Bob Kaufman Alley

Street in North Beach & Chinatown

What's that – your hometown doesn’t have a street named after an African American Catholic-Jewish-voodoo anarchist street poet? Revered in France as the ‘American Rimbaud,' Bob Kaufman co-founded legendary Beatitudes magazine in 1959 and was a spoken-word jazz artist. Yet he took a Buddhist vow of silence after John F Kennedy’s assassination that he kept until the Vietnam War ended – 12 years later. This hidden alleyway (off Grant Ave near Filbert St) duly honors him: it's offbeat, streetwise and often profoundly silent.

Kaufman’s life was hardly pure poetry: he was a teenage runaway, periodically homeless, occasionally jailed for picking fights in poetry with police; he battled methamphetamine addiction with varying success and once claimed his goal was to be forgotten. This alleyway honor may be thwarting that goal – but, true to form, Bob Kaufman always gets the last word on this street.