Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2019 Peter A Davis
The scholars who have taken up the task of writing about Bob Kaufman have most often done so in response to a perceived demand: the lack of Kaufman scholarship, readership, anthology, publicity, canonization. The basis of this need is clear: Kaufman is almost never included as even a third-string Beat, a fringe Surrealist, or an underappreciated Jazz performer. To the committed readers of Kaufman – and almost all of his readers seem to be committed ones – it’s unforgivable. These various canons, major (mid-century American poets, Beat poets) and minor (Jazz poets, American Surrealists), are clearly missing one of their most important members. The task is to reintegrate Kaufman into the company it seems he has been omitted from, the company he deserves. The problem is that once the critic has overcome all the resistance – the capitalist publishing industry, the prison system, the white-dominated west coast poetry setting, the public demands of aesthetic production – she is resisted by the poetry itself, and by Kaufman the poet. Along the lines of Claude Pelieu’s back jacket blurb of Golden Sardine – “in spite of his continuing exclusion from American anthologies, both Hip & Academic” – Kaufman has excluded the anthology, the academy. I will read death through various critical lenses – some with nearly universal critical currency among readers of Kaufman, some with little – as Kaufman’s “FOUNT OF THE CREATIVE ACT.” But this thematic circumscription is also a reading of endurance, even of life. Kaufman writes: “[THE POET’S] DEATH IS A SAVING GRACE.” This becomes the vital relation at the center of my project: how does Kaufman, like Lorca, survive in his poem? How does Kaufman’s political poetry relate with poetic death and redemption? How does jazz involve these things? Does death exist? I want to know . . .
Davis, Peter, ""Woven Into the Deeps of Life": Death, Redemption, and Memory in Bob Kaufman's Poetry" (2019). Pomona Senior Theses. 220.