Her first works of poetry were the chapbooks An Exquisite Navel, A Passing Dragon, and A Passing Dragon Seen Again, published in 1959. Several of her poems also appeared in Beat and Beatific II in 1959.
Kandel moved from her native New York City to San Francisco in 1960. There she met Jack Kerouac, who later immortalized her as Romana Swartz, "a big Rumanian monster beauty," in his novel Big Sur (1962). In the novel, she is described as being the girlfriend of Dave Wain, who was based on Lew Welch. "Dave" describes how she walked around the "Zen-East House" wearing only purple panties. Kerouac described her as "intelligent, well read, writes poetry, is a Zen student, knows everything [...]" (Big Sur, p. 75).
Kandel was briefly notorious as the author of a short book of poetry, The Love Book. A small pamphlet consisting of four poems, The Love Book provoked censorship with its poem, "To Fuck with Love." Police seized the work as being in violation of state obscenity codes, from both City Lights Books and The Psychedelic Shop in 1966. Subsequently Kandel gained cause célèbre status. She herself defended her verse as "holy erotica." A jury declared the book obscene and lacking in any redeeming social value in 1967 and sales went up; Kandel thanked the police by giving 1 percent of all profits to the Police Retirement Association.The decision was overturned on appeal and the book continued to sell well.
Along with Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Michael McClure and others, Kandel was a speaker at the Human Be-In in the Golden Gate Park polo fields on January 14, 1967. The only woman to speak from the stage, Kandel defiantly read from The Love Book. It was her 35th birthday that day, and McClure later stated, "The entire crowd of 20,000 or 30,000 people sang 'Happy Birthday' to her."
Kandel published her only full-length book of poems, Word Alchemy, in 1967. She was one of 15 people interviewed in Voices from the Love Generation (Little, Brown and Company, 1968). In 1976, Kandel recited a poem at the iconic concert The Last Waltz performed by The Band (but was not included in the film or soundtrack).
In 1970, Kandel suffered massive spinal injuries in a motorcycle crash with her then-husband Billy Fritsch (poet and member of the Hells Angels). Despite having to cope with excruciating pain for the remainder of her life, she continued to write and maintain social ties.
Film and music
American composer, Rocky J. Reuter has set several of the poems from Word Alchemy in various styles, including a choral setting of "Emerald Poem" (She the gill singer); a multi-movement work for mezzo soprano and band that sets "Rose/Vision," "Lady/Poem," and "Vision of the Skull of the Prophet" (Alquemie I); as well as a chamber setting of "Rose/Vision" for soprano, countertenor, four viols, and Renaissance harp (Visions within the Silence).
- "LENORE KANDEL, 1932-2009". Arthur Magazine.
- William Lawlor (1 January 2005). Beat Culture: Lifestyles, Icons, and Impact. ABC-CLIO. pp. 169–. ISBN 978-1-85109-400-4.
- "Lenore Kandel: Beat poet whose 'The Love Book' fell victim to one of San Francisco's longest ever court cases". The Independent.
- Barney Hoskyns (2006). Across the Great Divide: The Band and America. Hal Leonard. pp. 348–. ISBN 978-1-4234-1442-1.
- "Lenore Kandel - 'The Love Book' author - dies". SFGate.
- "North Atlantic Books - Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel".
By Lenore Kandel
- Lenore Kandel, Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel, North Atlantic Books, 2012, ISBN 1583943722, ISBN 978-1583943724
- Limited edition of The Love Book published by Joe Pachinko of Superstition Street Press in 2003, ISBN 0-9665313-1-0
- Lenore Kandel, Word Alchemy, Grove Press, Evergreen trade paperback, 1967, ISBN 1-299-22275-7
- Lenore Kandel, The Love Book, Stolen Paper Review, San Francisco, 1966, paperbound, 8 pages
- Lenore Kandel, A Passing Dragon See Again, Three Penny Press, Studio City, 1959.
- Lenore Kandel, An Exquisite Navel, Three Penny Press, Studio City, 1959.
- Lenore Kandel, A Passing Dragon, Three Penny Press, Studio City, 1959?.
Anthologies featuring Kandel's work
- Brenda Knight, Women of the Beat Generation (Conari Press, 1996) contains a biographical portrait of Kandel, as well as three of her poems
- Richard Peabody (ed.), A Different Beat: Writings by Women of the Beat Generation (Serpents Tail, 1997), pp 100–103
- Carole Tonkinson (ed.), Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation (Riverhead Books, 1995), pp 260–272.
- Anne Waldman (ed.), Beat Book: Writings from the Beat Generation (Shambhala, 2007)
- Carmela Ciuraru (ed.), Beat Poets (Everyman's Library, 2002)
- David Steinberg (ed.), The Erotic Impulse (Tarcher, 1992) contains "Seven of Velvet," which is not available in other collections
- Alan Kaufman and S.A. Griffin (ed.), The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (Basic Books, 1999)
- Jenny Skerl (ed.), Reconstructing the Beats (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Ronna C. Johnson, chapter 6, contains an essay about Kandel and selections from her poems
- Leonard Wolf (ed.), in collaboration with Deborah Wolf, Voices from the Love Generation (Little, Brown and Company, 1968) hardcover, 283 pages, interviews done in Haight-Ashbury