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Disappearing Poets: Into the Woods With Lew Welch

Updated on November 8, 2016
Lew Welch
Lew Welch | Source

Lew Welch

Lew Welch met Gary Snyder and Phillip Whalen at Reed College in the late 1950s. The three would gather and share poetry and talk poetry while they worked on their graduate coursework. Lew worked on his thesis on Gertrude Stein, which he published and which received praise by William Carlos Williams. He suffered a nervous breakdown before he finished his degree and moved to San Francisco to drive Taxi.

He used the experience of being a Taxi driver to finish a few collections of his poetry including "Trip Trap" published in 1973.

He also met Jack Kerouac. Jack Kerouac and Lew spent time together at Jack's cabin in Big Sur and Lew would become the character Dave Wain in Kerouac's novel Big Sur.

Lew continued to battle with his poetry. He wanted to use his poetry as a profession and he wanted to claim himself as a working poet in America. Poetry, though important in it's own way, never really paid off for Lew and this caused him great anguish.

on August 16th 1971 Lew Welch dissappeared with this 30-30 rifle into the Sierra Mountain range outside of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's cabin in Nevada City, California.

Sometimes when I am hiking in the Sierra's I daydream about a chance encounter with Lew where we would sit under a few pine trees eat some food and talk about poetry.

The Function of the Poem

Let this poem lead

me into the woods,

let this poem walk

with me deep into terrain,

let this poem build

a shelter of twigs,

Let this poem bring

deer into my sights

Let this poem pull

the trigger

of my 30-30.

Let this poem be

a reason to survive,

let this poem be


let this poem be

what it was meant to be,

let me be alone

with my poem.

Let this poem strike

the flint

to start my fire

to warm my hands.

More meaning in existence

than existence has set aside,

let this poem be.

Let each line be a breath

of cold morning mountain air

an exhale and an inhale

as I walk deeper into myself.

Let this poem be.

Let me be this poem.

Show me poem,

show me

why I write you,

show how

I can use you,

show me


you think you are



Let this poem be.

Then maybe

I will return.


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for the introduction, Jamie, and I hope you are wrong. I hope they aren't disappearing. :)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Poetry isn't appreciated the way it once was.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you Bill and Larry. Jamie

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      What an interesting poet, Welch, and so sad he disappeared. I love this hub and especially your wonderful poem. Lee Welch was certainly passionate about his poetry, as you are and I know you too would certainly talk for hours upon hours of your love for poetry, maybe even days on end.

      It is an interesting mystery.

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      Bless you and yours

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Poetry is such a magical form of art. Confirmed by your marvelous poem. Thank you for this interesting introduction to Lee Welch. I will share.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What an interesting hub Jamie. Thank you for introducing me to Lee Welch. It is a shame he never realized his ambition to be an actual working American poet. I can well understand his frustration as I cannot imagine trying to make a living now as a poet either(a dream). Maybe he is till surviving as a hermit in the woods, and you may yet come across him. Love the poem too.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you Faith, Audrey, and vocalcoach for stopping by and enjoying my poetry. Jamie

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      Such an interesting poem - you and the poem becoming one. Again, you introduce me to a poet I have not heard of before. This is so enlightening. I love that you daydream and I love that you daydream about meeting your 'poet friend.'

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you suzette. Jamie

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Truly excellent poetry, Bro. You do bring up some really interesting people also. Peace.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 2 years ago from California

      What a great write--and thank you for an introduction to this poet--

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you manatita44 and Audrey. Jamie

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you manatita44 and Audrey. Jamie

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 2 years ago

      The story and his lyric was interesting Jamie. I voted up, and pinned it.


    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

      Thanks Kevin. Jamie

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 23 months ago from SW England

      I'd never heard of Lew Welch but I'm glad you introduced him to me. What an interesting character!

      Your poem is sublime; it fits with going off into the woods of course, but it also reflects what he might have thought, what his attitude might have been. The rhythm of the poem is perfect and I love those lines 'Let this poem be. Let me be this poem' and the last verse is perfect.

      Thanks for this great hub, Jamie.


    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 23 months ago from Reno NV

      Thank you Ann. I am excited to read about your adventures in France. Jamie

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