Bob Kaufman Alley

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 prolific 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, battled methamphetamine addiction with varying success, and once claimed his goal was to be forgotten. This alleyway in his honor may be thwarting that goal – but on this street, SF's original street-corner prophet will always have the last word.

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