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Blood Jet Poetry Series in New Orleans, weekly poetry and music as well as open mic performances

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

17 Poets! Reading Series Features a Tribute to Bob Kaufman

b o b K A U F M A N
Bob Kaufman (April 18, 1925 – January 12, 1986), born Robert Garnell Kaufman, was an American Beat poet and surrealist inspired by jazz music. In France, where his poetry had a large following, he was known as the "American Rimbaud."

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Kaufman was one of fourteen children, the son of a German-Jewish father and a Roman Catholic Black mother from Martinique; his grandmother practiced voodoo. At age eighteen, Kaufman joined the United States Merchant Marine, which he left in the early 1940s to briefly study literature at New York's The New School. There, he met William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. In 1944 Bob Kaufman married Ida Berrocal. They had one daughter, Antoinette Victoria Marie (Nagle), born in New York City in 1945 (died 2008). Kaufman moved to San Francisco's North Beach in 1958 and remained there for most of the rest of his life. He married Eileen Singe in 1958; they had one child, Parker, named for Charlie Parker.

Kaufman, a poet in the oral tradition, usually didn't write down his poems, and much of his published work survives by way of his wife Eileen, who wrote his poems down as he conceived them. Like many beat writers, Kaufman became a Buddhist. In 1959, along with poets Allen Ginsberg, John Kelly, A. D. Winans, and William Margolis, he was one of the founders of Beatitude magazine.

In 1959, Kaufman had a small role in a movie called The Flower Thief, which was shot in North Beach by Ron Rice. In 1961, Kaufman was nominated for England's Guinness Poetry Award, but lost to T. S. Eliot. He appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson four times in 1970-1971.

In an interview, Ken Kesey describes seeing Bob Kaufman on the streets of San Francisco's North Beach during a visit to that city with his family in the 1950s:
I can remember driving down to North Beach with my folks and seeing Bob Kaufman out there on the street. I didn’t know he was Bob Kaufman at the time. He had little pieces of Band-Aid tape all over his face, about two inches wide, and little smaller ones like two inches long -- and all of them made into crosses. He came up to the cars, and he was babbling poetry into these cars. He came up to the car I was riding in, and my folks, and started jabbering this stuff into the car. I knew that this was exceptional use of the human voice and the human mind.


After learning of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Kaufman took a Buddhist vow of silence that lasted until the end of the Vietnam War in 1973. He broke his silence by reciting his poem "All Those Ships that Never Sailed," the first lines of which are

All those ships that never sailed
The ones with their seacocks open
That were scuttled in their stalls...
Today I bring them back
Huge and intransitory
And let them sail
Forever
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Please join us in celebration as 17 Poets! Literary & Performance series presents a reading/performance featuring works of legendary, New Orleans-born beat poet BOB KAUFMAN!!!
Feature will be followed by Open Mic hosted by Jimmy Ross (sign-up begins @ 7:30 p.m.)...storytellers, poets, fiction writers, essayists, vocalists & performance artists are welcome.

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