Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman

Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman
Foreword by devorah major
Edited by Neeli Cherkovski, Raymond Foye, Tate Swindell





Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman wins an American Book Award
Sep 14, 2020

Review in the New York Times
Oct 18, 2019

"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."––Dwight Garner


Review in Music & Literature
Jul 7, 2020

"Beaten, jailed, and subject to electroshock, Kaufman lived out the reality of racial terror in his body. Yet he turned his status as a marginalized outsider into a condition of freedom. Kaufman's poems are a series of contained explosions of the psyche, of the social, of the poet and the people 'spread-eagled on this bone of the world.'"—David Grundy


Review in Rain Taxi
Apr 27, 2020

"This book will be invaluable to students and scholars of post-WWII American poetry. . . . This lovingly prepared volume also features photographs, a biographical timeline, remembrances by editors Neeli Cherkovski and Raymond Foye, and uncollected works, several of which appeared in Beatitude, the literary magazine Kaufman started with William J. Margolis in 1959. . . . Take some time to immerse yourself in the gorgeous beatitude of this underappreciated American poet-philosopher. This long overdue collection ought to have a lasting impact on all those who believe in the ability of poetry to transform our lives."—Christopher Luna


Review on Rob McLennan's Blog
Jan 22, 2020

"The work included here shows Kaufman as a restless writer . . . The two hundred pages-plus of this new Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman has obviously been compiled with an enormous amount of care and attention, clearly as homage for a man as difficult as he was beloved, and as brilliant as he was evasive."––Rob McLennan


"PW Staff Picks: The Best Books We Read in 2019"
Jan 10, 2020

"Among the great American mystic poets, few have made such enormous contributions while being so overlooked as Bob Kaufman. The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman ends the African-American surrealist's exile from our poetic landscape, sharing the full breadth of his work for the first time. Closely associated with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and the San Francisco Beats, Kaufman’s enigmatic life has long been a focus for readers. But it is ultimately the simple fact of his poems, collected here in one volume, that matters most. In masterpieces like his 1965 'Abomunist Manifesto' and 'Does the Secret Mind Whisper?' readers will encounter the rarest of writers; a poet who could shift from starkness and brutality to humor, tenderness, and wonderment in an instant. Not many collected works deserve sustained place in the hands of readers and on the shelves of bookstore poetry sections. This is one of them. "––Alex Green, New England correspondent


Review in Hyperallergic
Dec 28, 2019

"The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman is a necessary volume long in need of compilation. Expertly edited by Neeli Cherkovski, Raymond Foye, and Tate Swindell, with an informative foreword by devorah major . . . This is a voice-dominated verse in which the taut snap of lines in some poems jostles productively against the incantatory, oratorical mode of others. . . . Kaufman's high-velocity verse is a mental accelerant of the first order."––Albert Mobilio


Review in Sensitive Skin
Jan 14, 2020

"The surrealism of Bob Kaufman is a true American surrealism, because Kaufman brings the blues, jazz and being a black man in the United States to his subconscious visions. He still remains, in my estimation, America's unequaled surrealist. Just as Beat’s other most famous black poet, Amiri Baraka, spawned the Last Poets and the eventual rise of rap, Kaufman’s influence is not only present today in Will Alexander and transmale Blackfoot poet Max Wolf Valerio, but also in Bob Dylan . . . At last we have the collected poems, thanks to Neeli Cherkovski, Raymond Foye and Tate Swindell. It is a great accomplishment and a major literary event."––Marc Olmstead


Review in East Bay Express
Jan 8, 2020

"At first blush, this poems smack of whimsy and play. But a second reading conjures images of white supremacist terror and the incarceration of innocents with no means of attaining justice but to flee from prosecution. It was such absurdist wordplay, which could conjure both joy and horror in an economy of words, that inspired French readers to dub him 'The Black American Rimbaud,' and the group Surrealist International to label him the only American surrealist poet in the 1960s. . . . The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman seems to re-write the poet's biography despite itself, which has led to a call for a serious re-examination of not only his life and works, but also the conditions and publishing apparatus that contributed to his homelessness, death, and obscurity."––D. Scot Miller


2nd Review in San Francisco Chronicle
Nov 26, 2019

"These Collected Poems, long overdue, assure us that a little Bob Kaufman, like his beloved Charlie Parker, will echo in the atmosphere."––James Sullivan


Review in Booklist
Nov 1, 2019

"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. Following a generous introduction by fellow San Franciscan poet devorah major, the poems have been meticulously gathered from published and unpublished works, essays, and transcribed oral performances. As a figure among the early Beat poets of the 1950s, Kaufman poetically predated the long rants of Ginsberg and streams of consciousness of Kerouac with succinct poems filled with rhythmic imagery and relayed in his distinct voice. Not to be pegged in, Kaufman often switched up forms and played with language in innovative ways. Kaufman's numerous poems take the reader through the history of his varied influences, which combine a strong surrealist flare with the unabashed romanticism of Rimbaud, and always present is his foundational appreciation of jazz. Were the poems in this collection to be rendered in paint, they would grace the walls of modern art wings and museums across the country. This is a necessary gift for poets and poetry readers."––Michael Ruzicka


Review in San Francisco Chronicle
Nov 1, 2019

"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."––Denise Sullivan


"Books We Recommend This Week"
Oct 31, 2019

Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman appears in this list.


"The Poetry Foundation's 2019 Staff Picks"
Dec 11, 2019

". . . The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman (City Lights), which finally gathers, between two covers, the torrential majesty of a poet who should be better known."

- Jeremy Lybarger

Review in Smoky Mountain News
Dec 23, 2019

"Bob Kaufman is probably the most important and unheralded of all the Beat generation literary luminaries. He was the true original. In the streets. On target. Under the radar. Yet at the forefront, breaking all the barriers. … Now, over 30 years since his death in 1986, with his poetry having been translated in several languages and with this publication of the Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman we now have something that will surely put him in the pantheon of the 'Beat Gods' with regards to the general public, as well as with archivists and special collections libraries around the globe."––Thomas Crowe


Review in Electric Review
Dec 2, 2019

"San Francisco poet Bob Kaufman, who died in 1986 at the age of 61, was a one-of-a-kind writer whose work has largely remained unknown and under-appreciated. Probably one of the main reasons for this is that Kaufman wrote very few pieces down, instead choosing to put Jack Kerouac's Essentials of Spontaneous Prose into immediate action, 'writing on the tongue’ as Ginsberg often said. As such, Kaufman was able to meld the warm rhythms of jazz with words to create a vibrant and melodic line structure that was like no one else in tone or intensity. And now, after all these years, City Lights has released the collected works of one its hometown’s greats. Readers new to the 'Black Rimbaud' will immediately see that Kaufman’s work is a microcosm of the beauty that was the Beat Generation––words knotted with the holy essence of music now hurling themselves into crystal fists across the sky to create an eternal collection of voices. Ultimately, Bob Kaufman’s voice shined a unique chain of stars across the horizon, uniting moon and sun in a universe all his own."––John Aiello


"A selection of 12 of the best books of 2019."
Nov 26, 2019

"Bob Kaufman was one of the most important poets of the twentieth century. As the only Black American poet to be recognized by France's Surrealist International, Kaufman is among the inaugurators of what today is characterized as the Afro-Surreal and has been criminally overlooked for nearly forty years. As icons of that literary movement went on to wealth and international reverence, Kaufman died in obscurity, even after having produced three books, and being the founding editor of the poetry journal Beatitudes, where many believe the term 'beat' is actually rooted. Collected Poems brings together all of Kaufman's known surviving poems, including an extensive section of previously uncollected work."

- D. Scot Miller

Review in the Brooklyn Rail
Nov 1, 2019

"The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman makes the case that Kaufman was more than the sum of various discrete identities. Beyond his Beat and jazz affiliations, beyond his connections to surrealism, and beyond his love for poetry as performance, he embodies the quest of one individual in relentless pursuit of an authentic self through uninhibited creative acts. . . . Ultimately, what each section of The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman demonstrates over and over is how present each poem is in the moment of its creation, as if the creative impulse asserts itself as naturally as breath. Instead of chiseling perfectly sculpted poems of Parnassian splendor, the poet's arch, apt, and often wild work is an unmediated extension of the man who, by 1955, had already sailed the world as a member of the National Maritime Union and later, in San Francisco, climbed on top of stopped cars to recite spontaneous verse. Complicated, observant, yet uniquely uncorrupted and vulnerable, Kaufman earns the much overused and oft-misunderstood adjective 'original.' His poems are suffused with humility, authority, and something approaching 'Laughter on exotic beds.'"––Tony Leuzzi


"Eternal Poet"
Sep 15, 2019

devorah major's foreword to Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman excerpted in The Brooklyn Rail.

- devorah major