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Frogpond 45.1 • 2022

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Essay 1 - Split Sequences

Essay 2 - Nonhaiku of Bob Kaufman

Essay 3 - Covid Haibun


Interview - Laurie D. Morrissey


Book Reviews

From the Editor

Haiku Society of America


Bombs or Balms: The Nonhaiku of Bob Kaufman

by Michael Dylan Welch

Bombs or Balms: The Nonhaiku of Bob Kaufman
(complete PDF version)

Here is a sample excerpt from the opening page of this interview:

Many Beat poets of the mid twentieth century are known to have written haiku, such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Diane di Prima, Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, Michael McClure, ruth weiss, Philip Whalen, and others. I’d like to talk briefly, though, about a lesser-known Beat poet who did not write haiku. Bob Kaufman was a lonely iconoclastic African Jewish surrealist bohemian jazz performance street poet who lived from 1925 to 1986. He was more popular in France, where he has been referred to as the African Rimbaud. He spent most of his poetic life in San Francisco after many years as a merchant marine, an occupation he shared with Kerouac. In 1959, with Allen Ginsberg and others, he cofounded Beatitude, an influential magazine that published early Beat poetry. After learning of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, he took an infamous vow of silence for ten years, itself a “poetic project” (according to George Fragopoulis) and a “Buddhist vow of silence” (according to Eileen Kaufman) that we might interpret as a long inhalation before the exhalation of his poetry resumed in 1973. He broke his silence the day the Vietnam War ended. He recited many of his poems from memory, often never writing them down, but his poems have been assembled from various sources in Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2019), edited by Neeli Cherkovski, Raymond Foye, and Tate Swindell. Although Kaufman seems not to have penned haiku himself, the following emeralds of his poetry are particularly short (rare among his work) and hint of haiku techniques.

To start, here are thirteen of thirty-five pieces from an assemblage titled “Jail Poems,” written in 1959 in cell three of the San Francisco City Jail, immediately bringing to mind the jail haiku of Johnny Baranski. I’ve chosen these numbered selections for their brevity

[feature continues for several more pages] . . .

Welch, Michael Dylan. "Bombs or Balms: The Nonhaiku of Bob Kaufman." Frogpond 45.1, Winter 2022, 96-102.

This excerpt inclues the first page of the feature: page 96. The complete feature includes pages 96-102. To read the complete feature, click on the link to the PDF version:

Bombs or Balms: The Nonhaiku of Bob Kaufman
(complete PDF version)