Venice Loses Its Poet Laureate – Philomene Long, RIP

Philomene Long has died. She was the poet laureate of Venice, not just by action of the city council, but by the consent of Venetians. She was also known as the Queen of Bohemia.

Philomene died in her apartment, in her beloved Ellison at Paloma and Speedway, on August 21. Her death was a shock to her many friends who knew she was excitedly working on a novel, promoting Beyond Baroque and fashioning poems to protect the spirit of Venice from intruders.

Philomene was the last notable Beat generation poet to live in Venice. She was the companion of Stuart Z. Perkoff and, later, wife of John Thomas, two of the most renown poets of Venice. Philomene was known and admired worldwide. Her death is a loss not just to her sister, family and friends, but to all of Venice.

She was author of numerous books, including The Queen of Bohemia (Lummox Press), American Zen Bones (Beyond Baroque Books), and with John Thomas, The Book of Sleep (Momentum Press), The Ghosts of Venice West and Bukowski in the Bathtub (Raven Press). Her Memoirs of a Nun on Fire appears in The Outlaw Bible of America Poetry (Thunders’ Mouth Press). She was also a filmmaker. Her works include The Beats: An Existential Comedy, with Allen Ginsburg and The California Missions with Martin Sheen.

Before coming to Venice, Philomene had been a Catholic nun for five years. After that, she studied Zen with Maezumi Roshi for 21 years, until his death in 1995. Her book, American Zen Bones, is about this experience.

Her last published work “Philomene Long’s Contest for Beachhead Readers,” in the August issue of the Free Venice Beachhead, delved into Buddhism, pop culture and comments by contemporaries Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Patti Smith, Stuart Perkoff and John Thomas. She also included quotes from Buddha, Jesus Christ and Mary, all of whom would have enjoyed her company.

In addition to her writing, Philomene had been working to ensure the long-term survival of Beyond Baroque, the literary and arts center housed in Venice’s old city hall.

In her final months, Philomene – an avid Beachhead reader – became excited about taking a more active role in the paper. Her future plans included selecting a monthly poem for our poetry page by one of the great Venice Beat poets, along with an explanatory note, from her unique perspective, about the poet and the poem. She intended to start with the entire poems whose excepts appear on the Poetry Wall in Windward Plaza.

Her other project was to create, or recreate, a genre of “poems with power,” in her words, “poems poised to storm from the beachhead for the soul of Venice (in my mind, America’s last bastion for its freedoms).”
The Beachhead will do its best to keep Philomene Long’s memory and work alive. Our Collective joins her family, many friends and readers in mourning her loss.

–The Beachhead Collective


Philomene Long's poem on the Windward Plaza Poetry Wall:

Holy Ground
Stained with the blood of poets
City which lies
Beneeath the breasts of birds
Guarded by cats
Behind every corner
The Muse, Angel of Surprise
Poems out of pavement cracks

Posted: Sat - September 1, 2007 at 08:35 PM