Philip Lamantia  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Philip Lamantia (October 23, 1927-March 7, 2005) was a United States poet and lecturer. Lamantia's visionary poems - ecstatic, terror-filled, erotic - explored the subconscious world of dreams and linked it to the experience of daily life.

The poet was born in San Francisco to Sicilian immigrants and raised in that city's Excelsior neighborhood. His poetry was first published in the Surrealist magazine View when he was fifteen. In 1943 he dropped out of Balboa High School to pursue poetry in New York City. He later became involved with the San Francisco Beat Generation poets and The Surrealist Movement in the United States. He was on the bill at San Francisco's Six Gallery on October 7, 1955, when poet Allen Ginsberg read his poem Howl for the first time. At this event Lamantia chose to read the poems of John Hoffman, a friend who had recently died.

Nancy Peters, his wife and literary editor, said about him, "He found in the narcotic night world a kind of modern counterpart to the gothic castle - a zone of peril to be symbolically or existentially crossed."

The poet spent time with native peoples in the United States and Mexico in the 1950s, participating in the peyote-eating rituals of the Washoe Indians of Nevada. In later life, he embraced Catholicism, the religion of his childhood, and wrote many poems on Catholic themes.


  • Erotic Poems (1946)
  • Ekstasis (1959)
  • Narcotica (1959)
  • Destroyed Works (1962)
  • Touch of the Marvelous (1966)
  • Selected Poems 1943-1966 (1967)
  • Blood of the Air (1970)
  • Touch of the Marvelous -- A New Edition (1974)
  • Becoming Visible (1981)
  • Meadowlark West (1986)
  • Bed of Sphinxes: New and Selected Poems, 1943-1993 (1997)

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