Love Lions of Paris

love lionsLOVE LIONS OF PARIS (KSE #197) is the 13th poetry chapbook that Poznan, Poland-based poet/musician/songwriter A. J. Kaufmann  has done for Kendra Steiner Editions.

That is because Kaufmann perfectly exemplifies the KSE aesthetic: he is rooted in Beat poetry and psychedelia, he knows the important avant-garde traditions of the last 150 years, he reflects the particulars of his culture/region (and also such important areas for him such as Berlin and Paris), and he takes those elements and creates 100% original work from them, work that apes no one else’s work and that has a form and a feel all his own. Yes, his work can be surreal; it can have the post-Rimbaud rock’n’roll decadence of a Leonard Cohen or a Syd Barrett or a Jim Morrison; it can have a psychedelic spiritual exuberance in the tradition of Roky Erickson/Tommy Hall or of Sky Sunlight Saxon. But it’s always 100 % A. J. Kaufmann.  Having worked with the man on three collaborative chapbooks, and a fourth chapbook that was a joint work but one where we both worked from similar prompts,  I can testify to his amazing imagination, his devotion to craft, and his dedicated work ethic, even while living a lifestyle that would kill or sideline a lesser man.

A. J. has been working primarily on his music for the last 18 months, finishing one album and now working on a second, but we are fortunate that he took time out from his recording/songwriting work to produce the poems in LOVE LIONS OF PARIS. A. J. is a European Citizen of the World, and to such a man Paris and Berlin have a magical presence, perhaps the way cities such as New York or New Orleans or San Francisco or Memphis might to an American such as myself, and Kaufmann has spent extended periods in each city, living the poet’s life, with guitar and notebook in hand. Those cities continue to live on in him, even though he is back in his native Poland, and they animate and inhabit LOVE LIONS OF PARIS. Kaufmann himself explains the genesis of this work:

“Love Lions” was written in Paris especially for KSE and it’s got a strong music connection. One summer evening I was sitting and smoking in a cheap hotel room, thinking about glam rock, space-age poets and lost loves, listening to Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex, sketching dragons in my notebook… an hour or two later I realized I’ve sketched something more reminiscent of a lion and I wrote down the line “I kiss / Drifting love lions / With a golden smile” which later, upon my return to Poznan, became the first line of the title poem. Most of the other poems were composed while humming imaginary words with a grungy guitar accompaniment, but the melodies have since been lost as we had no recording equipment, not even a laptop, in my room. Some of my friends think I used cut-up techniques to develop these poems or “lyrics”, but truth is I definitely stopped doing cut-ups last year. “Love Lions” is, in my opinion, a glam-rock version of “Siva in Rags”, with dusty beauty gone all shiny and chromed, with once dried blood now boiling to the sound of “All the Young Dudes”.

As always, it’s an exciting and fresh and dazzling poetic trip from one of the few 100% original voices on the scene today.

(Bill Shute, December 26, 2011)