‘Just let it arrive’: Poet, mentor Bruce Kauffman talks career

Recipient of 2020 Mayor’s Arts Award discusses creative process

Kauffman is a published poet and host of Finding a Voice on CFRC-FM.
Credit: 
Supplied by Bruce Kauffman

Bruce Kauffman has been opening doors for artists for 12 years.

In 2009, Kauffman started an open mic night at The Artel, an arts venue formerly located on Sydenham Road. A year later, he started a radio show on CFRC called Finding a Voice. With both projects, Kauffman’s goal was to create more opportunities for emerging artists to find an audience.

“I just see doors that could be opened and there’s always people excited and interested—just waiting almost—for doors to open,” he told The Journal.

Despite being a crucial member of the Kingston Arts community, Kauffman was born and raised in Colorado. Over 50 years ago, he attended the University of Colorado in Boulder where he started writing poetry for the first time.

In December 1999, he moved to Ontario and received his citizenship as soon as he became eligible, which was after working in the province for five years.

“I’ve found in Kingston a wealth of talent, a wealth of writers and poets that I’ve always felt needed a bigger audience,” Kauffman said.

When The Artel closed and relocated to Queen Street in 2015, Kauffman’s open mic nights drifted to a Yoga studio and bounced around to different coffeehouses. Now, because of COVID-19, Kauffman hosts the open mic sessions on his radio show.

After hosting 12 years of open mic nights, Kauffman has fond feelings about the project.

“It was a beautiful connection between the university, [student] artists and also Kingston community artists,” he said.

According to Kauffman, he’s seen a nice blend of Queen’s creative writing students and Kingston locals coming to his events.

Kauffman is not just a mentor but a poet in his own right, publishing two chapbooks and three collections. In 2020, the City of Kingston recognized Kauffman’s achievements with the Mayor’s Arts Award.

“I was really honoured and surprised actually to find I’d received the award. I was very humbled by it. I know other people who have won the award and I think very highly of all of them, so it was definitely an honour to be considered.”

Kauffman’s last collection came out in Spring 2019 and was the culmination of three years of work. He said he’s considering releasing another poetry book soon.

“A lot of my work seems to be sort of nature-drive, sort of Zen-like. Where I get inspiration is in a process called intuitive writing […] I find it important to not think. That’s the first step,” he said.

“Walking is very helpful, especially if I can walk in more natural and less populated areas. But just to shut off the mind and simply observe. Two or three words in a line or something come, and then when I do sit down after I’m done walking or whatever I’m doing it seems to just flow on the page. I don’t like to think through my poetry. The word I use is just let it arrive.”

Kauffman departed with some words of encouragement for aspiring writers.

“I encourage people to keep writing, keep reading. And if you’re writing poetry and you’ve been afraid to share it, just share it because not everybody’s gonna like it, not everybody’s gonna like anybody’s poetry. But some people are going to really appreciate [it], and that poem might occasionally make all the difference in the world to someone else.”

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