A.D. Winans, San Francisco, Words & Friends

by Zack Kopp

by Ginger Edes, from a photo by Richard Petty

Once described by recently deceased poet and City Lights Books founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti as a great place to pull oneself up by the bootstraps, the San Francisco Bay Area has increasingly transformed into a home base for tech giants in the last couple of decades as a culmination of a trend away from art toward profit. With Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s death at the impressive age of 102 on February 22nd of 2021, San Francisco’s more than a century as prestigious Bohemian hot spot seems at a close. American poet,[1] essayist, short story writer and publisher Allan Davis Winans, known professionally as A. D. Winans was born January 12, 1936, in San Francisco, California, and has made that city his lifelong home base. Winans returned home from Panama in 1958, after serving three years in the military and graduated from San Francisco State College In 1962. In the suburb of North Beach, he became friends beyond life with California Beat poets Bob Kaufman and Jack Micheline. Winans exchanged emails with Zack Kopp recently.

Winans w/ Jack Micheline. photo by Ginger Edes.

“Micheline didn’t like labels and considered himself a Bohemian. I don’t like labels either. I know I don’t like being, [as I have been] in the past, classified as a ‘Meat’ poet. If I had to be labeled, I, too, prefer Bohemian. Gino and Carlo’s Bar in the heart of North Beach was a Bohemian heaven where poets, artists, philosophers, and journalists like Warren Hinckle and the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Charles Mc Cabe hung out. Beat poets Richard Brautigan and Jack Spicer drank there. Hunter Thompson, a journalist friend of Hinckle, dropped in, as did talented musicians and singers. My most memorable experience was my painter friend Peter Onstad and I shooting pool with Janis Joplin and her friend ‘Sunshine’ as the jukebox played ‘Down On Me’. North Beach was always a happening place.”

As a lifelong resident, Winans has a long view of San Francisco’s transformation over decades of incremental change spanning most of the last century. “The ghosts remain, especially for those of us who were part of those days. As a teenager, on a warm day, I and a friend would skip class and take a streetcar to the Beach and walk the boardwalk or lay in the sand, knowing we would face detention as a punishment, but it was well worth it, [M]y old Polytechnic High School was demolished in 1987 and replaced with condos All that remains is the Boys Gym. In the 4 years there our football team lost but one game and soundly beat that same team in the Championship game. I ran the 440 and made the All-City trials and no, I did not place in the top three but finishing fourth in such a field seemed at the time a small victory. The Place, a bar on upper Grant Avenue that featured ‘Blabber Night’ where anyone could get up and espouse anything on their mind from poetry to philosophy. I hung out there on occasion and would see poet Jack Spicer there. Seen here in 1959 hosting Linda Lovely and her soapbox. She was a central figure in Jerry Kamstra’s novel The Frisco Kid. I keep calling the ‘Big Man’ in the sky but the cell phone signal is out of reach and all I get is a busy signal from one of the few old telephones left in the City.”

Linda Lovelace at The Place, 1959. Photographer unknown.

Winans has been referred to as “America’s foremost non-academic poet.” He was the founder of Second Coming Press, a San Francisco based small press publishing books, poetry broadsides, a magazine, and anthologies, editing Second Coming Magazine from 1972 to 1989. During this period, he befriended Charles Bukowski and  Bukowski’s then-girlfriend, Linda King, both of whose work he published. Other writers published in that mag  included Jack Micheline, Bob Kaufman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Levine, Josephine Miles, David Meltzer, and Charles Plymell. In 2002, he published his memoir, Holy Grail: Charles Bukowski & The Second Coming Revolution, a memoir and account of his professional relationship and friendship with a poet known for his lack of metaphoric distance, and its effect on his writing and life. Portions of Winans’ correspondence with Bukowski appear in collections of Bukowski’s letters to fans, colleagues and editor(s).

Second Coming archives, photo credit: Sam Cherry

“Charles Bukowski and I corresponded for l7 years and exchanged 83 letters during the time I was publishing Second Coming. His letters to me are at my archives at Brown University. Next month I may start sharing ‘portions’ of letters from the copies I have kept here. My book Dead Lions published by Punk Hostage Press. The book details my friendship with Bukowski, Kaufman, Jack Micheline, and Alvah Bessie one of the Hollywood Ten who went to prison for defying the House Un-American Activities Committee, a dark period in our history. This poem of mine was written for Charles Bukowski in the seventies:


Called you from the corner

Of Hollywood and Vine

Three days in a row

Because you said to be sure

And look you up when I got in town

Managed to reach you

Late in the afternoon

On the night of my reading

At Beyond Baroque

You said …

You had trouble recognizing my voice

Hoped I wasn’t drinking too much

Said something about your having just

Returned from a trip to Europe

Paris I believe

Three weeks of intense travel with Linda

Three weeks of living hell

And an appearance on national TV

You said that I had called

At the wrong time and

Hoped I would understand

And to be sure and write to you

When I got back home

And me just back from

Eight days and nights

Fighting insomnia in New York

Listening to Louis Simpson

And a host of minor poets read

Standing here in a phone booth

Here in Los Angeles

3 days into smog

3 nights into the world series

Don’t worry Hank I understand

Don’t give it a second thought

I mean it’s okay

We all have a little

Of the gangster inside us

Al Capone or Bugsy Malone

In Chicago or in Sicily

We all dream

The dream of Diamond Jim

Only to wake in the morning sweating

A dead numbers man

In a dead-end alley

In Chicago or in Silicy

Or on Carlton way in downtown


And the sleepless nights

Pile up like litter

And the mafia men disguised

In the clothes of poets

Wait like hitmen

To collect a bad debt

And there’s always a torpedo

From Cleveland or the Bronx

Someone with a scar and a sneer

Waiting by the window with

A machine gun or a forty-five

And if the arts and politics don’t get you

And you manage to survive the betrayals

And the long line of undertakers

That stretch out like body bags

In a battle zone

You can consider yourself lucky

Sell your letters to the University

Ignore the mad sirens wailing

In the recess of your mind

Don’t worry Hank I understand

As Bob Kaufman said:

There ain’t no piano for Lucky Luciano

There ain’t no phone for Al Capone

There ain’t no jazz on Alcatraz

There ain’t no heart on Carlton”

It was while serving in Panama Winans says he 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. I was honorably discharged from the military in February,1958, and returned home to discover the Beat generation.”

A.D. w/ Bob Kaufman at Cafe Trieste, 1977. Credit Richard Morris.

Part of the secret to Winans’ notoriety is his commitment to poetry and his prolific nature. He is the author of nearly seventy books and chapbooks of poetry and prose, including North Beach Poems, North Beach Revisited, Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine, In The Dead Hours of Dawn, San Francisco Poems, and Dead Lions. Another is his extremely prolific nature, even into his eighties. “Here’s a link to Byron Coley reading live and on the radio my long epic political poem, MAYDAY [which has been] published in a City Lights like paperback pocketbook by Holy Yurt Books as the first book in their pocketbook series limited to 100 copies, 20 of which are signed by the author. I am making available 15 of the 20 signed copies. The cost of the book including postage and shipping is $10. To make payment through Pay Pal, use my email, slowdancer2006@netzero.com.”  


white nationalism

immigrant bashing

deadly viruses

it’s enough to drive one mad

Donald Trump Moscow Mitch and the Pope

All selling their own brand of dope

A transit system that doesn’t work

Head cases ranting on the streets

Punk rockers with rainbow colored hair

Women with nose rings

And pierced genitals

Viagra for the disinterested

Ginseng for tired blood

My illusions are fighting

A duel with my delusions

The last time I picked up

An airport white courtesy phone

The voice on the other end was mine

The dates on my calendar are blank

My answering machine spits back

Messages in Chinese

The pinball machine has no flappers

There’s no prize in my crackerjack box

My radio plays only commercials

My hand holds my cock in contempt

My love life is an unread resume

With one too many references

I dreamed I was a gun runner

Trading hardware for software

I want my picture on a cereal box

Not the back of a milk carton

The IRS is a legal shakedown

The Pentagon a slaughterhouse

Jack the Ripper sliced and diced

His way through life

And he wasn’t even a chef

Freud was impotent

But put on a good show

Monks know the answer to life

But won’t share it

You know you’re in trouble

When your shrink deals in fantasies

And leaves you with his reality

My life has become a distraction

No additions no subtractions

When it becomes an abstraction

I’ll know I’ve found success

A.D. Winans, photographer unknown.


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