A bug with eyes closed sitting on a bench surrounded by scribbles

The Little Bug Angel from A Surprise for the Bagpipe Player (detail), 1955.

Kenneth Patchen: Painted Books and Picture-Poems

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Already an established writer known for his pacifist sympathies and the 1941 anti-war novel Journal of Albion Moonlight, Kenneth Patchen (1911 – 1972) and his wife, Miriam, settled in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco in 1950. They became friendly with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder of the City Lights publishing company and bookstore and Patchen became a contributor to Ferlinghetti’s Pocket Poets series. He was linked with the Beat movement, particularly when he released home recordings he had made of himself reading his poetry to jazz accompaniment, inadvertently inspiring the creation of the so-called poetry and-jazz movement.

In 1959, a serious and inoperable back ailment required Patchen to be confined to bed for the rest of his life. Undeterred, he continued to be an innovator, producing picture-poems (fusions of original poetry and paintings) as well as special editions of his books for which he painted and decorated the covers. The works in the exhibition are generously loaned by Jonathan Clark, founder of Artichoke Editions in Mountain View and longtime friend of the Patchens.

Currently on view