A. D. Winans On A. D. Winans
I was born in San Francisco, and have lived here almost my entire life. My father was seventeen years older than my mother, and they fought constantly... When my mother wasn’t yelling at my father, she was yelling at me. This left deep scars which is reflected in my book Scar Tissue.
I was a misfit in both grammar and high school. I was shy and largely kept to myself. I spent time at the public library, where I discovered the works of Jack London and daydreamed of shipping off to sea and writing of my own adventures.
I joined the Air Force in 1954 and spent three years in Panama, where I saw the President of Panama assassinated and a dictatorship supported by the U.S. It was while serving in Panama that I became disillusioned with the American system. Panamanian canal workers, who performed the same work as their American counterparts, were paid less than half the going pay. In the American controlled Canal Zone, the U.S. Governor refused to allow the Panamanian flag to fly alongside the flag of the United States. Elections were rigged and ballot boxes were found floating in the canal.
The Joseph McCarthy era, the struggle for civil rights, the treatment of the American Indian, and the Vietnam War all became fodder for later rebellion, which resulted in the many scathing political poems I have written.
In the 60s I worked part time at the post office while attending day classes at City College of San Francisco, graduating in 1962 from San Francisco State College.
I began reading the works of Camus, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, and became interested in poetry after discovering Ginsberg, Corso and other Beat poets. While attending college, I spent my nights in North Beach, spending long hours at City Lights Bookstore browsing through underground magazines and books by established and emerging Beat poets. I met Spicer and Brautigan at Gino and Carlo’s bar and later became friends with Micheline and Kaufman.
I frequented the Anxious Asp, (a jazz establishment) and was the first feature poet at the Coffee Gallery. Discovering North Beach opened up a new way of life for me. It was the training ground for my becoming a poet and writer.
In the sixties and into the early seventies I worked at a variety of jobs. In 1975 I won a coveted CETA position as an editor and writer for the San Francisco Art Commission’s Neighborhood Arts Program. Program. In the seventies, I started up Second Coming Magazine and Press, which lasted for l7 years. I served three terms on the Board of Directors of COSMEP (Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers), which later became the International Organization of Independent Publishers. Thanks to my CETA Job, I was able to organize poetry and music events throughout the city, including the 1980 Poets and Music Festival honoring the late poet Josephine Miles and the late Blues musician, John Lee Hooker.
I met a lot of poet and musician friends and engaged in conversations that lasted into the early morning hours, but the truth is I find it difficult talking about myself. I prefer to let my poems do the talking for me.
My poetry largely addresses issues of concern to millions of Americans who spend the majority of their lives struggling to survive in a society bankrupt in spirit and moral fiber, where money is the only common denominator.
I have never worn the label of poet well. It’s not a word I’m comfortable with. It carries a connotation that somehow the poet walks a higher ground than the average individual. Too many poets are more concerned with publication credits than the human condition they write about.
I share Jack Spicer’s philosophy that “verse does not originate from within the poet's expressive will as a spontaneous gesture unmediated by formal constraints, but is a foreign agent, a parasite that invades the poet’s language and expresses what it wants to say.”
I have been both blessed and cursed by the inner voices (demons) that possess me. I’ve never kept a notebook or used a tape recorder for future reference. Many people have called me a “street” poet. I don’t think this is an accurate label. I have been writing for over three decades and my style continues to evolve. The subject matter is as diverse as life itself. The form and technique I employ can and has changed from time to time. The one constant is that people remain my favorite subject matter. If John Weiners was a poet’s poet, I’d like to be remembered as a poet of the people.
I’m not a guru. I don’t go to the mountains looking for the Dalai Lama. I create largely in isolation. I write out of a sense of loneliness and sadness and anger, but also with love and humor, the latter for which I am indebted to the late Bob Kaufman I write with the same observational intensity as Bukowski, yet entirely unlike him.
I try in the most direct manner possible to say the things I have felt and experienced in life, and hope that the reader will find the voyage a memorable one. The noted writer Colin Wilson said:
“Everything I read by A. D. Winans fills me with pleasure because of a beautiful natural and easy use of language—he seems to have an ability which should be common but which is in fact very rare to somehow allow his own pleasant personality to flow direct into the page.”
I believe this statement to be true, but acknowledge too that my personality is not always a pleasant one. Sometimes the anger cuts through and severs an artery, but I believe this only serves to make the poem stronger. In essence, I write about life, its ups and downs, the laughter and the tears, the real and the imagined, the good and the evil in man. I don’t pull any punches. I simply try to tell it the way I see it.
Poetry and writing have kept me going all these years. They have been the wife and children I’ve never had. I’ve had forty-five chapbooks and books of poetry and prose published and have appeared in over a thousand literary magazines and anthologies. I’ve given countless readings and made lifelong friends. None of this would have been possible if I had not discovered the magic of poetry. I believe that in the long run my poems and prose will tell you most about who I am.
I get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee and read the newspaper, spend a couple of hours at the computer, pick up the mail at the post office, take a long walk, return home, listen to my jazz records, put in a few hours of writing, and then it’s time to go to bed and get up in the morning and start all over again. That’s what life is pretty much about. The growing up, the learning, the wild years, the mellowing, the settling into a routine, and then one day it’s over. Writing poetry has helped keep lady death from my door. The demons are still there inside me, but I no longer let them control me. You can learn more by visiting www.adwinans.mysite.com