Poznan City Gospel

03KSE has a particular interest in poems rooted in a strong sense of place: The NEXT EXIT series; Hosho McCreesh’s 37 PSALMS FROM THE BADLANDS; Doug Draime’s LOVE & BLUES IN OREGON; my own SHORE ACCESS or SAN ANTONIO GOOD FRIDAY; Jim D. Deuchars’ forthcoming ALLEGHENY RISING. Every community, every neighborhood; every stream, every strip mall; every worn-down home and roominghouse, every out-of-business restaurant; every organic back-yard garden, every crosswalk and parking lot—-we grow out of and live our existence in and among these places, so it seems inevitable that poetry should be steeped in the reality of place.

The indefatigable Polish poet A. J. Kaufmann is such a master of particularity, often presented in a swirling and kaleidoscopic manner, that he seemed a natural to take on a multi-part poetic work dealing with the place he calls home, Poznan in Western Poland. I asked him to think Jack Kerouac and Lowell, or William Carlos Williams and Paterson, New Jersey, or Paul Blackburn and the subways and bars of New York, and then to produce an original work in an original form that somehow nails the Poznan he knows, so that we who have never been there will feel and taste and smell and hear and see and sense Poznan in a deep way. That’s what Mr. Kaufmann has achieved in his new nine-page, eight-part long poem POZNAN CITY GOSPEL… the buskers, the cobblestone streets, the seagulls down from the Baltic, the pollution, the cheap cigarettes, the moon over Poznan hanging in an orange sky.

POZNAN CITY GOSPEL (KSE #111) is A. J. Kaufmann’s third chapbook for Kendra Steiner Editions. He and I are presently finishing up what will become his fourth: the Kaufman-Shute collaborative work BEYOND THE BLUE ROCKS: MEDITATIONS ON THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD, which should be out in mid-to-late October. His first, SIVA IN RAGS, is already sold out, but you can still get his second chapbook, EAST-WEST TRAIN.

As AJK puts it in the closing lines of the poem:

I love the blues as I love this city…
only when it burns

(Bill Shute, September 19, 2008)

In 2014 I recorded a companion-album to this chapbook, called “Poznan Delta”. I didn’t use any text from the chapbook, but I used the legendary Jacek Kaczmarski’s classical guitar which I borrowed from my friend, Mieczysław Hryniewicz. It was an interesting experience, and the ambiance, the unique (and trashed) instrument, tuning, and the songs serve well as an appendix to these poems.