Gnashing Teeth Publishing

| words that get in your teeth

when I wear bob kaufman’s eyes

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“When I Wear Bob Kaufman’s Eyes” is a collection of new American and Beat style poems. The poems provide a unique look at the landscape of America today as seen through the eyes of Tom Murphy. Bob Kaufman was an American Beat poet and surrealist as well as a jazz performance artist and satirist. Murphy’s work echoes that of Bob Kaufman in his use of jazz and syncopation as an undertone to the written word. Murphy pulls no punches as he rages against the injustice, bigotry, violence, and crises he sees in America. His poems also provide a glimpse of hope and community.

When I Wear Bob Kaufman’s Eyes is an intimate poetry of witness, a celebration of nature, language, and art. Lush yet economical, piercing, it explores breath and space, the verse is often projective. In a painful and playful study of experience, an elegiac reverie never forgetting a mission to testify what love and peace have met in conflict, in America, Tom Murphy is injured, angered, and still transcendent. He offers us a forgiving embrace of culture, a world in crisis. He introduces us to the characters that inform our everyday, a journal poet serving up a daily dreambook, never shying away from the nightmare, reminding us “our/brok en/ hi story, /mir rors/ u s.” This is poetry of the 21st Century, we do not drown in aesthetics or appeasement. There is a strong personal voice that pummels through abstraction, seizes the unknowable and the unanswerable, through the magic of juxtaposition, and awakens and heals. In this book of poems there is a narrative that embraces truth, and beauty is there all along or arrives before we know it. This book is a life.

Between these covers you’ll hear echoes of Yeats, Ginsberg, and of course Kaufman, woven together in a voice that is uniquely Tom Murphy. Whether he’s taking you up a sagebrush plateau, to a winery in the French countryside or, musing on a most unconventional Ash Wednesday, Murphy’s poetry exhibits the best of the Beat tradition, but moves well-beyond, displaying a mastery of sonics, an ability to gild the familiar image with unconventional profundity that is unparalleled. Part Cheshire Cat, part Caterpillar, Murphy is exhaustingly exhilarating; leaves you wanting to blaze up a post-coital smoke. Yes, we may be looking through Bob Kaufman’s eyes, but the vision shared is Murphy’s and Murphy’s alone.

Tom Murphy knew Bob Kaufman through his poetry, his story, and through mutual friends. He was so impressed by Kaufman’s words that he used the following quote as an epigram for a chapbook: The poet shocks those around him. He speaks openly of what authority has deemed unspeakable. He becomes the enemy of authority. While the poet lives, authority dies. His poem is forever. In When I Wear Bob Kaufman’s Eyes, Tom does indeed view the world through Kaufman’s eyes, and what he sees is self-interest, duplicity, bigotry, violence, and greed. Like Kaufman before him, Tom becomes the enemy of corrupt authority – exposing the bloated underbelly of society to the teeth and claws of poetic scrutiny. His words resonate with passionate and head-spinning honesty. He prods our awareness. He challenges our sensibilities. His images vibrate. His words fire our very nerve endings.

A book informed by San Francisco, Bob Kaufman, Black Mountain poetics, friendships, and important mentors and poet teachers. A wondrous homage, unflinching, and memoiristic, When I Wear Bob Kaufman’s Eyes is both romping and serious in its outlooks. Here the poems speak of love and survival, scrutinizes white supremacy and state violence, and converses with the dead, poetry, place, in an exploration of a life of the poetic imagination. A wondrous record of the times.

Meet the Author

Tom Murphy reading at open mic

Tom Murphy, the 2021-2022 Corpus Christi Poet Laureate. His books: Snake Woman Moon (El Grito del Lobo Press, 2021), Pearl (FlowerSong Press 2020), American History (Slough Press, 2017), co-edited Stone Renga (Tail Feather, 2017), with When I Wear Bob Kaufman’s Eyes forthcoming (Gnashing Teeth Publishing). Current writing in Writing Texas, Corpus Christi Writers, Concho River Review, and Odes and Elegies: Eco-Poetry from the Texas Gulf Coast. Murphy is Langdon Review’s 2022 Writer-In-Residence. He is a founding member of the Peoples Poetry Festival. He was featured in the Windward Review’s Author Spotlight.

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