Bob Kaufman Essay - Critical Essays


As presented in Bob Kaufman’s Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness, “Abomunist Manifesto” is a sequence of eleven parts. The title plays on Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848; The Communist Manifesto, 1850) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, but in the conversion of “com” to “abom,” Kaufman calls attention to the world’s focus on the A-bomb, or atomic bomb. The Abomunists contrast with communists and capitalists and have a modified language and special world perspective that Kaufman’s manifesto humorously and provocatively discloses. For example, the Abomunists “vote against everyone by not voting for anyone.” Never accepting candidacy, the Abomunists insist, “The only office Abomunists run for is the unemployment office.” The worldview of the Abomunists is suggested in apparent contradictions: “Abomunists do not feel pain, no matter how much it hurts.” Kaufman adds, “Laughter sounds orange at night, because/ reality is unrealizable while it exists.”

Kaufman lends the sequence dramatic proportions when he indicates that the author is “Bomkauf,” apparently a fusion of “Bomb” and “Kaufman” that humorously suggests the atomic bomb and the author’s name, but also supplies a variation on dummkopf, a German word meaning idiot. Bomkauf extends the dramatic proportions of the poem when he indicates that “Further Notes,” the third part in the sequence, is “taken from ’Abomunismus und Religion’ by Tom Man,” apparently a reference to Thomas Mann, and, for some readers, Tom Paine.

“Excerpts from the Lexicon Abomunon,” the fifth part of the sequence, is a brief comical dictionary of Abomunist terms “compiled by BIMGO,” or Bill Margolis, who, among others, collaborated with Kaufman on the editing of Beatitude, the mimeographed magazine in which “Abomunist Manifesto” first appeared. Kaufman’s lexical game is shown in entries such as “Abomunize,” which means “to carefully disorganize.” An “Abomunasium” is a “place in which abomunastics occur, such as bars, coffee shops, USO’s, juvenile homes, pads, etc.”

The speakers in “Still Further Notes Dis- and Re-Garding Abomunism” include Bomkauf (with his associates, since he says “We”), who provides an introductory passage for five diary entries by Jesus from “the Live Sea Scrolls.” The entries comically chronicle the last days of Jesus, who speaks in hipster language, complaining, “Barabbas gets suspended sentence and I make the hill. What a drag. Well, that’s poetry, and I’ve got to split now.”

For “Abominist Rational...

(The entire section is 1086 words.)