John Thomas was born in Baltimore on December 31, 1930 (the same day and year as Bo Diddley).

He spent the years 1950 - 1954 in the Air Force, during which time he revisited Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeth's Hospital (the Government bughouse) and corresponded with him at some length. Ezra was still under indictment for treason, so these visits and letters cost John his security clearance.

In 1959, during the Beat era, he rode his thumb from Baltimore to the West Coast (San Francisco and Venice, CA), where he has lived and written ever since.

Seminal for Thomas have been Propertius, Baudelaire, Pessoa, Pound (of course), Charles Olsen, and Philip Whalen. He has published John Thomas, Epopocia and the Decay of Satire, Cinq, Abandoned Latitudes, Old Man Stravinsky Rehearses with Orchestra, Nevertheless - and (with his life partner poet Philomene Long) The Book of Sleep, The Ghosts of Venice West, and Bukowski in the Bathtub. Upcoming: Beat Potraits, a prose sequence about that long-ago Beat world.


For the past three years, the Lummox Journal has named a prominent member of the poetry community as "Lummox of the Year." In 1999, it was Scott Wannberg and in 2000, Todd Moore.

This year the Lummox Journal is proud to acknowledge the work of John Thomas by naming him Lummox of the Year.

John receives 100 of the copies of Feeding the Animal (published by Lummox Press as part of the Little Red Book series), a John Thomas T Shirt and the best wishes of the Lummox family, world-wide.

Some Poems From Feeding The Animal


How stunning, this hummingbird, 
a thrum of green and ruby, 
sipping nectar. 

Or refine it more: the great Blue Morpho 
(Rhetenor, or Achilleus, or Cypris ), 
its broad blue wings floating, dipping down a silent path 
between huge dark tree-walls in Amazonas. 
It can amaze, delight the heart --but then, 
by the muddy creek-bank, a fluttering carpet of Morphos 
dining on the ooze of rotting meat. 

And this other thing, this bluebottle, 
a glitter of bright metallic blue, 
busy with its congenors, feasting on garbage, 
laying little white eggs in excrement. 
So sharply repulsive, the bluebottle. 
Where (in my mind) hides the difference? 

Or make it burning and sinister. In sunny Spain, 
small and gorgeous green-gold insect 
(Lytta Vesicatoria, family Meloidae) 
daintily nibbling on leaves of ash and privet: 
the Blister Beetle, Cantharidin, yes, Spanish Fly. 
Dried, ground to powder, tinctured, and a tiny taste 
tickles and inflames the tracts, ignites the flagging passions - 
but just a little more can bring 
wretched, agonizing death. 
Where were we? Was this all about 
my mind, my gorgeous waking mind, 
which is really not my own? 
And that, asleep, my ugly dreams inherit me? 

Were we coming to this? To this place of no color, 
no gleaming beauty, no heart, no gasp and shudder of grappling flesh? 
Just this silent vacancy, everything covered 
with the grey dust of desertion? 

Bird, butterfly, bluebottle, burning beetle: 
to know them, and to know. must I awake 
and eat them, one and all? Let them move me as they move 
through my famished gut? Well. then. so be it. 


all your busted 
second-hand gear 
piled around you 
over and under you 
living in the back 
of a pre-war Cadillac 
that only runs 
while you sleep 


Even back then, 
when everyone hitchhiked, 
I had a tough time of it. 
Too large, too ugly. 
Bad eyes, also, no doubt. 
Oxnard was awful, but for me 
the stretch between Paso Robles 
and Camp Hunter Liggett 
was always the worst. 

Christ, all the hours, 
waiting for a ride, 
memorizing the dirt at my feet. 
In those days I could have written 
a pretty fine book: 
The Tragic and Marvelous 
Roadside Debris of Central 
and Southern California. 

I never wrote it. But life is kind. 
I may have the chance again 
in my declining years. Camp 
Hunter Liggett is still where it was. 

To be nothing, and feel the wind 
of the big trucks passing. 
Debris: even the word 
is beautiful. 

John Thomas
Copyright 2001
World-wide Rights Reserved
(Do not use without authors permission)

Looking For More?

The LA Beat Webzine: More About John Thomas
Links to Other Lummox pages: LRB, LJ, Raindog, etc...
The CrossRoads: Homebase for the Lummox Empire