When I Wear Bob Kaufman’s Eyes

When I Wear Bob Kaufman’s Eyes by Thomas Murphy is a unique look from inside the mind of Tom outward at the landscape of America today. He pulls no punches as he rages against injustice, polarization, and bigotry while finding hope in family and community.

Praise for When I Wear Bob Kaufman's Eyes
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.

Michael Rothenberg, co-founder of 100 Thousand Poets for Change. Author of Wildflowers for The Bullies and In Memory of a Banyan Tree. Rothenberg is the Florida State University Libraries Poet-in-Residence

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.

Paul Juhasz, author of The Inner Life of Comics (2022), Ronan (2021), Fulfillment: Diary of a Warehouse Picker (2020)  

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.

Ann Howells, author of Painting the Pinwheel Sky and So Long As We Speak Their Names

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.

Hoa Nguyen, author of A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure

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