The Dead Writers Club was born out of the fact that there are very few living writers out there that are worth reading. (Naturally, this is because we all yearn to live in the past)

Do you consistently feel as though you are living in the wrong time period? We do too.

This blog is a celebration of literature and the greats who wrote before us.
~ Friday, March 2 ~

Happy Deathday Mr. Wieners!

We received a touching message from one of our readers that we had missed a deathday yesterday. And so, we would like to offer this belated deathday post to American poet John Wieners, who died on March 1st in 2002.Many special thanks to, for bringing this to our attention.


Wieners was a student of the Black Mountain College and studied under fellow poets, Robert Duncan, Robert Creely and Charles Olson. He also worked in the Poet’s Theater in Cambridge, Ma. and lived in San Francisco for a stint, during which time his first book of poems, The Hotel Wentley Poems (1958), was published. In 1960, Wieners was committed to a psychiatric hospital. Though mental illness was something Wieners would struggle with all his life, it has also been said that his illness was thought by many to be “a very special reality”, by which the commonplace gave way to poetry. In fact, it was Robert Creely who once said of Wieners’ work, “His poems had nothing else in mind but their own fact.” Well put, Mr. Creely.

As a beat poet and member of the San Francisco Renaissance, Mr. Wieners was also an antiwar and gay rights activist and founder/editor of the literary magazine Measure (1957–1962). Wieners’ various honors include awards from the Poets Foundation, the New Hope Foundations, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, as well as a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

While we have unfortunately not read much of his work, we have listened to it. And would like to share one of our favorite recordings with you here. We are looking forward to rushing down to the library and scooping up Ace of Pentacles, published in 1964, as it has been highly recommended to us. We hope you’ll do the same.

If you would like to read up on this fascinating poet, we recommend this work by Andrea Brady, "Making Use of the Pain: The John Wieners Archive".

Write on in peace, Mr. Wieners.

Tags: 2002 march 1st john wieners american poet poetry dead writers club deathday ace of pentacles beat allen ginsberg san francisco
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~ Monday, January 9 ~

A Day in Lowell with Kerouac’s Ghost

One of our long time contributors, Lucas Lammott, recently visited Lowell, Massachusetts, which is the hometown of Jack Kerouac. We cannot think of a better way to ring in the New Year! He took some great snaps, which he allowed us to repost here. Enjoy!

Kerouac was born on 9 Lupine Road in the West Centralville section of Lowell Massachusetts, 2nd floor.


Lowell High School where JK was a football star that got him a scholarship to Columbia University.

Jack Kerouac later referred to 34 Beaulieu Street as “sad Beaulieu”. The Kirouack family was living there in 1926 when Jack’s big brother Gerard died of rheumatic fever at the age of nine.

The grave site of Jean-Louis “Jack” Lebris de Kerouac


Late afternoon rest stop at Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus downtown Lowell. If you ever get a chance to visit Lowell, you should! It is an eerie place… rich in culture, history and… ghostly inspiration.  And if you live in Boston… you have no excuse not to go spend a day in Lowell. Thanks, Lucas, for sharing your day with us!

Tags: jack kerouac massachusetts lowell beat january 9 2012 writer dead writers club lucas lammott
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~ Monday, May 30 ~

Five Deathdays Crammed Into One

Today is a tall order, so here we go…

On this day, May 30th, five writers passed under the great veil of the afterlife. Harlem Renaissance writer, Gwendolyn Bennett died in 1981. American poet, William Meredith died of respiratory failure in 2007. Beat poet and lover to Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky died just last year, 2010 from lung cancer. English poet, Alexander Pope died of unspecified causes on May 30th in 1744. And finally, the notorious French playwright and author, Voltaire, died on this day in 1778.

Gwendolyn Bennett was committed to the African-American arts community all her life, continually fostering the talents of young African American artists and energizing the Harlem Renaissance. During her undergraduate education at Columbia, Bennett’s poem “Nocturne” was published in Crisis in November, 1923, and in December of the same year, her poem “Heritage” was included in Opportunity, a magazine published by the National Urban League.

For more biographical information and a list of her complete works, click here. We highly recommend her first published piece, “Nocturne” and her short story “Wedding Day Fire!!”, published in 1926.

William Meredith was America’s Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1978 through 1980, and was the first openly gay poet to receive this honor. He was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1988, for his work “Partial Accounts”, which we cannot praise enough.  Among his other achievements, one will find the Carl Sandburg Award, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the International Vaptsarov Prize in Poetry and the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize as well. Meredith’s work is moving and at times… mysterious. For more insight into what we mean, check out The William Meredith Foundation website for more bio information and works.

Peter Orlovsky was a Beat poet and well known writer amongst the “Allen Ginsberg” crowd. It may surprise you to know that Orlovsky dropped out of high school and was deemed unfit to serve on the front lines after being drafted into the US Army for the Korean War. This led him to work as a medic in a hospital… guess where it was… SAN FRANCISCO! Orlovsky, who had never been terribly interested in becoming a poet, began writing in 1957 at the encouragement of Ginsberg. In 1974, Orlovsky joined the faculty of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado, where he taught poetry. While his volume of work is not staggering, his contributions to the Beat poetry scene can still be felt today. And we highly recommend his work Lepers Cry, published in 1972. 

English poet and satirist Alexander Pope  is best known for his work The Rape of the Lock, but is also well respected for his excellent translation of The Odyssey and his essays. While Pope was heavily influenced by Dryden, he was also industrious; and he spent eight or nine years in arduous discipline, reading, studying, experimenting with poetry before anything of his appeared in print. “Poetry his only business”, he said, “and idleness his only pleasure”. His first publication was his “Pastorals”, which are certainly worth a read through if you’ve never read them.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we give you… Voltaire. The famous French philosopher and wit is most remembered for his infamous criticisms of the church, his poetry and plays, and a plethora of books, most notably Candide. Voltaire was quite prolific, producing works in almost every literary form including plays, poetry, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets! For more biographical information and a list of complete works, please check out the Voltaire Foundation via University of Oxford.  

These five writers came from different backgrounds and for the most part different time periods and cultures. But the one thing they all have in common, aside from the shared deathday, is that they will all be remembered for their unique literary contributions to this ever changing world. Let us never forget this wonderfully diverse deathday!

Enjoy Memorial Day and please remember to raise five glasses today in remembrance of these writers.

Write on in peace, Mrs. Bennett and Messrs. Voltaire, Pope, Meredith and Orlovsky!

Tags: peter orlovsky, may 30 1981 2007 gwendolyn bennett william meredith 2010 beat poetry deathdays dead writers club harlem renaissance 1744 alexander pope voltaire nocturne heritage
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~ Saturday, January 8 ~

Two Poets for the Price of One

Today, we are honoring the death of two poets who died on the same day, 76 years apart. American poet Kenneth Patchen died on January 8th in 1972 of unspecified causes. French poet Paul Verlaine died on this same day in 1896 at the age of 51 and is buried in the Cimetière des Batignolles.


Paul Verlaine is remembered as the leader of the symbolist poetry movement and for his metrical innovation. To put it bluntly, at the time Verlaine was writing- he was not one to color within the lines or be kept in a box. His poetry was drenched in themes of drug addiction, sex and all the wonderful vice that Paris had to offer at that time.

For awhile, Verlaine was linked romantically with outspoken poet Arthur Rimbaud. Unfortunately, this romance would lead to Verlaine shooting and injuring the younger poet and landing Verlaine in prison for 2 years.

Our favorite works by Verlaine are most definitely a collection of poems published in 1874 called Romances sans paroles and Parallèlement, published in 1889.


Now then…Kenneth Patchen… oh Kenneth, where do we even begin?! Dadaism, Beat, Surrealism… these are all words that cold be potentially used to describe Patchen’s work but Patchen himself would not have liked such a comparison.

Over the course of his career, Kenneth Patchen wrote over forty books of poetry, prose and drama, including Bury Them in God, Testament (both in 1939), The Dark Kingdom (published in a limited edition of seventy-five copies with individually painted covers in 1942) Sleepers Awake (1946) and Poemscapes (1958).

Wonderings: Picture Poems (1971) was his last work and it is by far our favorite work by him. For thirty years Patchen lived with a severe spinal ailment that caused him to be in constant physical pain. Not unlike Frida Kahlo, Patchen used to paint while confined to his bed for great lengths of time.

"It happens that very often my writing with pen is interrupted by my writing with brush, but I think of both as writing," said Patchen. "In other words, I don’t consider myself a painter. I think of myself as someone who has used the medium of painting in an attempt to extend."

Reading Patchen’s poetry is not unlike looking at a painting. It is rough, it is smooth, and at times, you’re not sure whether what you’re seeing is really an image or a glob of paint that appears to be that image. He’s difficult to categorize and his title as “Rebel Poet” holds strong even today.

We hope today you will remember these two very different poets and the legacy of style they both pioneered and left for us - the writers of today- to find and use to our advantage. Try this on for size- read one poem by Verlaine and then one by Patchen and see if you can write something in between the two!

Write on in peace Monsieur Verlaine and Mr. Patchen!

Tags: 1896 1972 deathday happy january 8th kenneth patchen paul verlaine poetry poets arthur rimbaud Parallèlement Romances sans paroles dadism beat surrealism but even so:picture poems teh dark kingdom bry them in god first will testament
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~ Monday, April 5 ~

Happy Deathday Mrs. Ginsberg!

On April 5th in 1997, American poet Allen Ginsberg died at age 70 of liver cancer, which was a result of hepatitis. Ginsberg, who is most well known for his epic poem “Howl” which he wrote in 1956, is remembered as an influential poet of the Beat Generation whose unique voice can easily be picked out of a lineup. 


Ginsberg was often in the company of other poets and writers such as Jack Kerouac and Burroughs and made a name for himself in New York before heading west to San Francisco, where Howl was first published by the famous City Lights Bookstore. The poem was almost immediately banned from other stores for “obscenity”. Ginsberg had a way of pushing the envelope without seeming like he meant to. 

As a poet living during a time of social reform and political upheaval in the States, Ginsberg often touched upon his generation’s repulsion with conformity and the great censorship struggle many of his contemporaries faced. He was an advocate for the First Amendment and gay rights and an Ambassador of hippies and beatniks alike. 

If you’ve not experienced any Ginsberg, you should definitely pick up a copy of Howl, which we feel is really the best way to get to know Allen. If you find you like what you’ve read- try Reality Sandwiches, Iron Horse or Deliberate Prose.

We hope you will take a moment to wish Mr. Ginsberg a happy deathday and maybe… stick it to “the man” today… 

Tags: 1997 allen ginsberg april 5th beat beat poetry dead writer dead writers club deathday howl poet poetry san francisco liver cancer city lights bookstore beatniks vietnam gay rights hippies 1960s 1950s
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