Alan Kaufman, in his introduction to The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (a book of indescribable rawness bursting with voices from the margins of American poetry, voices that are out of place in the sanitised, hallowed halls of classical American verse) proclaims:
“Welcome to the Wild West of American poetry…”
In this treasury of blasphemy and subversion you will find the illegitimate parents of the beat movement, the “American Renegades”, the “Hipsters, Queers, Rappers, Barbarians, Nuyoricans, Carma Bums, Unbearables, Hustlers, Slammers…”. What I like about the poetry that crackles with the urgency of dreams in this collection is the vision of a different world, an alternative world. The poem I’m sharing with you today, with a fervent voice that is making a call to action (when the phrase was more political than “social”), is an example of this alternative world being willed into reality.
Kaufman’s repertoire is naked in its invocation of his own experiences as a Jew in a Nazi regime, and his identity as an outcast and ‘parasite’ to the capitalistic American nightmare. In this poem, his exhortation is to the poet prophets of the time. “Time has come to deal death’s passionate kiss to kings…”. I quote from the introduction to his section in the book, an excerpt from the preface to his own book of poetry ‘American Cruiser’.
“When I hear lyrical rage shaped for a consumption money cannot buy, I clap my hands because I know: a poet of the people is being born. Alan Kaufman is such a poet… It’s not simply the journey of a poet from The Bronx to California that’s encompassed here. Kaufman, a product of the consciousness, especially of the past decade, sees an America slain by capital, a land that has left its felonious texture everywhere. The polarity of wealth and poverty ride with every mile, along with the underlying violence and desperado desolation that inhabit the American soul because of that polarised inequity…
…His identities in fact are with the poor, the fugitives, the outcasts…But Kaufman seeks more than identity. His book, a youthful poet’s credo, is also a call to those abused by the system in power to rise and gather as revolutionaries “till the mouth of every starving child is fed…
This is not gush or gusto. Even when, because he is new, his identities clash or are obscured in all he wants to expose, the rage of his heart for the underlying necessity of change races ahead with clarity”
Jack Hirschmann from the Preface to Alan Kaufman’s American Cruiser