Saturday, January 4, 2014

Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel - Lenore Kandel

Today's book of poetry:  Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel.  Lenore Kandel.  North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, California, USA.  2012.

Lenore Kandel's Collected Poems starts with her absolutely incendiary The Love Book which was published in 1966.  Most of us don't think of Kandel when we think of the Beats but no one was braver, more daring or more honest than Lenore Kandel.  When you think of contemporary poetry in the United States you better start believing that Kandel was plowing the road for the future.

The Love Book was banned as obscene but when read today it is transcendentally illuminating and still stunningly vibrant for its' joyous candor, optimism and freedom.

To Fuck with Love      Phase III

to fuck with love
to love with all the heat and wild of fuck
the fever of your mouth devouring all my secrets and my alibis
leaving me pure  burned into oblivion
the sweetness UNENDURABLE
         mouth     barely touching    mouth

                      nipple to nipple we touched
                      and were transfixed
                      by a flow of energy
                      beyond anything I have ever known

                      we touched

                      and two days later
                      my hand embracing your semen-dripping cock

                      the energy
                      almost   unendurable

the barrier of noumenon-phenomenon
the circle     momentarily complete
                                                     the balance of forces

                      lying together, our bodies slipping into love
                      that never have slipped out
                      I kiss your shoulder and it reeks of lust
                      the lust of erotic angels fucking the stars

and shouting their insatiable joy over heaven
                      the lust of comets colliding in celestial hysteria
                      the lust of hermaphroditic deities doing
                      inconceivable things to each other and 
                      SCREAMING DELIGHT over the entire universe
                                                                                         and beyond
                      and we lie together, our bodies wet and burning, and
                      we WEEP    we WEEP   we WEEP the incredible tears
                      that saints and holy men shed in the presence
                      of their own incandescent gods

I have whispered love into every orifice of your body
                      as you have done
                               to me

my whole body is turning into a cuntmouth
 my toes my hands my belly my breasts my shoulders my eyes
 you fuck me continually   with your tongue you look
                      with your words with your presence
                      we are transmuting
                      we are as soft and warm and trembling
                      as a new gold butterfly

                              the energy
                              almost      unendurable

at night     sometimes     I see our bodies glow


In 1967 Kandel published Word Alchemy which contained the longer poem First They Slaughtered The Angels.  It is a beautiful song of protest.  During this same period Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg and Brautigan were all cutting their teeth and breaking new ground, San Francisco was the center of the poetry universe and Kandel was blistering the ears off everyone in town.


Praise be to young Eros who fucks all the girls!
Only the gods love with such generosity
sharing beatitude with all
Praise be to Eros! who loves only beauty
and finds it everywhere
Eros I have met you and your passing goddesses
wrapped in a haze of lovelust as true as any flower
that blooms its day and then is lost across the wind
I have seen your eyes lambent with delight
as you praised sweet Psyche's beauty with your loving tongue
and then have seen them sparkle with that same deep joy
as other tender ladies lay between your hands
Praise be to Eros! who can hoard no love
but spends it free as water in a golden sieve
sharing his own soft wanton grace
with all who let his presence enter in
faithless as flowers, fickle as the wind-borne butterfly
Praise be to Eros, child of the gods!
who loves only beauty            and find it


Kandel writes with such lustful ardour and a feverish sexuality that it is easy to forget that this was society altering, female empowering, revolutionary stuff.  In 1960's America Lenore Kandel was a siren call of freedom.  She might have been the most honest voice of her generation, she certainly was one of the bravest.

These early poems are almost fifty years old and they read as urgently and vividly as the day they were published.

This Collected Poems includes poems published in chapbooks before 1960 as well as material from small magazines, broadsides and previously unpublished material.  Although her participation as a public poet diminished after the 60's Kandel continued to write up until her death in 2009.

Again and again Lenore Kandel shocks the reader with the freshness, fervor and vitality of her poetry.  These thoroughly modern poems will, over time, cement Lenore Kandel not just as one of the better Beat poets but an essential voice of her time.  Few, if any, of the Beats sound as modern today.

Phoenix Song

then I shall never grow up
not if child means a sense of wonder
and my head in the wind rain rain
I will not wither in the blaze of time
but prove myself a phoenix
                     (ashes like powdered stars)
born again     and again    and again


Kandel was born in 1932 in New York City, spent most of her life in San Francisco where she died in 2009.

Lenore Kandel, poet, talks with Carlos Fresneda and Isaac Hernandez, illustrated from a beautiful collection of photos from her life. This video was shown at her memorial. Photos and audio ©2012, All Rights Reserved.

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