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Poets House’s Chapbook Digitization Project Continues with Golden Sardine by Bob Kaufman

Poets House announces the launch of Golden Sardine by Bob Kaufman to our website as the second volume in our new digital project Chapbooks of the Mimeo Revolution. Each month, we present digitized versions of chapbooks that were published in the 1960s through the 1980s, when small press publishing exploded across the U.S. during a period now known as the Mimeo Revolution. These chapbooks are drawn from our library’s special collections, and the project allows us to preserve these fragile publications and share them with a wider public. Each digitized chapbook is accompanied by short essays and multimedia, when available.

Golden Sardine is a full-length collection by the poet Bob Kaufman (1925–1986) that was released nationally by City Lights in its first printing in 1967. While Golden Sardine exceeds the shorter page count and limited print run that traditionally distinguishes a chapbook from a standard collection, the book is central to our Chapbooks of the Mimeo Revolution project in representing the ways in which independent presses grew out of local literary communities, providing outlets to voices operating outside of literature’s mainstream and ultimately expanding and diversifying literary histories.

Poet and City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti published Golden Sardine as part of the press’s Pocket Poets Series, “one of the foundational publishing imprints of Beat literature,” as scholar Maria Damon notes in an essay that accompanies the chapbook on our site. The series of distinctively compact, paperback books had already captured national attention with the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems in 1956, which resulted in Ferlinghetti’s being charged with printing and selling obscene material in a much-publicized court case. City Lights continues to be a daring and thriving force, offering the Pocket Poets Series along with other titles, carrying forth Ferlinghetti’s expansive vision of innovative American and international poetry with some 200 books in print. Collected Works of Bob Kaufman is forthcoming from City Lights in the fall of 2019, and on March 24, 2019, Lawrence Ferlinghetti will celebrate his 100th birthday.

Golden Sardine, number 21 in the Pocket Poets Series, was only one of three books published during the lifetime of Bob Kaufman, “a founding architect and exemplar of the sensibility of the Beat Generation,” as Damon puts it, who also “participates in a lineage of New World Afro-diasporic surrealists, including Aimé Césaire, Ted Joans, Wilson Harris, Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, Kamau Brathwaite, and Will Alexander.” We invite you to read this essential volume, alongside short essays about Golden Sardine, Bob Kaufman, and City Lights. You’ll also find recorded readings of poems from the book by Kevin Young and Rachel Eliza Griffiths, synced to select pages. Enjoy!

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