This video was produced by Isaac Hernandez for Lenore Kandel’s memorial. Interview: ©2012 Carlos Fresneda and Isaac Hernandez. Photos ©2012 Lisa Kot and Isaac Hernandez/IsaacHernandez.com.
Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel
By Lenore Kandel; Foreword by Diane di Prima
“Daringly sexual poetry.” —Publishers Weekly
“A lyric poet and one of the shining lights of San Francisco’s famous counterculture of the ’60s.” — San Francisco Chronicle
Jack Kerouac immortalized her in his novel Big Sur as “a big Rumanian monster beauty.” Her book of erotic poems, The Love Book, was seized by San Francisco police for violating state obscenity codes, sparking an eight-year court case. As a Zen student and a member of the San Francisco Diggers activists, a crowd of nearly 30,000 people sang“Happy Birthday” to her at San Francisco’s Human Be-In alongside her friends Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg. But if Lenore Kandel (1932–2009) is to be remembered as anything, it’s as a brilliant, unabashedly erotic lyric poet whose work bridged the Beats and the Summer of Love in San Francisco’s iconic midcentury poetry scene.
“When a society is afraid of its poets, it is afraid of itself. A society afraid of itself stands as another definition of hell.” —Lenore Kandel
The fifth installment in North Atlantic Books’ Io Poetry Series, Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel contains eighty of Kandel’s poems written throughout her life, from the“holy erotica” of her early years to later, more contemplative works. Many of the book’s poems have never been published, others only in rare ephemeral publications. Some are explicit, celebrating carnal love as part of the divine, including the previously banned “To Fuck with Love,” which was the subject of her infamous obscenity court case. Others are humorous and cover more quotidian subjects. Readers will also find a recurring theme of the “divine animal” duality of people.
Kandel found her voice at a time when the Beat era was giving way to the countercultural age. She straddled both eras, which meant that she also fell through the cracks in terms of recognition. Though she had some success with publishing individual poems, Kandel was largely unheralded. As a result, she was remembered as merely a small figure in a movement, when actually, she was a major voice. After 37 years, Kandel granted Superstition Street Press permission to re-release The Love Book in just 500 numbered letterpress copies in 2003. Now, for the first time ever, a full range of her work is finally celebrated in one volume.
“With her fresh, fleshly outspokenness and clear-speaking sensuousness, Lenore Kandel writes directly to us. She makes the shapes, the graces, the tastes, the fears, of her moment—and as ever, they are ours. She is here.” —Michael McClure, poet and author of Scratching the Beat Surface
“The visionary poet and counter-culture activist Lenore Kandel was a peer and a participant.… She helped to set the bar higher, bridged the Beat and the hippie eras. The paradox of Lenore Kandel is that she is one of the very best poets of the modern era, and also one of the least read and critically appreciated.” —The Red Pub Magazine
“There were two wake-robins: Diane Wakoski and Lenore Kandel; the latter wailed out sex-challenge poems larger and louder than the men, who were still into cool.” — from Tripmaster Monkey, by Maxine Hong Kingston
“After a flurry of publicity when The Love Book was declared obscene, Lenore Kandel sunk back beneath the frothy surface of public attention. She lay there on the streambed, a gold nugget gleaming in the shadows, for the diligent to find. Her modesty was immense, and her reticence to grandstand consigned her unfairly to the shadows. Now she is ‘drifting down the wind as light,’ and we are all illuminated by her.” — Peter Coyote, actor and author of Sleeping Where I Fall
“There is a tradition in poetry—one that stretches back to its beginnings—that conflates sensuality, ecstasy, and the divine. Lenore carried this tradition for my generation and expounded it with a startling immediacy. She never spends aninstant telling you how to get there; she takes you there, and shakes you until you experience the condition she describes.” — Freeman House, author of Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species
Book Launch Party/Reading
San Francisco Beat Museum
540 Broadway San Francisco, CA
May 10, 2012, 7-9 pm
Hosted by Quiet Lighting & Litseen.com Founder Evan Karp
With an Introduction by North Atlantic Books Publisher and Co-founder Richard Grossinger
Readings by: Peter Coyote, ruth weiss, Lindy Hough, Brenda McKnight, Dan Langton, Gerald Nicosia
Litquake Honors Lenore Kandel
111 Minna Gallery
October 7, 2012
Readings by: Gerald Nicosia, and more TBA shortly!
Interviews, Reviews, & Promotions
North Atlantic Books Publisher and co-founder Richard Grossinger first published a poem by Lenore Kandel in his former literary journal, Io Magazine, in the 1970’s, and maintained a friendship with the poet since. Evan Karp, founder of the Quiet Lightning literary reading series, transcribed Kandel’s poetry for this collection. Both are available for interviews by request.
Finished review copies are now available, and excerpts can be pulled any time by request. Any giveaways must begin after April 10, 2012 and extend only to the US and Canada; galleys are not suitable for giveaways without prior consent from the publisher.
All interview, review/excerpt, and giveaway requests can be made through the book’s publicity contact, Kat Engh, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 549-4270 x21.
Sample Q & A/Discussion Points
1. Who was Lenore Kandel, and why is her work so important to modern American poetry?
2. Why is someone whose poetry was at the center of a major obscenity scandal largely unknown in San Francisco literary history?
3. Lenore Kandel (called “Lenora”) will be played by Stana Katic in the upcoming film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur. In the book version, Lenore’s character was “Ramona Schwartz”). How is Ramona/Lenora similar to Kandel? How is she different?
4. Obscenity, then and now: Would a poem that led to an 8-year-long court battle in the ’60s even cause a shuffle today?
5. “Peer” or “muse”: Have women integral to the Beat era been typecast, and if so, how?
About the Io Poetry Series
The Io Poetry Series pays tribute to North Atlantic Books’ literary roots and honors the career work of poets who express the depth, breadth, and scope of subject matter. Previous authors and works include Gerrit Lansing’s Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth and Kenneth Irby’s The Intent On, winner of the 2010 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. For more on the Io Poetry Series, please visit www.northatlanticbooks.com.
Download LenoreKandel_InfinitePerceptions_Poster pdf.
Lenore Kandel. San Francisco, 2007. Photo: ©2007-11 Isaac Hernández
Lenore Kandel (January 14, 1932, New York City – October 18, 2009, San Francisco, California) was one of the greatest poets of the Twentieth Century. Jack Keroack modelled a character after her in Big Sur (1962). Beatniks chanted her poetry from the rooftops of San Francisco.
Lenore Kandel’s poetry books include An Exquisite Navel, A Passing Dragon, and A Passing Dragon Seen Again (1959), The Love Book (1966), and Word Alchemy (1967).
This website pays tribute to her life, her work and the difference that she made with her presence and her words.