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Jack Kerouac immortalized her in his novel Big Sur. A student of Zen, she hung out with Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg and was a speaker at San Francisco’s Human Be-In. But Lenore Kandel was no muse or hanger-on; she was a brilliant lyric poet, often unabashedly erotic, and that’s where her legacy lies.
Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel contains 80 examples of her art, from the “holy erotica” of her early years to later, more contemplative works. Many of the poems have never been published, others only in rare ephemeral publications. Some are explicit, celebrating carnal love as part of the divine. Others are humorous and cover more quotidian subjects. A recurring theme is the “divine animal” duality. The collection includes poems written from the early fifties up until Kandel’s death.
The paradox of Lenore Kandel is that despite her prodigious talent, she was one of the least read and critically appreciated of modern poets. Kandel found her voice at a time when the Beat era was giving way to the countercultural age, and though she straddled both eras, it meant that she also fell through the cracks in terms of recognition. Now for the first time the full range of her work appears in one volume.