New American Underground Poetry, Volume 1
(2005) Cafe Babar (named after the storybook elephant) is a little Cafe on 22nd and Guerrero behind the Mission District in San Francisco. From there on the West Coast from the mid-late '80s up through about 1994, a unique group of poets gathered on Thursday nights for a feature, followed by an open mike.
The poets performing or reading their work there became known across the United States and in Central and Eastern Europe as some of the best poets in the U.S. They valued emotional honesty and their poems captured it. They found academic writing boring. Regarded the bohemian beatnik poets of North Beach as 'puffed-up', has-been, even geriatric.
Counterparts in New York seemed somehow to make commercialized poetry, won grants, performed for money, and worst of all influenced the Madison Avenue slop shops who with second-rate hearts start caricaturing poetry in tv commercials.
The Babarian poets were broke. Won the west-coast slams but couldn't afford the tickets to go East to compete. Lived only to write, to perform, to read. Many were without jobs (with notable exceptions), or disabled, or addicted, or worked in the sex industry. Most struggled to pay the rent, or eat well, wore thriftshop clothes. IQ's were the highest, hearts the biggest, poems what mattered most. Was all about feeling in their voices, their words, their lines, their lives.
Co-editor Julia Vinograd: "Throughout the early-to-mid '80s the Spaghetti Factory was a central collecting spot for North Beach 'beat' poets. Then it closed. We bounced uneasily from one place to another: Banan Place, On Broadway; Peters' Pub, etc. We were glared at suspiciously by everyone from elderly dart players to rock bands who thought we had no business wasting their warm-up time. Gradually the people changed. The poetry changed - we definitely weren't 'beats'.
A genre of new, impatient Babarian voices emerged: personal, vivid, very much in the modern world from tv to mtv to the sex clubs - a voice influenced by the L.A. slums of Bukowski and the NY slums of Jim Carroll - but undeniably San Francisco, the San Francisco tourists never see."
Modern Maturity [Poets] meeting at Cafe Babar are the Babarians'. [These] new San Francisco poets love to attack the established social order, [they] are the incursion of poetry into popular culture!
Der Speigel Subversive!
San Francisco Chronicle They join the ranks of Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Corso!
San Francisco Bay Guardian Best poets in America today! ... crucible of spoken-word! ... cradle of American avant-garde! ... keepers of the flame! poets doing poetry before it caught the public eye!
San Francisco Examiner Danielle Willis ... as normal as the kid next door if your neighbor happens to be a vampire-identified dominatrix lesbian Satanist stripper who loves transvestite men [she] drips with venom.
Poetry Flash Eli Coppola Tender; Fierce honesty; Intimate. Laura Conway Prophetic. Bana Witt Flamboyant. David Lerner Clever-savage rap & FACT SHEET 5 Ezra Pound of the Babar scene.
San Francisco Chronicle Nancy Depper is a showstopper.
Der Speigel His [Alan Kaufman's] work is like mixing echoes of Angela Davis with subversive pop music.
San Francisco Weekly Maura O'Connor The fragile spirit of William Butler Yeats with an ability to finesse great emotional rawness; impressive. Bruce Isaacson Blends intellectual precision with intuitive grasp and the mysteries of emotion. Mel C. Thompson Skews our fears and ruthlessly scrapes away at them to expose a layer of stark horror & keeps scraping. Bucky Sinister Punkish ... mischief & unpretentiousness.
San Francisco Bay Guardian Julia Vinograd Embodies the spirit & constancy of the poetic heart; contemplative & consistent, a solid spiritual conscience. Daniel Higgs Drives language to the cliff of pure song other-worldly lines that defy linguistic
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Laura Conway b1953
Sparrow 13 LaughingWand
Julia Vinograd b1943
Zoe Rosenfeld b1969
Danielle Willis b1967
Dave Rubin b1947
David Lerner b1951
Jack Micheline b1929
Bana Witt b1954
Mel Thompson b1959
Daniel Higgs b1964
Kim Nicolini b1962
Deborah Lee Pagan b1960
Alan Kaufman b1952
Kathleen Wood b1964
Gia Hansbury b1971
Vampyre Mike Kassel b1953
Maura OConnor b1967
Ken DiMaggio b1960
Bucky Sinister b1969
Nancy Depper b1966
qrhand jr b1937
Joie Cook b1951
David Gollub b1951
Dominique Lowell b1960
Alan Allen b1947
Damien Pickering b1964
Michelle Tea b1971
Bruce Isaacson b1956
Whitman McGowan b1950