Love Book, The

Love Book, The
by Lenore Kandel
   In 1966 The Love Book, a small collection of cosmic erotic lyrics, was published by Beat poet lenore kandel. Like Howl and otHer poems a decade earlier, The Love Book was confiscated in San Francisco on charges of obscenity, iterating for the new countercultural generation of hippies and activists the free speech issues that Beat movement writing had confronted. The Love Book’s origins in female sexuality and sexual emancipation, its publicized seizure and obscenity trial, and its female author’s controversial use of profane sex words in poetry are the hallmarks of this pivotal text’s transmutation of Beat Generation ethics into the rebel freedoms of the 1960s counterculture.
   The Love Book was published privately by a small Haight–Ashbury press, Jeff Berner’s Stolen Paper Review, in November 1966, just months before the January 1967 Human Be-In and the epoch-making Summer of Love. The volume was handprinted and sold for a dollar; it had nearly translucent dry-paper pages, and its cover featured a wood-blocked image, an Eastern-inspired likeness of Krishna embracing a naked woman from behind. The tripped-out, love-saturated design of the book exemplifies the psychedelic hippie counterculture to which it spoke. A testament to its mid-1960s era, The Love Book merges hippie romanticism and women’s orgasmic pleasure with four-letter sex words, spinning these in a mystical, psychedelic love chant. The legal controversy focused on the book’s subject matter—heterosexual intercourse-and diction, which made free use of the verb fuck as well as slang for genitalia such as cock and cunt, which Kandel regarded as beautiful, not obscene, words.
   Four poems constitute The Love Book: “God/ Love Poem” and three phases of “To Fuck With Love.” The poems’ distinctive 1960s ambience is in their sexual candor and ardor, their focus on orgasm, their allusions to Hindu cosmology, and their psychedelic register, which offered LSD-inflected hallucinatory descriptions. The influence of consciousness-altering drugs is apparent in the poems’ mind-bending perspectives, visions seen through a crystal haze in multiple linguistic reflections: “fuck—the fuck of love-fuck—the yes entire— / love out of ours—the cock in the cunt fuck— / the fuck of pore into pore—the smell of fuck / taste it—love dripping from skin to skin-. . . I/you / reflected in the golden mirror we are avatars of / Krishna and Radha . . . carnal incarnate.” The psychedelia of prismatically overlapping frames of repeated words and images in trippy kaleidoscopic wholes functions visually, aurally, and imaginatively to alter consciousness as might a hallucinogenic drug. The sex talk of The Love Book wallows in the body, and it is spoken for women’s orgasmic benefit by a free-love female mystic, who embodies the way pleasure is freed in the vibrant Jungian 1960s from the confinement of the dour Freudian 1950s.
   The Love Book flaunts radical freedoms to depict heterosexual intercourse through explicit sex language in poetry, adumbrating aspects of secondwave feminism by exalting the sexual revolution from the position of the female lover in the cosmic act of love. The uninhibited sex language achieves a liberation that models the sexual freedom The Love Book advocates taking. Kandel adapted the countercultural ethic of free love to serve poetry’s liberation, just as The Love Book’s literary liberation served women’s sexual freedom.
■ Cook, Bruce. The Beat Generation: The Tumultuous ’50s Movement and Its Impact on Today. New York: Scribner, 1971.
■ Gifford, Barry, and Lawrence Lee. Jack’s Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1978.
■ Johnson, Ronna C. “Lenore Kandel’s The Love Book: Psychedelic Poetics, Cosmic Erotica, and Sexual Politics in the Mid-sixties Counterculture.” Reconstructing the Beats, edited by Jennie Skerl, 89–104. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
■ Wolf, Leonard. Voices From the Love Generation. Boston: Little, Brown, 1968.
   Ronna C. Johnson

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

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