About the Book
2020 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD WINNER
"The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman is the most comprehensive selection of his verse to date, a volume that contains a lot of previously uncollected work. … this book makes a case for him as a perceptive and eccentric American original, a man who seems to have fallen out of the sky like a meteor."—The New York Times
"The body of work is small but voluminous in intensity, spirit and soul, with a lineage that runs from Charles Baudelaire to Charles Mingus. Kaufman—with his commitment to the art, his surreal eye on the urban experience and beyond it, and his jazz timing—brings San Francisco to life."—San Francisco Chronicle
"Twentieth-century American poetry cannot be fully comprehended without Bob Kaufman. City Lights and the editors do a grand service to literature by publishing Kaufman's poetry in one collection. … This is a necessary gift for poets and poetry readers."—Booklist
“He was an original voice. No one else talked like him. No one else wrote poetry like him.”—Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Bob Kaufman (1925–1986) was one of the most important—and most original—poets of the twentieth century. He is among the inaugurators of what today is characterized as the Afro-Surreal, uniting the surrealist practice of automatic writing with the jazz concept of spontaneous composition. He seldom wrote his poems down and often discarded those he did, leaving them to be rescued by others. He was also a legendary figure of the Beat Generation, known as much for hopping on tables to declaim his poetry as for maintaining a monastic silence for months or even years at a time.
Kaufman produced just three broadsides and three books in his lifetime. In 1967, Golden Sardine was published by City Lights in its famed Pocket Poets Series, and became an instant cult classic. Collected Poems is a landmark poetic achievement, bringing together all of Kaufman’s known surviving poems, including an extensive section of previously uncollected work, in a long overdue return to City Lights Books.
Praise for Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman:
"Bob Kaufman volcanically en-veined the Beats as a mirage enveloped Surrealist; not as a formal poet, but one, like Rimbaud, who embodied butane. Following the scent of his butane on one anonymous North Beach afternoon led Philip Lamantia to audibly utter to me that Bob Kaufman as per incandescent singularity is 'our poet.'"—Will Alexander, author of Compression & Purity
"Bob Kaufman is one of our most vulnerable, mysterious, and beautiful poets, a nomadic maudit, surrealist saint of the streets, votary of silence, the consummate Outrider with trickster imagination and visionary power.”—Anne Waldman, author of Trickster Feminism
"Uplifting the voice of this under-sung literary master to future’s light is the mission of the Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman. This poet’s poet on the cliff edge of no ledge is still continuing to foster new surrealizations. Read this bebopian wordsmith, his pen turned saxophone and ink notes that are black tears."—Kamau Daáood, author of The Language of Saxophones
"To call these poems 'surreal' seems, now, to muffle Kaufman’s prophetic genius. He saw us, our images in pools of blood, milk, and saxophone spittle. Maybe it was ever our shivering made the ripples that distorted the reflections."—Douglas Kearney, author of Buck Studies
"Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman should finally liberate the kaleidoscopic surrealism of this San Franciscan, and in many respects, secular Franciscan, poet from the shadows of Allen Ginsberg and the other Beats. … Collected Poems is a memoriam of unmitigated joy and abysmal despair."—Tyrone Williams, author of As iZ