Jan/Feb 2018 Reviews & Interviews

I am San Francisco

San Francisco Poems
A. D. Winans.
Little Red Tree Publishing. 2017. 190 pp.
ISBN 978-1935656159.

Review by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

Buy now from Amazon! The first edition of A. D. Winans' San Francisco Poems was released in 2012 and reviewed here in the pages of Eclectica. The second edition has gained 16 poems. Ten poems have been dropped from the text of the first edition. These changes and an expanded autobiographical prologue add 20 pages to the length all of it an improvement upon the book that went before.

Among the poems added is "I am San Francisco." Like most of the poems, it is a catalogue of memories from a long life in the city and on its open-mic circuit.

I am the only word-slinger
in a working class family
I am a ghost lost
in poetry books struggling to find
the right words to a hit song
like my idol Hank Williams, Sr

Winans is a humble-rakish, anti-literary man from family not much involved with books. It is a common qualification for a street poet, but this poet went all in.

Also gloriously common, in the '50s, after he was discharged from the air force, he attended college tuition-free on the old G.I. Bill for as long as he wished to attend. Being a veteran probably got him his part-time job working nights for the Post Office, as well. The G.I. Bill created a flood of poets in those days.

While others held regular jobs and dabbled on the side in the poetry scene, or, perhaps, drank themselves to death, he quit the Post Office job to give his full-time attention to writing. He started a small magazine, Second Coming, which made him a vital player in his place and time. His liver proved to be strong enough for him to survive.

For a street poet, this is a resume for success. This and a penchant for hustling that Winans has to the full. Over the years, his books and interviews have been filled with famous names such as Bukowski, Spicer, Janis Joplin, Ferlinghetti, and others of more local fame, to remind readers that his life and poetry moved among such worlds.

Now he is the wise O.G., the ultimate benefit of survival. In the poem "Call to Poets" he cajoles the younger poets to get the old spirit. Things have changed, and he reminds them of a greater sincerity that used to exist:

Poets unite
forget about a career in poetry
and concentrate on the poem
quit turning out factory
assembly line poems
quit trying to imitate Bukowski

Poets unite
listen to your brothers and sisters
quit being the first poet to read
and the first one to leave

The milieu described in the poem is immediately recognizable to anyone who has spent any period of time in a local open-mic poetry scene.

While A. D. Winans was not among the finest poets of his place and time, he just may have been the most representative. In their way, his poems are as eloquent as any. They capture the unique ways a human life once could play itself out fully invested in the world around it. Both that life and that world may no longer be possible. But we are able to share the harvest of those times through A. D. Winans' San Francisco Poems.


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