Bob Kaufman

Bob Kaufman (1925–1986) was born in New Orleans on April 18, 1925 of mixed Black and Jewish parentage, one of fourteen children. During twenty years in the Merchant Marine he cultivated an intense interest in literature and began to write on his long sea voyages. Settling in California in the 1950’s he became active in the burgeoning West Coast literary scene. One of the original Beat poets, (he coined the term beatnik), Kaufman’s work has always been largely improvisational, often done to jazz accompaniment. His technique, akin to Surrealist automatic writing, produced a body of work ranging from a visionary lyricism, infused with satirical elements, to a prophetic poetry of political and social protest. Disappointment, drugs and imprisonment led him to take a ten-year vow of complete silence that lasted until 1973. Seven collections of his work have appeared, including Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness, Golden Sardine, The Ancient Rain: Poems 1956–1978, and Cranial Guitar (Coffee House Press, 1996).

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