Tom Weatherly

Weatherly's words

A tribute to Tom Weatherly

He read the Hebrew name of G-d, the tetragrammaton’s four unpronounceable letters, as a representation of respiration: one breath in, one breath out. That sound was the Holy of Holies. He told me this last summer, over the phone. I was sixty years old, but that insight sounded like the most brilliant thing I’d ever heard. He took very seriously his midlife conversion to Orthodox Judaism, talking to rabbis and Hasids, reading Maimonides and Hillel, and using his middle name, “Elias,” to sign himself at times. Eclectic defined him, as did sudden turns at perpendicular angles. 

Editorial note: Rosanne Wasserman’s tribute to Tom Weatherly was originally published at the blog for The Best American Poetry on August 4, 2014, and is reproduced here in slightly edited form.

These poems are loaded

In the winter of 1968, LeRoi Jones went on trial for possession of guns in Newark. At his trial, the judge cited three poems that had appeared in Evergreen Review as evidence of the defendant’s guilt. A flyer circulated showing Jones handcuffed, wearing a prison uniform, and sporting a gash down his forehead that obviously hadn’t resulted from hitting his head on the typewriter. The caption read: “Poetry Is Revolution / Revolution Is Poetry.”

Editorial note: What follows is an excerpt from a review Stephens wrote of Tom Weatherly’s Maumau American Cantos and Andrei Codrescu’s License to Carry a Gun, a review originally published on page 6 of The Village Voice on December 31, 1970.

Obituary

Tom Weatherly

M. G. Stephens and Tom Weatherly, mid-1970s. Photo by Nicki Hitz Edson.

Tom Weatherly will also be known for his long tenure at the Strand Bookstore on West 12th Street and Broadway in downtown Manhattan. For many years, he was a fixture working in the basement of the Strand, the gentle giant with the long white beard, looking like a benign character in a fairy tale.

Editorial note: M. G. Stephens’s obituary for Tom Weatherly was originally published in Milk Magazine on July 25, 2014. — Julia Bloch 

On Tom Weatherly, February 2017

Detail from front cover of ‘Maumau American Cantos.’

One morning a little later when I was staying at a house in Philadelphia with Victor Bockris I found him downstairs, waking up on the living room sofa. “How are you?” I said, and he looked up and said, “Oh man, seems like the worst things in the world happen to me and it doesn’t seem to matter.” You had to love the guy.

Although I didn’t know him well, Tom Weatherly made a great impression on me from our first meeting — back in the days of Telegraph Books — when he said, “Hey, your dad’s William Saroyan? No wonder you so smart” — which was surprising and charming coming from this big black dude. One morning a little later when I was staying at a house in Philadelphia with Victor Bockris I found him downstairs, waking up on the living room sofa.

Tom Weatherly's memorial, November 2014

Detail from back cover of ‘Maumau American Cantos.’

I’m Janet Rosen. Some of you know me as Mrs. W #4. Not funny: he was an optimist, not a guy who said marriage didn’t work for me I’m never doing that again. No. He just kept trying, and he also had profound relationships without benefit of legal or religious ceremony.

I’m Janet Rosen. Some of you know me as Mrs. W #4. Not funny: he was an optimist, not a guy who said marriage didn’t work for me I’m never doing that again. No. He just kept trying, and he also had profound relationships without benefit of legal or religious ceremony.

Tom Weatherly in 'Dictionary of Literary Biography'

Sumerian symbols, from the opening and closing of Tom Weatherly’s ‘Thumbprint.’

Thomas Elias Weatherly Jr., forged and purified by the white heat of nonconformity, has responded to the external, fragmented reality of the black-white world that he has engaged and sought to conquer through mythmaking. 

Editorial note: Evelyn Hoard Roberts’s entry on Tom Weatherly, written in the 1980s, originally appeared in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 41: Afro-Americans Poets Since 1955, edited by Trudier Harris and Thadious M. Davis(Detroit: Gale, 1985), 338–42, and is reproduced here in slightly edited form. — Julia Bloch

Reminiscence

On Thomas Elias Weatherly

Thomas Weatherly with Eugene Richie and the poet Tom Breidenbach at Weatherly’s sixty-fifth birthday celebration, Pace University, New York City, November 3, 2007.

I first met Thomas in a poetry writing class taught by David Ignatow in the Columbia MFA program in creative writing in September 1974. David had invited him to join the class as a special student. Tom had just finished a delightful interview with Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie, which was printed in April in The World (published by the New York Poetry Project). 

I first met Thomas in a poetry writing class taught by David Ignatow in the Columbia MFA program in creative writing in September 1974. David had invited him to join the class as a special student. Tom had just finished a delightful interview with Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie, which was printed in April in The World (published by the New York Poetry Project).

On 'Short History of the Saxophone'

Of course the word is a brick. This notion, and also that of poet as mason, is gorgeously confirmed in Thomas Weatherly’s new book, short history of the saxophone (Groundwater Press, 2006). Though Weatherly has been publishing poetry for almost forty years, short history of the saxophone is his first published work since the early ’70s, when he put out two books — Maumau American Cantos and Thumbprint — and coedited Natural Process: An Anthology of New Black Poetry

Editorial note: This review of Tom Weatherly’s short history of the saxophone (New York: Groundwater Press, 2006) originally appeared in The Poetry Project Newsletter no. 212, October/November 2007). — Julia Bloch

From 'This Ain't No Disco'

Detail from back cover of ‘Maumau American Cantos.’

In 1971, Telegraph Books, publishers of Tom Clark, Ron Padgett, and Ted Berrigan, produced Tom Weatherly’s chapbook Thumbprint

Editorial note: What follows is excerpted from Aldon Nielsen’s essay “This Ain’t No Disco,” which originally appeared in The World in Time and Space: Towards a History of Innovative American Poetry in Our Time, edited by Edward Foster and Joseph Donahue (Jersey City, NJ: Talisman House, 2002), 536–46. — Julia Bloch

The blues, Tom Weatherly, and the American canon

Letter to the author, August 26, 1991.

If you read Weatherly’s sixties and early seventies poetry in something more than a cursory way, you’ll see Preface in them. Jones’s book seized him too — although I won’t say that it was seminal for him. Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide NoteDutchman, and Blues People (appearing in 1960) were written by someone hailing from Newark, New Jersey, who had made a life in Greenwich Village. 

In 1964, as I was about to leave for college, I attended James Baldwin’s new play Blues for Mr. Charlie. By then, Everett LeRoi Jones (a.k.a. LeRoi Jones, subsequently Amiri Baraka) had moved to Greenwich Village, though I would not discover him till the following year. Jones’s equally brilliant and even more searing play, Dutchman, was also first produced that year. Baldwin had published Notes of a Native Son in 1955, which helped to create a Harlem of nearly mythic stature as he delved into its sorrows, complexities, and triumphs.

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