Lenore Kandel

Interview by Alice Gaillard and Céline Deransart, 1998

Table of Contents


Recently, I came across a long article by Hunter Thompson in the New York Times from May 1967. Titled "The 'Hashbury Is The Capital Of the Hippies," the article was Thompson's claim to being an authority on all things Hip. One of his pronouncements, like the Oracle of Delphi's penchant for answering questions with a riddle was:

The word "hip" translates roughly as "wise" or "tuned-in." A hippy is somebody who "knows" what's really happening, and who adjusts or grooves with it. Hippies ... reject any kinship with the Beat Generation on the ground that "those cats were negative, but our thing is positive."[1]

This gibberish on Thompson's part is ludicrous. The "hippies" were the heirs to the visions and voices of the Beats. No better example is Lenore Kandel, the Beat Generation poet who gave the word LOVE to the Love Generation.

In his book of interviews, Voices From The Love Generation, Leonard Wolf stated, "Lenore is famous as the author of The Love Book, a volume of poems seized as pornographic by the San Francisco police in late 1966. The seizure produced instant fame for her. By many Haight-Ashbury residents, she is revered as the woman 'who taught us how to make love.'"[2]

The subsequent criminal trial of the two store clerks who sold copies of The Love Book and the co-owner of the Psychedelic Shop (one of the two stores where the book was sold) was one of the longest criminal trials in San Francisco history. The trial represented a schism between the conservative, largely Catholic, Establishment and the new counterculture that was emerging in San Francisco. The jury's conviction of the defendants was ultimately overturned in 1971. (*See sidenote below) 

The effect of The Love Book bust on the Haight-Ashbury and its "new bohemians" — as some preferred to the word "hippies" — was instantaneous. As Lenore Kandel said, “For some angelic reason, when the police busted my book here a few months ago, it just dropped a catalyst into this brimming beaker which is San Francisco. Everything crystallized.”[3] The language of Lenore's poetry was adopted by the community in the months following the initial raids. By the following spring, the active manifestation of LOVE had become one of the ideological founts of the new counterculture — a result of a woman’s voice espousing free sexual love between a man and woman. Although there were lines in the poems that discussed “hermaphroditic deities” and one of the prosecution witnesses lambasted this phrase for its intimations of bisexuality, The Love Book was not really about homosexuality. But its transgressive nature and embrace of sexuality would become the standard of Free Love that opened the door to Gay Liberation in the coming decade.

The effect of the efforts to suppress The Love Book was the collective response it engendered. As Ron Thelin, brother of one of the defendants, stated, the raids “brought a lot of new friends together, and instilled a sense of community in the Haight-Ashbury.”[4] The result of this “sense of community” was a press conference in early April, 1967, by a group that included Allen Cohen and the Oracle collective, the Psychedelic Shop owners, and numerous others of the new community in the Haight-Ashbury. The press conference announced plans for the upcoming summer when an influx of thousands of young people making their way to the Haight-Ashbury was expected. The name that this new group called themselves and the name they gave to the coming period would forever become synonymous with the hippie counterculture—the “Summer of Love.”

Even though Lenore's poetry extolled a woman's pleasure and experience of sex, The Love Book controversy was not about gender as much as class. A woman’s voice struck a chord in the rejection of middle-class sensibility. This was the power behind The Love Book and the reason it received such condemnation by the Establishment. The counterculture, although not totally transformed in rejecting middle-class morality, did set the seeds for the coming changes. Just as Lenore describes in the following interview.

[1] Hunter S. Thompson, "The 'Hashbury Is The Capital Of the Hippies," New York Times, May 14 1967, p. SM14
[2] Leonard Wolf, ed., Voices From The Love Generation. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1968), p. 19.
[3] John Bryan, "Lenore's Works, Words of Love: Poet Speaks of Police Seizure of 'Love Book'," Los Angeles Free Press, Apr 7 1967.
[4] “Good Hippies’ Summer Plans,” San Francisco Chronicle, Apr 6 1967, 3.
Click images for full size.
Love Book Cover

Lenore Kandel

Lenore Kandel and Bill Fritsch

Lenore Kandel and Bill Fritsch

Lenore Kandel in NOWSREAL

Lenore Kandel in the ORACLE

Lenore Kandel

Lenore Kandel


The Full Interview with Lenore Kandel

by Alice Gaillard and Céline Deransart, 1998

[Many thanks for the anonymous donation which provided for the digitization of Alice's and Céline's filmed interviews for Les Diggers de San Francisco. Also, a big thank-you to Jay Babcock for his transcription and editing assistance. Jay's Diggers Docs site is another source rich in Digger history. Addenda: Jay has written a moving tribute to Lenore. Check it out.]
Note: Interviewer questions are mostly inaudible in the recording; questions in brackets are best guesses as to what was being asked—JB.

[Q: How did you come to be in San Francisco?]

I had come from New York to LA. I drove across country with a friend. I was living in a rooming house and I was typing scripts for an old man who had six fingers. And he was a mime. He had me write letters to colleges and places saying that he would come to them for an interview in the costume of an old man — of course, he was an old man. [chuckling] I thought it was rather clever.

A friend of mine was going to drive to LA. So I decided I'd go along. So I gave him back his manuscript, and packed my things, which were very small at that time, and got in the car. The old man was hanging out the window of the rooming house saying, Have I offended you? With his six fingers hands, waving. And I said, No, no, no, I'm just leaving. And we went across country very quickly. I think it was 1960. I would, I wouldn't guarantee it. But I think so.

When I reached L.A., I decided… I'd never seen San Francisco! So I took a Greyhound bus to San Francisco. And I had two addresses — I had the address of a friend of mine who lived near the Bread and Wine Mission, and I had the address of a hotel that was cheap on Broadway. When I got off the bus, a cowboy had a suitcase of fireworks. He was going to a rodeo in Oregon, and he gave me a Roman candle. So I took my Roman candle and asked a cab driver how to get to North Beach. He told me what bus to take and I took it and I got there and I met Lois Delattre, who was connected with the Bread and Wine Mission. But my friend wasn't living there anymore, she'd gone away.

I ended up living in the attic of East/West house, which was a place that Gary Snyder had started, mostly for Zen students. At first it was all males, then it got turned coeducational, and then it got to be people from all over the world who lived there. It was small. I lived up in the attic, because there wasn't a room for me. But the thing is, there was no floor in the attic. I had to walk over these planks, boards, a very narrow way back to a window where there was a mattress and I could look out the window as the fog rolled in. It was beautiful.


[Q: What did you do?]

I was a folksinger. I mean, I was a poet, right? And I was always doing at least two things. And I made my living. I sang on Grant Avenue in North Beach, at the Coffee Gallery. And I sang around the corner in a bar. And I sang at other places too. Then, later, I was belly dancing in one cafe and I was singing in an Israeli show at the same time, so I had to get out of the show, put on a trench coat over my costume, and run down the street. And all the tourists were saying, you know there's a girl that looks just like you [chuckles] in the show up the street. And I would run back and forth.

And meanwhile, well... When I first came to town, I'd left some of my poems at City Lights. Someone took them and published them in Beatitude. And [once] I walked down the street, and they were all shouting my poem on the street. So that was kind of nice for an introduction.

[Q: And you met some Beat poets then?]

I guess so. Some. I don't know. I met people. I found it very exciting. It was all very new to me, though. I ended up in the middle of everything instantly. I think I'd only been here maybe a month or two before I went to Big Sur with Lew [Welch] and Jack Kerouac. I don't know… I just met a lot of people, and I was somehow in the middle of things instantly, and it was very exciting to me. And it was very beautiful, physically. I did a lot of walking around the city and up north and I liked it very well. I had all my money tied up in a return plane ticket to New York, but I cashed it in and stayed here. Got my guitar and, well, I sang in the coffeehouses.


[Q: How did you get involved with the Diggers..?]

The first thing was the Invisible Circus at Glide Church, which was incredible. Peter Coyote, he's the one I think that called me and invited me to the Artists Liberation Front. The Artists Liberation Front was a group of very intelligent, very wild people with connections in various arts— music, drama, writing… probably everybody doing everything and wanting to change the world — wanting for the world to change itself, to wake up. And the first thing that happened was the Invisible Circus. It was Peter Coyote, I think, that first called me to attend a meeting with the Artists Liberation Front. And Bill Fritsch and I went, and immediately became involved with everybody and with the Invisible Circus, which was… [pauses, thinks] a manifestation of both the hidden and overt minds of the people of the time, which encompassed an incredible variety of unbelievable actions.

Everybody took different rooms of the church and developed their fantasies. Peter Berg and I worked on one room together. And I had foot readers [there], so that when you entered the room, you had to take your shoes off, because it seemed a good way to wake people up. One was my most eccentric friend, and the other was a Hopi Indian woman that I knew that was an art student that was here. And I helped make up the chart. And then all sorts of things happened. At one point, they were showing defense films of [Viking?] missiles, and the screen was exploded by a bevy of belly dancers, and an orchestra [just] wailing.

It was incredible. Sweat was flying through the air, clothes were vanishing. It was so crowded, you couldn't breathe. Police and reporters that happened to come by any of it just left—they couldn't face it, there was too much for anybody to believe was really happening. It went on for three days.

[Ahead of the event] I had spent a great deal of time going through all the personal ads in the Berkeley Barb and such, papers where people wanted…anything to happen — you know, strange personal ads. And I called every one of the ads, [and told them] whatever it was they wanted, I'd tell them to come here this day, and they'd get it.

People had unbelievable hangups, which they went through during the course of this weekend. People were shooting up on the altar, doing all sorts of very strange things. And naturally, the people running the church got terrified. So they called us in for a meeting. And… [backtracking] There was a bus terminal nearby. So [we] were getting people from all around the area in there. And I'd called up all the various religions, and suggested they bring their missionaries, because I always thought it was unfair that Christian missionaries went to all these countries and tried to convince people, I didn't see why their missionaries shouldn't come convince us— [which just happened!] So they showed up there.

We got a bunch of psychotic chickens from the psych lab at Davis. There were a lot of things happening.

It went on till everybody panicked. And then they [the Church] asked us to move [the attendees]. And I did something which I still feel odd about. There was a newspaper being published, and I wrote something that convinced everybody to go out to the beach. And everybody did. And then I went home. I'd been up for two nights, and I was pretty tired. I’d just got to sleep when I got a phone call saying, Come back, come back, because everybody's coming back from the beach, and they've all had religious experiences and we need you. And so I went back and it was… [pauses] That was what made Glide Church. People really had gone through themselves and they came out the top of their heads. And they felt wonderful, and they felt connected, and they felt holy in everything. Wholly holy. And they were coming to the altar and laying souvenirs of their trip: seashells, incense, clothes, feathers, whatever they had. They were really connected. And then there were a lot of discussions.


[Q: There were drugs like LSD being used during Invisible Circus?]

Oh yeah. Everywhere. I didn't take any. No, there wasn't time. I'm sure a lot of people did, though.

[Q: Why did you choose that church?]

Well, that was happening before I got there. There was a discussion about that. It was a place… Nothing much was happening there, then. It was a very large, empty building. And it was many stories tall—there was a lot of room. And it… just called for it. And it turned out to be a very good thing, it's what started Glide Church, turned it on to ‘the streets’— the street people and the church became one. And it’d never happened before, [and it’s continued] into the present day. It was a wonderful happening.

[Q: What was the reaction from the Church officials?]

Before it happened, there was a straight Methodist minister in a very small congregation of aging widows—no connection to anything, really. After that, he really found a calling, he became a true minister—because he dealt with the people that actually lived there in the Tenderloin, in the streets, and became a very valuable service. The church became the first living, functioning church in a long time. And still is, a long time later.

[Cecil Williams, the new minister] responded to it. He was frightened by it at first, which is not surprising. I mean, anybody could have been. But then he saw the value of it, when the people came back from the beach, and began testifying, in truth. When people actually had true, religious experiences, he found his calling. It was a true one, wasn't fake. And he has been practicing it ever since. It was actually beautiful. But it was a hard way through. I mean, incredible things happened there that night. But what happened was real.

[Q: About how many worked on it?]

Oh, maybe eight? Maybe nine? Not very many. It doesn't take very many if you really put yourself completely into it. We did an amazing [number] of things with not that many people but [laughing]... [we were] very busy, very tired people. I mean, it just took all your time.


[Q: So then you started working more with the Diggers?]

Yeah, well… I worked with everybody, with all those things… because it was fun. And it made sense. We were trying to change the world. It was also where I discovered that some people just follow. The idea was to show the way, and I was really very disappointed when I discovered that some people will simply sit there with their hands out, waiting. And they'll never pick it up for themselves. They just want a leader. We didn't want to be leaders. We just wanted to be… pathfinders? Guides. Signposts. Flags. [laughs] 'Follow this.' But some people just wanted to be told what to do, wanted to be given written directions. Others, however, picked it up and went on from there. It was very exciting.

[Q: The Diggers were people who knew how to organize?]

No, we learned as we went along. Whatever it was, if you really wanted something to happen, if you had something... Like, alright, what I wanted to have happen was I wanted to hang wind chimes in all the trees in the meadow in Golden Gate Park. There was a music thing happening. And I thought, I've always liked wind chimes. And I said what I wanted to have happen, and they gave me as much money as they could, and I went to Chinatown and bargained with all these stores for Chinese glass wind chimes and I came back carrying shopping bags full of Chinese glass wind chimes, and then we went and hung them in all the trees in the park. And I also had crystal prisms that I hung in the trees. And they were all there for people to take. Just think of it: a soft summer afternoon, and you're in a park and there's a band playing music and you look up into the trees, and among the branches are chiming colorful glass wind chimes, hanging over your head. And when you're ready to go, you just reach up and you take one, and you take it home with you. And it chimes for you forever. There's one in my kitchen now, from that day. It was very nice.

[A question mentioning poetry]

We were poetry. [chuckles] Yeah. It was a very busy time. Poetry was...well, you know, it's part of, it's me. I mean, I always did that. But the other things go along with it. I mean, it's not a separate part of life to me. I felt it was very important not to be academic, not to live in a world apart from everybody else, not to play back-and-forth between people who already agreed with you, but to sort of…shine out everywhere. Maybe it would come in handy ten years later for someone. It seems to have worked that way.


[Q: Could you tell us more about the Diggers ‘free’ philosophy?]

"Free": that was probably the most unique thing [about the Diggers]. There was the free store where you came in and got the clothes you wanted by looking through them and picking out what you wanted and going home with it. People gave things. We asked for things. There were always people that worked there. There were some people that were so hung up they had to come in and steal from the free store. [laughs] They couldn't just take it. Then there was free food, which took an enormous — boy, I did so much cooking sometimes. Everybody did. I mean it was a lot of work to it all. But it was good hearted. Some of it was insane. [laughs] Most of it was legal.

[chuckles] There was an awful lot of stuff that was just thrown away in the society. We used to go out to the fields and glean them after—cannery fields—vegetables and fruits that were too large were left behind. Especially zucchini. We had way too much zucchini. Truckloads of zucchini, huge zucchini. Everyone you knew was eating the same thing the same day. I mean, you were tired of whale heart and zucchini — but everyone you knew also was eating whale heart and zucchini. [laughs] You're gonna hope they'd find a better recipe than you found [when you were preparing the meal]. I mean, I found whale meat Sauerbraten worked pretty well. But it was difficult. [laughs] It was challenging. But it was still fun.

Free food, free clothes, free food in the park... Giving people back what they already had actually is what it came down to. It was the 'free' that was the largest... Free entertainment: the bands and music in Golden Gate Park. And, well, actually that brought a whole lot of the bands into prominence. Rock music. The free things in the park... The Communications Company putting out flyers, poetry, comments and everything else on the street. It was bringing everything to everyone and all of it free. Now money had to come from somewhere, and some of it was… a lot of money was donated from a lot of strange places. There was the free bank: when you wanted money, you would go to the free bank and if there was money, you got it for what you needed. Some people needed a lot more than other people. [chuckles] There was a lot of dope. There was a lot of acid everywhere, yeah.


[inaud question]

Well, freedom equates with responsibility. This is something that disappoints some and enlightens others. To be free means you have to be responsible for yourself. This is one of the things that some people are still desperately fighting not to understand. And I think it's the only way we can ever get out of where we are, to go another step higher. All these free things belonged to us and belonged to whoever wanted them. But it had to be [that] what you took you were responsible for...whatever you wanted to do with it. But it became yours, when you took it. The fact that freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same thing seems still to be a mystery to many people.

We did not totally succeed; however, we succeeded pretty well, at least for a while.

And it was a wonderful, exciting feeling to see the world changing around us, to see people opening up, becoming aware of themselves. When I taught belly dancing, one of the things I wanted to make clear was that all the shapes and forms are beautiful. That beauty is not one fixed shape, one fixed form. All of them have their own beauty, and we should all have pride in that beauty. That's the kind of freedom that I found important. Like, I shudder today, to see teenagers trying to stuff themselves into somebody else's plastic form, because then you never fit it, you never feel strong and you never feel sure of yourself. But if you take the freedom of being what you are, and accept that it is beautiful, then you become free. Then of course you have to free others. But then I do have a Buddhist approach: "Sentient beings are numberless / I vow to enlighten them all."

So: that's freedom.


[Q: The media frenzy around the Haight scene]

[LK, talking about the impact of the media’s coverage and commercialization of Haight culture]: [inaud] was using people at that time. That's what newspapers do, though. They do it now. They sell back to you whatever it was you did yesterday, they sell to you on the front page. I don't know... It gave birth to a lot of street theater. People would come and want to see it. They had bus tours that would come into the Haight. And people would be staring at the streets and people would be doing things on the streets. It was all very silly. As far as, however, the things that were done, like the styles of clothing or jewelry and stuff that was developed on the streets—that appeared in the big store chains and was then sold in the middle of the country. Well, we were not working as a commercial venture, so naturally we were pitted against such things when they were developing a lot of 'em off us. Wwe would give it away, then they'd take it home and manufacture it. This happens a lot. I guess I didn't take it that seriously. There's always a lot more where it came from. [chuckles] But the idea was completely antithetical to what we did, yeah.

But it also had some funny results with politics and corporations, because what we were trying to do was help people be conscious. And I'm remembering there was a very intelligent corporate man who came to visit me one day and he ended up running down the stairs screaming because we were talking about enlightenment and I was explaining that when I started sitting zazen, the idea [is] you want to clear your mind. I sit there. My desire is to have a clear mind and these things keep coming through, these thoughts and remembrances, so I realize what I want is to clear it and all this is happening. I am not my mind; I am something else. Now this is the trap of having a fast mind, you know, if you don't tell the difference. Well, this man who is very intelligent and very bright and all the rest of it, had gotten by on using his mind, and the idea that there was something else terrified him so much because the truth of it was undeniable —I mean you will come to that awakening and there it is—that he ran screaming literally down the stairs and out of my place because it affected him that strongly. Well, okay, this is a kind of effect that telling the truth can have on anything founded on hypocrisy and turning your vision away from reality.

So yeah, we ran into some differences there.

[Question about psychedelics and enlightenment, spiritual work...]

That's an individual matter. You still gotta face yourself, whatever route you want to take toward it. I mean, psychedelic drugs, taking LSD? Well, I don't know. I mean, I had faced myself on peyote before I took LSD. And I just learned that you can do whatever you have to do, no matter what condition you were in. When I was at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park, which was a very huge, the first big event, and I was on the stage, I was to read… When I’d walked into the park, somebody had offered me some acid. And I looked at it and I thought, well, if what I'm saying is true, then I'll be able to [be on acid and do the reading at the same time]. And if it isn't, I better find out. So I took the acid, dropped it, and I went up on stage. And did it. It was a strange day! [laughs] But I did what I had to do, and I could speak my words. And I really [felt] like if they weren't true that I should know that because I don't want to say anything that isn't true. And I felt I could do it if they were. And I did. But it was an interesting day... [laughs]

[And did you understand differently, your words?]

No, I understood them as I meant them. I mean, LSD didn't do that much to me. I learned that I could do whatever I had to do in whatever situation. I keep getting in situations. And they were often others to take care of. But it didn't change my life, no. I mean, I'd already been involved in sitting zazen and stuff like that. I'd already been doing a lot of interior searching and facing so it wasn't a shock to me. People that lied to themselves about themselves got into a lot of trouble with it. Personally, I think it's worth it because I wouldn't want to live without knowing who I was, or hiding from myself. And unfortunately a lot of people do. I don't think that's a solution to anything. I don't know that psychedelics is a necessary part of it. For some people, it opened up their lives; for some people, it didn't. I really feel it's an individual matter there. I won't push for or against it. I had some fun with it, but... I had found my revelations in other directions. That's personal, though.

[inaud query]

Well that comes back to 'say the truth,' really. I don't believe in messing people over, I don't believe in doing things you don't want to do or not doing things you do want to do. I don't believe in hurting people. I don't know.. "Revolution"? [laughs]


[discussion about language, words, concepts in different languages]

See, a poet, you work a poem, by what the words resonate with, what they make you think of. It isn't just the word. There will be five words that mean pretty much the same thing, but each of them has a different resonance. One will make you think of soft summer days, one will make you think of classrooms — they're the same word, but they've got these different tastes to them. So if you use language, that way, you become very sensitive to it. So in other languages, there are these different shades of meaning to words, some of them don't exist in English. And I recognize that when there's a word that has all these other meanings that I'd have to put on to it here. And like the concepts were too small. I mean, we don't have a word that comes gently, softly, sweetly. At once. It's, you know, when I see like, I can think the way a dandelion lands. You know, with a parachute, this dandelion flower goes up, and then it lands that way. I mean, it can't land any other way but 'softly' and there's a connotation that I can find in there, that I can't find another word here. And I noticed that's one of the reasons I like to play with language. Because I really feel like it shapes the way we think. If we had more words for pleasure it might be a good idea. [laughs]

[inaud about poets being able to use words…?]

Aha, well, actually, maybe just connect them differently. Bring them out. I can't do it to anyone or for anyone. But I can maybe help people think in those directions. And the things that we did in the Diggers were definitely a lot of street theater, saw a lot of an accidental but you know, it was a whole bunch of very creative people very busily interacting, so a lot of things would happen. And mainly the idea was just: Wake up.

[Q: Why do you think there were so many talented people in the same place at the same time?]

Well, that is partly San Francisco. A lot of people came here from other places. It was just the right time, you do. I don't know. It was the right time. I mean, things were happening in Hollywood [too]. We were doing a lot of things. Creative people do tend to herd together every now and then. And when you get that much going on, there’s sparks—a lot of sparks.


[Q about Diggers drifting apart]

It's surprising how many of us are still in touch, and affect each other's lives all the time. I'm going on spreading the same thing. Vicki with the children's book project, I think it's wonderful. Peter's all over the world doing things, Peter Berg. Everybody's still doing whatever it was they were doing. Nobody was lying. There have been those who have fallen by the wayside. But that's from, you know, what's happened with life, not from a change of feeling. I think it's rather interesting that so many of us continue after such a long time.

If it weren't for my friends, it would be a different world. Not as good. It'll get better. It's your turn.

[chuckles] I've lived by it all my life. In fact, one of my aliases was [Sara N Dipity?], which was serendipity. I play word games. Like I said, Sir, I depend on it. [laughs] If you clear yourself and you follow, the right things will happen. You'll be in the right place at the right time. But you’ve got to be clear with yourself—you have to be honest with yourself, before you can be honest with anyone else. First, you face yourself.

[What is the place where things are happening now?]

For me, right here. [chuckles] I haven't even thought about that. I mean, it's time to for it to be happening everywhere in the world. As one. We have to function as a whole. We are the same. We're people. [points at cat] And there's people with furry faces and tails. Like there's a little one that's running around there. We're beings, we're the fruit of stars. We're connected. I mean, what's happening with discovering other universes fascinates me. The possibilities of really finding more about, finding others, I think it's wonderful. How can you possibly go around having these stupid wars when there's these other things that are so much more interesting? One of my predilections when I'm thinking about things is standing on the shores of infinity, and trying to look just beyond it — thinking of time and, without time, trying to look around the edges of time. What's right next to it? What's "beginning" mean? There's frontiers that are much more interesting than national borders. So, yes, I would love to travel. But I don't think I would really feel totally alien anywhere I can think of. If I couldn't think of it, I might feel alien there…

[Returning to the question] I don't know where "it" is happening. It is happening wherever it wants to. It could be happening everywhere. I mean, "it" is usually the intersection of more than one mind that freely plays with another. It does require a certain amount of trust but I think that can happen absolutely anywhere, anytime. All you have to do is really let your mind go, trust another being, see what happens. Could be interesting. Well, I wish that would influence politics. Phew. Can you imagine what politics would be like if somebody trusted somebody else? It would [inaud].

[Question about being at the center of things]

Well, we were a center. And all we wanted to do was change the world. And we did change quite a lot, actually. Certainly left some effects. They're all seeds. That's all you can really leave, the seeds. And they'll all sprout and turn into something you would have never imagined! And better than you would imagine, I hope. I wish we'd had a little bit more influence. I sure don't like what's happening now, I don't like all the unhappiness. It's a hell of a world to have to be growing up in, there's so many restrictions that have been caused by human beings... Look at what's happened to sex... I feel really sorry for kids growing up—they can have no true freedoms, sexually. I mean, you're in danger of your life. I can't stand it seeing people die from AIDS.

But we're also doing some incredible things, like I said, seeing other universes and stuff. I guess it's just different each time around. This time, I don't know where "it" is, except anywhere. Ah! That's was right, that's one of my poems, come think of it! "Locate the center of infinity/Answer: anywhere." [chuckles] That's true.

It's a dangerous thing, always, to form an image of somebody before you know them. Especially with me, because I'm just me, you know, I mean, exuberantly me, extremely me. And I don't do well with fantasies. I'm not formal enough for a fantasy.

[Q regarding Diggers reconnecting?]

We're all still, there's these funny connections. If you're connected, I don't think you ever get unconnected. But I remember like, Jane [Lapiner] came down and did something and I had just written a poem that was about the same thing she was doing. We're all still thinking in a lot of the same terms. Unfortunately, I don't get out. So I’ve missed a whole lot of these things.


[Q: How do you regard that era, compared to now…]

I feel very lucky. I really truly do. I feel very lucky for having lived at that time, for having had that. It was wonderful. The largest difference I can feel between then and now is we were full of hope and expectation. And I don't feel that around me anymore as a general drift. There's a lot of hope to just get by, or negative expectation. We really felt the change for the better was not only possible but within our grasp, and that we were helping it be born. Living with such positive energy all around you, or being part of... I mean, we gave an incredible amount to it, but we got an incredible amount, and I truly feel, you know, blessed and lucky that I had that time. And everyone who was into that, not just us that were really active in it, but people who just got brushed by it—a newsman on a television [recently], I saw his face when he said something about the ‘60s and it melted suddenly soft and loving. I mean he had a good time then too, and it's obviously a shining memory of his life. So it was a wonderful time. I wish that that energy could be born again. It's going to be pretty tough, though. Life and death times are a lot harder right now— and I guess it always is — but I don't see the expectation and hope around now that I did then. Course, I'm not working hard enough at it, maybe..? There's that too, right?

[Q: You think that, but…]

I do. But I don't see it [change] as a general experience of every hour of every day, for every being. There was a whole lot of it spread around in the '60s — it was much easier to grasp. You gotta fight for it now.

[Q: Yeah, but it was just for a little while…]

If it happens once [is a big deal]. Look what religions rely on: one incident, picked up, magnified, repeated, proliferates — and the world changes. It comes back again to consciousness. If you're conscious, if you take responsibility for yourself, [then] there's an infinitude of hope. You can change the world — you can change anything.

I get pissed at myself, because of all these physical difficulties. At the same time, I really am sure that if I concentrate on it, on nothing else but that, I could change it. But I get bored with trying to fix my body.

So there's still hope out there, I'm not saying there's not hope. But it's a different — every ten years at least, it's a different turn. And there's some pretty difficult turns right now. And I feel real lucky that I hit that one, in the ‘60s. Because it was so much fun. I mean, there's nothing I can think of that could be more fun than spreading freedom, spreading joy. We did a lot of that. And it left, you know, changes that are going on from there. Right? I guess AIDS bothers me a lot. It's changed so many lives. And there's so much pain. Pain bothers me. I don't like to see people hurt, unnecessarily. Certain things are necessary, but... It's not that I feel hope is gone, but the favored directions that people are casting about in right now are not as positive as we had. There's a lot of negativity I see out in the world.

[Q: In the 70s, how did you feel, what did you feel]

The 70s and 60s kind of blended. [impatient] You can't ask me things about specific dates. [laughs] You can ask me but I can't answer them.

[Q: People left San Francisco…]

It wasn't a center that was bursting with energy. However: there are little centers all over. I mean, there are still some here. The people that went out to do different things, tried different ways. When I said things are seeds, a seed pod, when it's ripe, explodes seeds all over the place. Some of them change, some of them are very similar, but then you know, you've got to have different ways. And all these people who scattered out there, still hold on. There's an amazing amount of understanding, of... teaching. The only true way you can teach is by example. What you say isn't what counts. Which is what started things in the 60s, people suddenly realizing everything their parents told them was something their parents said, but didn't live by. And this, you know, it's a great gap.

[inaud Q]

Well, people were trying to learn to say what they meant — to live by what they said. And spread that. And there is a lot of that, all around, where all these things have fallen… It’s not as hot and heavy as it was when it was one pulsating group, when things were happening all the time out of it.


—posted 2024-03-09


Lenore Speaking

Excerpts from Les Diggers de San Francisco


The Love Book (full scans)

Click once for full version. Click again to return.

The Love Book pages The Love Book pages The Love Book pages The Love Book pages The Love Book pages The Love Book pages The Love Book pages The Love Book pages The Love Book pages


Lenore Kandel in Other Contexts

Lenore was one of the Beat Generation poets who immediately sensed commonality with the Diggers when they appeared suddenly the first week of October 1966 in the Panhandle serving up Free stew to all comers, and then opened the Free Frame of Reference, the first free store. But their literary pronouncements in the form of street sheets that were instantly dubbed Digger Papers was also a key factor in this common attraction. In the following weeks, the first Digger street events (the Intersection Game, the Death of Money parade) likewise captured the imagination of the older generation of poets. In response, a group of North Beach poets threw a benefit for the Diggers on January 12, 1967 (two days before the Human Be-In). But the audience was in for a surprise. As Emmett Grogan explained in Ringolevio (p. 278):

When Emmett and Coyote arrived, the money had already been collected and the hat was given to them. But, instead of accepting it, the two immediately asked for everyone's attention and announced that there was a mistake. "The only type of benefit that could be thrown for the Diggers is one where everything is free!" Then, they gave the hat to the bartender and told him to count the money out on the bar in front of everybody, and to continue buying rounds for the crowd for as long as the bread held out.

Here is the poster that announced that benefit, with Lenore's name prominent:

Poets Benefit for the Diggers

Another moment when Lenore acted as a catalyst was her suggestion (according to Judy Goldhaft) for a celebration of the Summer Solstice in 1967. This was the first such planetary celebration in the Haight-Ashbury and it became a tradition that continues to this day. Here is an article from the Berkeley Barb that announced this, the first of what would be many Solstice celebrations in the coming decades. In the article, the anonymous Digger who is making the announcement is referred to as "Miss A" which (possibly, probably) was Lenore.

Diggers Announce Summer Solstice Plans



Another Four Letter Word

History of the Love Book Trial in 1967

In November 1966, two officers from the Juvenile Bureau of the San Francisco Police Department staged an arrest of a sales clerk at the Psychedelic Shop, an eleven-month-old establishment at 1535 Haight Street that resembled a traditional bookstore but catered to a new sort of bibliophile—young, bohemian, and interested in a wide variety of esoterica. The store offered a smorgasbord of merchandise never seen in traditional bookstores, including incense, classical Hindustani music records, rock ‘n roll dance posters, marijuana cigarette rolling papers, and batik spreads useful for wall decorations in the neighborhood’s reclaimed Victorian flats.

San Francisco police officers, Inspectors Weiner and Maloney, entered the Psychedelic Shop on Nov. 15, 1966, and purchased a copy of a thin poetry chapbook titled The Love Book, which had been written by a little-known Bay Area poet, Lenore Kandel, whose prior claim to fame was as a character in one of Jack Kerouac’s novels of the Beat generation. The two officers had determined that the poems contained in The Love Book were obscene under section 311.2 of California’s penal code and arrested Allen Cohen, the clerk on duty that day, on the grounds of selling material “that could excite vicious or lewd thoughts or acts.” Within hours, a picket line appeared outside the raided Psychedelic Shop protesting police harassment with signs reading “Fascist Police Not Wanted Here,” “Cops Go Home,” and “Police Illegal.” This was the first street protest of police harassment staged by members of the new youth community in the Haight-Ashbury.

Read the full article in a PDF of the history of one of the longest running criminal trials in San Francisco.


Lenore on The Love Book Trial

The following is an excerpt from the interview that Alice and Céline conducted in 1998. We excerpted this section of the interview to highlight Lenore's comments on the trial which was not directly connected to her involvement with the Diggers.


[Question about the Love Book and the obscenity trial]

All right, the Love Book. It's love poems...that had a very strange effect, since they were [laughing] arrested by the police. And there was a trial. It lasted either two and a half weeks or five and a half weeks or something very long. It was mainly religious, because the book was considered blasphemous. The question arose, Is there sex after death? [laughs] They very seriously argued this in court with psychiatrists, ministers, priests, nuns, marriage counselors. It was very odd. Seriously arguing because of a line that I think had hermaphroditic angels fucking. Well, they became very literal [minded]. They really seriously argued in the court of law, 'Is there sex after death?' And if so, how? It was very, very weird. And I had a very hard time keeping a straight face. And once unfortunately, I broke out laughing. I didn't intend to, and I was almost held in contempt of court. But it was just so funny. I mean, they had imaginations, they were so obsessed. It was just incredible the things they dreamed up as interpretations of lines in that book. They would be incredibly literal, they had no idea of, like, a simile comparing something to something else. That, you know, if you say your hand is a butterfly, you don't mean it grew wings—you mean it flowed and fluttered. But they didn't. They tried to find a serious absolute literal explanation for every line including... And I mean, then they got into blasphemy, talking about it being sacrilegious... It was very amazing.

Part of it was the language. I find using Latin derivatives, or very stilted language, is not very affectionate when you want to speak lovingly of your body or your lover's body or what you're doing with it. So I use common language. And also I feel that "fuck you" should not be an insult — "Nobody should fuck you" is an insult. We should know the difference. Well, here we come back into language again. Language, a lot of the English words that have these sounds like "fuck," come from the Anglo-Saxon. When the Normans conquered England, Anglo-Saxon English was low class. Latin and French English was high class, and that became the accepted language. Only the peasants and the serfs and the slaves spoke the Anglo-Saxon. That's why English has, very often, two distinct families of words for the same object, the same action — one derives from the Normans and one from the Saxons. 'Fuck' is an Anglo-Saxon term. It's got bad connotations. So I felt it should be redeemed because it was a word that's in constant use. And I didn't think it should be. ...If it's a word meaning something that you care about, that you love, that you're fond of, it shouldn't also be a nasty word. It's to bring consciousness in.

Well, they got very upset at the language. And they also got very upset at speaking about sex openly, and that a woman should speak about sex openly and about enjoying it. One of them, being liberal, suggested maybe the book could be read in the bedroom of a married couple—as long as the shades were down. [chuckles] There was a marriage counselor on the stand and they asked, Well, what language do you use when you speak to your clients? And he said, Well, I don't say anything—I point. [laughs]

I thought they were incredibly obsessed. I had never imagined people being so hung up on this subject. The whole thing was very odd to me. It was a great learning experience, and it went on so long that it was for not only me, but for a great many people. I mean, they were right, in a way, to be disturbed by me. A nun that I became friends with did leave the church. She's a poet, very good poet. A Jesuit that I became friends with did leave the church and got married. So maybe I was a bad influence! But they shouldn't be where they don't belong, anyway. Whatever you really are, is where you should be.

There's still repercussions from it. It was amazing to me. I learned a whole lot, I got involved with a lot of people, I met a lot of people. It was very hard to buy a pair of socks because I'd go into a store and everybody'd tell me their sex life. [chuckles] So it was a little bizarre.

It was amazing to me at that time, that they could seriously consider blasphemy in a court in San Francisco. I mean, that word was used actually, in relation to that poem.

[Q: Why did the trial happen in the first place?]

Well, they were trying to ban it. But people were reading it on the street corners and in colleges and things like that. Actually what was on trial were these two innocent booksellers, who were never even spoken to all during the course of the trial, who sat there quietly and silently all through it... I think that the book was considered obscene and then it was reversed. So they say it wasn't, that it was sold all over the place. Meanwhile, it had been printed. I mean, it was stolen all over the world. Okay, very well known. All kinds of languages, all kinds of countries and everywhere. And thanks to the police force of San Francisco, it became a very well known poem and a lot of people learned a lot and got freed a lot from it. Because a lot of people, it seems, had the same feelings but not the language and enjoyed being able to present the language—including a lot of women—who were able to present this as their feelings. So it did a lot of freeing. But it amazed me, I would have never imagined that people were that hung up.



Allen Cohen, the Love Book Trial, and the Digger Web

[*] In 1993, Allen Cohen (the founder and editor of the San Francisco Oracle and one of the three defendants in The Love Book trial) asked me to help him locate the final ruling on appeal. Allen was applying for a license and needed to prove that the obscenity conviction had been overturned. I went to the National Archives in San Bruno and was able to locate the final order signed by Federal Judge Alphonse Zirpoli in 1974. I brought a copy (with an official embossed seal) to Allen. At that point, Allen had just completed the production of his CD-ROM, Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties. He suggested that I should do something similar for the history of the Diggers. You, dear reader, are looking at the result of Allen's suggestion.

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