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Memoirs of a Nun on Fire


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About the Author

Philomene Long was the daughter of a naval officer and a mother who emigrated from Ireland to America to become a writer. She grew up in New York City; Bristol, Virginia and San Diego. She went to Catholic schools, and graduated from The Academy of Our Lady of Peace and Mount St. Mary's College. She also earned a Master of Arts degree at UCLA. Her vocation as a nun came at age seven, and she entered the convent "as a rather wild teenager." She became, as John Maynard says, "a rather wild nun." A friend in the convent told Long about Venice and told her as well that she was a "beatnik." When Long asked why, her friend replied, "Because you spend so many hours looking at the sky." After a failed marriage, Maynard goes on, "she moved to Venice to write poetry, shoot film, and live exactly as she chose." She became "a regular feature of the Ocean Front in her tennis shoes, black thrift-shop dresses, long, straight hair, alarm-clock pendant, and heavy silver cross." She met Perkoff in 1973. After his death she continued to live in Venice-and, thirty four years later, she was "still around in force." Her interest in Zen began in 1968. In 1974 she began to study with Maezumi Roshi and continued with him until Maezumi's death in 1995. Over the years Long published many books of poetry, including two collaborations with her husband of 18 years, poet John Thomas: The Book of Sleep and The Ghosts of Venice West. The Collected Poems of Philomene Long was published posthumously. She lived a life of poetry and "dedicated poverty" with him until his death in 2002. She also made films: The Beats: An Existential Comedy, with Allen Ginsberg, and The California Missions, with Martin Sheen. She became the Poet-Laureate of Venice in 2005. She died suddenly after a brief illness in her beloved home The Ellison, in Venice, California on August 21th, 2007. It was her mother's birthday and four days after her own 67th birthday. She was found dressed in white, the color she dressed to write in, lying next to her writing table with arm and hand outstretched towards...

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