We Dissent – 4 – Bob Kaufman


William Clark, narrator, introducing the segment in Kenneth Tynan’s “We Dissent” documentary.

The transcriber (contemporary transcriber) appears to have had some difficulty on a number of occasions fully and accurately transcribing Kaufman’s remarks  

WC:  And so we see dissent leading to disengagement, to men who express their disagreements with modern American society by ceasing to be part of it. It is this self-willed renunciation  which I feel characterizes the widely but often falsely-publicized Beat Generation. The cradle of the movement is ‘way out west in San Francisco, and the place where the cradle really rocks is Grant Avenue, a precipitous street full of bars, coffee-houses and hard-core Beats. The movement began about 12 years ago (sic – 1948) when a handful of poets and painters decided – as they put it –  to “disaffiiliate” themselves from the pressures of American life. At times they erupt into parades like this one (sic – footage of street-parade) held to celebrate the launching of a new publishing house in their district. The procession culminates, like so many Beat evenings, in a poetry reading. After the meeting we asked Bob Kaufman, who had addressed it, to sum up the Beat position, and his first response, reading from his own Abomunist Manifesto, was as extravagant and bizarre in its way as the night procession.”

BK (reading) “The Abomunist Manifesto” – “Abomunists join nothing but their arms, legs, or other senses/ Abomunists do not look at pictures painted by presidents and unemployed prime ministers/ In times of national peril abomunists stand ready to drink themselves to death for their country/ Abomunists will not feel pain no matter how much it hurts/ Abomunists will not use the word “square” except when talking to squares/ Abomunism was founded by Barabbas, inspired by his dying words,”I wanted to be in the middle but I went too far out’/ Abomunism’s main function is to unite the soul with oatmeal cookies/ Abomunists love love, hate hate, drink drinks, smoke smokes, live lives, die deaths/ Abomunist writers write writing or nothing at all /Abomunists demand the re-establishment of the government in its rightful home at Disneyland…”

But asked later for a less “inside” explanation of the Beat credo, he volunteered this:

“The artist in America has been trampled for the past 30 years. First, by imported European ideas from France brought back by the ex-patriates, and the authority of Ezra Pound over the poets, and in the authorities by the leftists and proletarian writers who sort of submerged their individuality in the Stalinist or Marxist ideology and somewhere along the line the individual artist was lost. And I think what we’re looking for a rediscovery of ourselves as artists and as people and in America it has become necessary to embrace some form of voluntary poverty and some form of voluntary ostracisation from society in order to sort of wipe out the dirt off your face and create some decent literature.”

addenda: We note this week the arrival of  George Pennewell‘s 1987 oil painting of Kaufman, a bequest to the Beat Museum. Read more about that “homecoming’ – here 

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