An inspiration for Allen Ginsberg and other Beat writers and possibly the inventor of the term “beatnik,” Bob Kaufman (1925-1986) also influenced Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts movement. Born in New Orleans to a part-Jewish father and a black Catholic mother, Kaufman’s poetry adopted the improvisational bravado and harmonic intricacy of Bebop jazz—a debt he acknowledged when naming his only son Parker, in honor of the famous bop saxophonist. While he preferred to leave his performative verse unwritten, his poems were eventually collected in the New Directions books Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness (1965) and The Ancient Rain: Poems 1956-1978 (1981). His diverse thoughts on aesthetics were assembled in the earlier prose broadsides Abomunist Manifesto (1959), Second April (1959), and Does the Secret Mind Whisper? (1960). Kaufman identified with the bohemian life of the proto-surrealist poet Arthur Rimbaud, and the French returned the favor by christening him “Rimbaud noir” and translating his poetry. Less sympathetic, the FBI first became interested in Kaufman in 1950 as a “degenerate” member of the Communist Party, and continued to shadow him through 1970.
FBI documents studying Bob Kaufman.
Material is in the public domain.
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