The Kyoto Journals and Floating California

by Philip Whalen

Three haiku and journal entries excerpted from the Philip Whalen Papers, circa 1940–2001, were transcribed and edited by Brian Unger, a doctoral student at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY). The original autograph journals (none are typed or word processed) are found in the Philip Whalen Papers, Notebooks, Box 1, folder 10, “Kyoto,” September 1967, and “Floating California,” December  1967–July 1968. The facsimile image of the haiku dated Kyoto, 17 : V : 69 is from the journal in folder 13, Box 1. All of these materials are archived in The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, at BANC MSS 2000/93 p.


     O soda cracker:  Broken or no

     You cannot escape my ravening teeth!

13 : V : 68   

     Looking out of my eyes into the blackness
     inside the back of my eyes
     14 : V : 68   

     The water is realer than the pavement it flows over ?
     27 : V : 68   

Journal Entries.

5 : VI : 68     I forgot that these two pages had likewise been unaccountably skipped, in the hurry & boredom of note taking.

     I have been sweating copiously for this long hour after my bath; I wonder whether my kidneys have stopped operating. & of course I now have begun to feel chilled as well as too hot. I am, tout court, trop gros encore.

.  .  .

     Too much society again. Mike & Nancy Dieringer yesterday. Jay & Judy today, & then supper with Dick Brewer. Tomorrow, I’ve agreed to receive a Mr. & Mrs. Lewis McAdams of New York, at the request of Mrs. Boyce.

     This weekend will be the first of two giant poetry readings to be held in conjunction with a month’s festival of the arts in San Francisco a review of work done here in the past 20 years. This kind of noisy self congratulation is an activity peculiar to San Francisco the city never tires of trying to convince the rest of the world that life here is of a better quality than obtains anywhere else, that it is “a major cultural center,” not simply a noisy & expensive resort catering to the tastes of rich Middlewestern tourists and businessmen celebrating their “conventions.” The streets are unsafe by day or night, not only on account of the great numbers of desperately poor men who have turned criminal, but also because of the presence of a numerous rapacious and brutal corps of policemen who are in the employ of the city, county, state and federal governments, ostensibly for the protection of the lives and property of the individual citizen. The true business of this legion of officials is to harass, terrorize and entrap the poor, the indigent, and the alcoholic while accepting bribes and presents to ignore the illegal activities of whoremongers, politicians, drug peddlers, professional gamblers, extortionists and thugs.   

27 : V : 68     Hunger. Nausea.

Depression. A final resolution: here I am at last.


My first real argument with reality or society {still incomplete} began when I was in the dentist’s chair, suffering unbearable pain

while the dentist and my parents kept telling me that the
operation didn’t hurt, that if it hurt, it was only momentary, that the pain was imaginary, or necessary or almost anything else except unbearable, excruciating and that it was unavoidable & that I must accept it. I rejected their interpretations, their admonitions, & the idea that the pain was necessary. I still do. They told me that applications of iodine did not make a cut feel worse.

     Every week they told me that I was not sick, that riding in an automobile represented the acme of human pleasure, just before I vomited all over myself & the inside of the family automobile, that I ought to be enjoying myself and appreciating the pains which they were taking to amuse and instruct me. It never occurred to them that their boring conversations and bickerings weren’t as interesting as the books I had been reading and wanted to get back to.

     I rejected their interpretation of the world and I still do. I see and feel something else. I know that the greatest pleasures are
acts of creation: sexual intercourse, writing, drawing, painting,

making music, dancing, reciting poetry, acting on the stage.


1 : VI : 68     “Fifteen apparitions have I seen;
                     the worst a coat upon a coat hanger.”

                                  W. B. Yeats.


2 : VI : 68      I need support from private and federal sources in order to pursue and to complete the following projects:

1)     Instruments & instructions in music: I need a 2 or 3 manual organ with full pedal keyboard installed in my apartment and the services of a competent music teacher for 3 hours a week for the \ next 5 years or so.
2)     to gather materials for an absolutely true & factual life of the Duke of Windsor,
3)     to investigate the chief megalithic monuments in Europe, the Mediterranean islands and the Near East, preparatory to composing an epic poem about the life & times of the designers & builders of these enormous tombs & stone circles.

4)     an expedition into the remote regions of Oregon with the object of writing a clear & elegant account of them
5)     an expedition into northern India, Nepal, Tibet and the adjoining areas in order to visit the holy places of Buddhism
6)     an expedition into Ireland to discover where my family comes from and what is the quality of life there now
7)     With reference to 3) above: a year of work in Japan, visiting the various ancient misasagi to compare their structure with the pre historic European megalithic burial places
8)     Time in Japan for studying the connexions between Buddhism & the NØ drama
9)     Time in Japan for research, travel & investigations
of background for the projected novel based on the meetings
between St. Francis Xavier & the Japanese. (This project will
require a visit to the island of Kyushu and the city of Kagoshima,
Ichhiku Castle, Hirada, the Fukushoji &c. &c.)
10)     Time in Japan to investigate the history of the
institution of the shrines of the 36 poets & actual visitations,
researchings, conferences &c.
11)     An enquiry into the ShugendØ
12)     Research & investigation of the temple built with a platform in front of it, as at Hasedera, Kiyomizudera, Ishiyamadera: is such a structure a native invention or an importation from China or Tibet via China ?
13)     The processional dance before the high altar at
Daitokuji on the occasion of the annual Hannamatsuri:
architectural features, viz. the rows of stone bars in the floor
of the Butsuden the serpentine procession between these
“bars” same kind of floor decoration visible at Nanzenji,
Myoshinji, Shokokuji, Tofukuji ?
14)     The description, history, practices, architecture & cookery
of the Manpukuji in Øbaku
15)     A monograph upon the “Fishing Lodge” at the Byodo In
16)     Saikoku san ju san sho. The 33 Kwannon of the Kansai:
history & description & practises        wood block prints which
are sold at each spot, along with other special souvenirs: seal
impressions in books & on scrolls & on kimono. Connexion with ShugendØ ?
4 : VI : 68     Sad to think how I started this book in KyØto, to be writing in it now while undergoing paranoid fits,
blocks, maniacal fits of endless, aimless READING [of] other people’s books . . . all instead of writing my own . . .
7 : VI : 68     Sleep’s thick walls    thick soft walls of sleep  :  adobe brick missions of California    Open to red open to gold open to fire green universe

Excerpts from his journals, edited by Brian Unger.