The Heroin Haikus of Poet William Wantling
Three samples from the his autobiographical collection of "seventeen-syllable comments."
American poet William Wantling was a street-savvy wordsmith who gave a voice to disenfranchised drug users, with a love of narcotics, a conviction for forgery and a spell in San Quentin to his name, among many other alleged exploits. Heroin Haikus, published between 1965 and 1966, serves as a perfect introduction to his work, leading the reader through Wantling’s life of crime, loneliness and heroin use.
Kevin E. Jones, who wrote a doctoral dissertation on the poet, described him by saying: “Wantling lied, cheated, ripped off his friends, shat in their bathtubs.” Hamburger Hill author Samuel Zaffiri also noted that the poet’s post-prison life consisted of “a constant search for things which would get him drunk or high.”
This is all apparent in Heroin Haikus. You can check out some of the poems below, and see more from this collection here.
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