Grateful Message to Bolinas by Reverend Billy

rev billy and crowd

Reverend Billy Talen of the Church of the Stop Shopping Choir is the author of the newly released handbook for earth activism and anti-corporate cultural revolution The Earth Wants YOU, published by City Lights Publishers. This essay, written by Rev. Billy after an event that took place at St. Mark’s Church in New York City, has been reprinted with permission from the Bolinas Hearsay.

I say neighbors because once you’ve lived in Bolinas you never really get far away.  I moved to Bolinas in 1977, although I wanted to be in New York City, where I thought I would be a great poet.  But I had arranged to chant the poem Howl at a big concert and I chanted it without permission and I accompanied my recitation with an interpretive dance which may have been a total embarrassment I don’t know.  I was spinning around shouting the first part of the poem, about knowing “the best mind of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…”  

But of course I never knew them,  but I was a reader.  I wasn’t around when they were hitchhiking across the country when “the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas…” In fact, I was whirling around shouting about terrifying experiences I wanted to have.  Meanwhile, I loved the performance.  Was I becoming a poet star?  And then I felt a hand reach into my frenzy and take the microphone from me and I looked up and it was Allen Ginsberg, and he took me by the hand, back to my seat, in front of thousand people.  He told them, “This young man’s time is up.”

What?  Oh no!  What have I done!  I could see Patti Smith and Andy Warhol looking away.  I had failed.  I had failed miserably.  And that is when I came to Bolinas.  I took my VW bus across the country and moved into a room near Agate Beach, just above the parking lot, and I licked my wounds.  Of course I had come to the one town where so many citizens would know my comic tragedy.  I wasn’t getting away, exactly.  

And people like Gino Sky and Rosalie Sorrels and Ken Botto and Lewis Macadams took me in hand, and even the Hearsay News. I wrote poems for the Hearsay, when Jim Anderson was editor.  I met Jim’s friend Charles Fox, who made me dream more than ever. And eventually I began to perform again, but my own stuff now, very influenced by the Beats, of course, strange operas about hitchhiking in the middle of the night in the middle of Iowa.  I must have performed at the BPUD and down on Wharf Road a hundred times, until I took the big leap back over the hill, to try again.  

Bill Talen, often called “Reverend Billy”, will read from his new book The Earth Wants YOU, published by City Lights Publishers, at Point Reyes Books, offsite at Point Reyes Community Presbyterian Church, 7 PM, Saturday April 23.  Contact Steve Costa [email protected] or Kate Levinson [email protected] for more information.

To see Reverend Billy’s full event schedule click here. Learn more at

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