Philip Lamantia (1927 – 2005)
Always the individual, no one ideology could label Philip Lamantia. Known as surrealist, a beat, and a Catholic, Lamanatia’s sensational talents in poetry were a gift since childhood. His interest in surrealism came about after witnessing the work of Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí at the San Francisco Museum of Art. He moved to New York at age 15 to further his surrealist training under guidance from André Breton and Max Ernst, and shortly thereafter, his first book of poems, Erotic Poems was published in 1946. He later returned to San Francisco to rejoin his old friend, Kenneth Rexroth. It was then in which he met Allen Ginsberg and other beat poets. Lamantia was one of the poets chosen to read at the historic Six Gallery reading, but instead of reading his own work, he read that of his late friend John Hoffman. While Lamantia is associated with the beats, his poetry displayed a vivid mysticism that can be traced back to his surrealist roots and his heavy experimentation in peyote. Later in life, Lamantia rekindled his relationship with Catholicism, but instead of rejecting surrealism, he merged its mysticism with that of Catholic faith. He died in 2005.
“Like mysticism, poetry aims to reveal what is unknown to us, but also to make us conscious of what is already inside us.”
– P. Lamantia
By Fernando Fernandez