Bob Kaufman: Beat Truth & Genius

Lorraine Currelley
3 min readAug 20, 2020
Bob Kaufman Beat Poet & Forefather

Beatdom remains flawed. I speak specifically of the silenced and missing historical and herstorical information. People unwilling to go further than Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, two popular iconic figures associated with Beat. There is rarely if ever any mention of the roots and contributions of others specifically Blacks. To dismiss and ignore Black contributions and presence is a blatant attempt to bury Black contributions and roots in Beat
whiteness. The fierce determination of the gatekeepers to maintain and protect at all cause Beat whiteness and maleness. Gatekeepers protecting their sacred icons. Unwilling to acknowledge true Beatdom. It’s the identical mindset of America’s fight to keep true American history/herstory out of its

Beat is not some lame tired ass dried up posturing as deep. The erasure of Beatdom’s true forefathers and foremothers. Black culture responsible for making Beat so damn cool. Beat is rooted in Black culture. This is no secret, much of American cool is. Ginsberg and Kerouac frequented Harlem and other Black communities immersing themselves in Black culture. Appropriating the music and language of Blacks. Misinterpreting complex social and political issues and lauded as geniuses. Black culture and cool becomes American only when whiteness gives its seal of approval. Both Beats admitted publicly to the Black influence on Beat. Influence? Beat is rooted in Blackness. To the gatekeepers, “you can’t love the culture and not the people!”

Read what Will Alexander has to say about Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman.

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 achieveme nt, 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.-City Lights

Praise for Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman:

“With this magnetic new unveiling, Bob Kaufman trenchantly sunders endemic retrocausal error and neglect that has casted his fate into a secondary enclave of lesser mastery. To set the story straight it was his spirit that helped sire the Ginsberg that we know and not vice versa. It was he who magically hoisted the invisible umbrella under which Kerouac and others such as Corso were enabled to protractedly flourish. Arrested 39 times for poetic brilliance via bravura he was the absolute contrary of the sterile academic scrounging for golden verbal eggs. Never concerned with immediate notoriety he passed across unerring emptiness as a poetic lahar sweeping in all directions at once. He 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

Harryvette Mullen on Bob Kaufman



Lorraine Currelley

daughter/ancestor rooted intuitive writer/poet laureate/artist/curator/admin/mental health counselor& advocate