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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A.D. Winans Ran With the Core of the S.F. Beat Poets and Continues Writing, Publishing at 75

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 8:55 AM

"I'm kind of like a caretaker," says A.D. Winans, speaking of the demons in his head that must escape via the written word. - EVAN KARP
  • Evan Karp
  • "I'm kind of like a caretaker," says A.D. Winans, speaking of the demons in his head that must escape via the written word.

100 Profiles:

SF Weekly interviews 100 people in San Francisco arts and culture.

No. 95:
A.D. Winans

I didn't know A.D. Winans in 1958, when he was introduced to the North Beach renaissance, but I did sit down with him for an hour recently at the Fillmore Café, where we talked about things from his friendships with Bob Kaufman and Jack Micheline to his publishing press Second Coming, for which he released a special edition of Charles Bukowski's poems only a few years after Buk gave up his postal job to write full-time.

Winans is a sweet man, and well-composed; at 75, his temperament conjures the Ryan Adams line: "clear as a bell, and sound as an old engineer." Winans keeps blinking, as though to constantly see the world clearly, and he could ramble through entertaining stories of cultural import for hours, though not without bringing the conversation back around. It was enough for A.D. to keep talking. Every so often he would check back in to make sure I was getting what I needed. "What else?" he would ask. But I would turn the question right back on him.

Winans, who's seen in the clip above reading at a tribute to Eugene Ruggles last month, has seen a lot: Kaufman at the Co-Existence Bagel Shop jumping onto the counter and bellowing poetry, heralding the arrival of something -- the Beats and post-Beats, the rise of the hippies, the evaporation of North Beach art with the Reagan years. To hear him tell it, he showed up in North Beach and got swept up in the spirit of the times. He'd never had ambitions to write, but he was inspired by Kaufman, et al. and just started doing it. And he kept doing it. Winans has now published 52 books. His latest, Drowning Like LiPo in a River of Red Wine (Bottle of Smoke Press), is a beautiful limited collection of his life's works -- all the way through 2010. Having just traveled through four decades of his life via this collection, I can attest that the writing becomes more lucid with the passage of time. He is still putting out several small volumes a year.

"I've never said I was a poet; if it's poetry, fine. Micheline never said he was a poet," Winans says. "I just feel like William Wantling said once, 'I'd give up writing and carry a lunchbox just like the rest of them would do, if only these strange mutterings would leave me alone.' And that's how I feel. Except I use 'demons' that dictate, like I'm kind of a caretaker for their voices. Jack Spicer sort of felt poems came that way too. Certainly not to a lot of poets, but they come that way with some people. And that's how they come for me."

Simply put, Winans is an example of the effects that a time and a place can have on us -- but more than that, he is a demonstration of that most rare type of person who is open enough to be impressionable yet strong enough to grasp something, stick with it, and make it his own.

Read a more complete version of our conversation here.

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Evan Karp

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