study under Olson at Black Mountain College for two nonconsecutive terms in the school's final days. Transformed by the experience, he returned to Boston and began editing the small magazine Measure, which brought together geographically and stylistically disparate poets like Black Mountain classmates Michael Rumaker and Ed Dorn, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, whose first published poems (from Mexico City Blues) appeared in the second issue. He lived for a year and a half in San Francisco, where he wrote his breakthrough book, 1958's The Hotel Wentley Poems, the first publication from Dave Haselwood's Auerhahn Press. Upon returning to the East Coast, his parents were so concerned for his drug-addled state that they forcibly committed him to the first of several hospitalizations, where he was administered electroshock and insulin coma treatments that left him forever altered. In 1964 he published his first full-length collection, Ace of Pentacles (Phoenix Bookshop Press), followed by Pressed Wafer, Asylum Poems, and Nerves, which Ginsberg called "three magisterial books of poetry that stand among the few truthful documents of the late 1960s era." In the early ’70s he settled into his apartment at 44 Joy Street on Boston’s Beacon Hill, where he lived and wrote (including his monumental 1975 collection Behind the State Capitol, or, Cincinnati Pike) until his death in 2002.


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