• Friday NOV 11
"Does the Secret Mind Whisper?"
Will Alexander, Maria Damon and Justin Desmangles
a symposium on Bob Kaufman, Black surrealism, and cultural poetics
7:30 pm @ Meridian Gallery, 535 Powell Street,
Co-sponsored with Before Columbus Foundation
“…the ‘secret mind’ represents the convergence of multiple cultural trajectories. It is the political unconscious of the US, which registers all the ‘secret, terrible hurts’ (Kaufman, “Bagel Shop Jazz”) visited upon people who belong to an ‘America not on any map’ (Will Alexander), the disenfranchised who may ruminate silently on these social, spiritual and bodily injuries but who may speak of them openly only at their peril.”
—Maria Damon, Jacket2, “Poetry in 1960, A Symposium”
"Does the Secret Mind Whisper?" was the gnomic open question posed by poet Bob Kaufman in an early City Lights broadside by that title. In collaboration with the Before Columbus Foundation, the Poetry Center hosts an evening symposium under that rubric, in order to take up the nature of Kaufman's legacy and practice, and its extensions into the 21st Century. Featured guests include poet-scholars Will Alexander and Maria Damon, in conversation with Bay Area writer, radio host/dj and cultural worker Justin Desmangles.
BOB KAUFMAN (1925–1986) was a key participant in the 1950s San Francisco poetry renaissance and the Beat movement. Author of three renowned poetry broadsides, Abomunist Manfesto, Second April, and Does the Secret Mind Whisper?, published in the late 1950s by City Lights Books, his poetry in print remained elusive until two collections came out in the mid-1960s. The landmark Solitudes Crowded With Loneliness (1965), published by New Directions, has remained in print for better than four decades. Golden Sardine (1967) became a signature City Lights Pocket Poets volume alongside the works of renowned contemporaries Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. During Kaufman's last decade, editor Raymond Foye assembled the volume of fugitive works, Ancient Rain: Poems 1956–1978 (New Directions, 1981). The posthumous collection, Cranial Guitar: Selected Poems, appeared in 1996 (Coffee House Press). Following Kaufman's death in 1986, a two-hour feature program, Bob Kaufman, Poet, was produced by David Henderson for KPFA-FM and aired nationally through the Pacifica network. Regarded in France as "the American Rimbaud," Bob Kaufman has been celebrated internationally for his particular mode of Surrealism, permeated by a profound affinity for the outcasts of American society, the poor and punished. The late saxophonist and jazz song composer Steve Lacy called Kaufman "the greatest jazz poet, and the beatest of the Beats."
WILL ALEXANDER (see bio above) has previously published the essay "Bob Kaufman: The Footnotes Exploded" in Conjunctions 29: Tributes.
MARIA DAMON (see bio above) his written on Bob Kaufman, extensively in her early book The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry (University of Minnesota) and more recently online at Jacket2.
In a series of public programs on the life and legacy of Bob Kaufman under the title "Does the Secret Mind Whisper?" he recently brought together AACM co-founder Roscoe Mitchell with Kaufman's poetry in performances of original compositions. An upcoming November 14 Benefit for the Before Columbus Foundation at Yoshi's San Francisco will reunite Roscoe Mitchell and Amiri Baraka in duo performance, and feature the new Ishmael Reed Band.