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Reporting with deep sadness today: Kevin Killian has passed away. His selected plays, Stage Fright, was launched just under a month ago at The Stud in San Francisco. I flew out flew out from Chicago to see Kevin and the performance of “Box of Rain” he (and the great Maxe Crandall) put on there. Kevin was respected, admired, and even beloved by so many that there is just a little to add to the various tributes already coursing through social media. My report on the book launch forms the last section of an essay that will close out my next book, so wait for it. Meanwhile, look around to all of these tributes and count the many profoundly talented and compassionate people who loved him, and that will tell you how extraordinary this man was. His influence will resonate for a very, very long time.

On his poetry:

[Jack Spicer’s] theories of dictation have also been important to me and, even though they have been under question, I still imagine that that is exactly the way I write poetry myself. I just tune down all the other noises until the voice of the “other” can be heard—the voice of what Spicer calls the “invisible world.” Spicer compared the poet to a radio through which transmissions find an audience, but the origin of these messages remains unknown. Or sometimes he said that one’s own experiences and memories and talents and education might well be thought of as “furniture” in the attic of one’s mind and yet the ghosts seek to write poetry by using that furniture, shoving it about till it means something, or are any rate conveys something. Yes, I do happen to know heaps about Kylie Minogue, but will that see me in good stead? Will the Martians be able to mash up what I know to get any poetry out of me? You be the judge. [read the entire interview here]

On his poets theater:

It’s all about the people who aren’t actors, who played in our plays. Just regular artists and writers and poets. We can’t memorize the plays, so we have to get up there with the script in our hands. And somehow that allows us all to act, act, act in a much better way than if we had been in the actor’s studio. [read the entire interview here]

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Kevin Killian, Box of Rain, still from performance, Second Annual Festival of Poets Theater, Links Hall, Chicago 2016.

See also, The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985, co-edited by Kevin Killian and David Brazil.

We are pleased to announce the publication of Devin King’s fourth book of poetry, The Grand Complication.

Life on earth was a hot mess for Oedipus’s sons and daughters. Could there be a more fitting time to revisit the Theban cycles? In Devin King’s surprising, lively recasting, the ground is constantly grounded and slipping out from under your feet at once, a way to understand what it’s like to be alive. As a bonus (the bonus that is poetry), King works some of the most astoundingly beautiful thought-images through the text: “Children outside my window given / meaning by me are given meaning where they come / from, where they go. It never ends. So this poem.”

—Eleni Sikelianos

Read an excerpt here, via Aurochs. The Grand Complication can be had via subscription to Kenning Editions. Distributed by Small Press Distribution, most assuredly. Direct orders here. And in September, King will read from the book at The Dial Bookshop in downtown Chicago; details here.

 

Just for kicks, books by Kevins and Jesses are on sale this week, June 3-7, for $10.00 a piece, through the Kenning Editions website. That includes the very first “real” book we published, Jesse Seldess’ Who Opens, plus the follow-up, Left Having. Kevin Killian’s Stage Fright: Selected Plays from San Francisco Poets Theater and The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985 are in the mix, also, No kidding. Tell a friend. Good jokes spread by word of mouth.

Back in 2006 when it first came out, Kevin Killian wrote one of his infamous Amazon reviews of Who Opens this way:

Complicated inner rhymes like Frank Loesser lyrics, so that in the final poem, we’re hearing “Hand talking/ by past will/ Tend” and in another few lines we’re into “talking by/ and walking by/ By fast will/ Hand,” so that we have to keep up with the sense quicker and quicker, yet the music of the line acts like a carrot in front of the reluctant donkey of the brain. Is it a spurious music? The advertising matter, and a little note at the back of the book, informs us that this poem, “In Contact,” comes out of Seldess’ interaction (he says) with elderly people with Alzheimers and other memory diseases. (The promo copy uses the word “work,” as though Seldess had a job there among the old people, but the word “interaction” takes it away from the realm of the economic, and places him in a purer light, perhaps a sort of sounding board for people in trouble. And “interaction” implies a two way street more than “work,” as though they weren’t the only ones learning something, no, he was getting something too — besides a salary or hourly wage or whatever.) In any case the poem, “In Contact,” stands almost like one of the free-standing rock formations, all crevices and juts, down in Monument Valley, its very otherness isolating it from the world of ordinary poetry, and yet making a satisfying climax to the six poems that precede it, which all depend on the peculiar satisfactions of improvisation, like a jazzman playing a melody “straight no chaser” once, then going to town thereafter.

Says Kathleen Rooney in an independent-press, summer reading round up this week:

Out from Kenning Editions, the unforgettable Grenade in Mouth by the Venezuelan poet Miyo Vestrini is every bit as explosive as its title indicates. Translated collaboratively by poets Anne Boyer and Cassandra Gillig, this book offers a simultaneously morbid and hilarious selection of Vestrini’s poetry over the course of her career before she took her own life in 1991. As they write in their introduction, her work “contains regular, explicit challenges to the institutions of mental health” as when she writes “I find all my friends treated by psychoanalysts have become/ totally sad totally idiotic.” The opportunity to spend time in the company of Vestrini’s unsentimental and unexpected words is not to be missed.

A fresh batch of micro-reviews from Kenyon Review is up, ranging among the most urgent books in translation published over the last several months, including Grenade in Mouth, by Miyó Vestrini. Highlights include:

“It’s hard for me to read Grenade in Mouth, the inaugural English translation of avant-garde Venezuelan poet Miyó Vestrini, without hearing the echo of co-translator Anne Boyer’s essay ‘No.’ Boyer writes, ‘Death as refusal requires as its material only life, which if rendered cheaply enough by the conditions that inspire the refusal, can become precious again when selectively and heroically deployed as a no.'”

and

“Some readers may see Vestrini’s work as a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk that culminates in its author’s death. For me, Grenade in Mouth is more interesting for its unresolvable tensions, exalting in decadence and austerity, joy and horror, and refusal and revolution.”

Available from SPD and via subscription.

Chicago! Ana Arzoumanian is visiting the U.S. for a performative, collaborative reading from her full-length debut publication in North America, Juana I. She reads accompanied by Gabriel Amor, translator of the book, and musician Marta Hernández. The event comes courtesy of and takes place at The Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Free, 7:00 PM, Thursday, March 21st, 61 West Superior Street in Chicago.

And Portland, we invite you to a special reading to coincide with the AWP conference. Green Lantern Press / Kenning Editions Showcase, 800 SE 10th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Friday, March 29th. Access to the event is through stairs. That said, though the space is not technically ADA, night of, there can be access arranged to an elevator. 6:30pm-8:00pm. Gratis wine provided by Montinore Estate. Readers include John Beer, Adam Novy, Laura Elrick, Joel Craig, Rachel Galvin, Devin King, Lara Schoorl, John Pluecker and Jessica Anne.

Set for publication this June, Devin King’s book inspired John Tipton to say this: “Devin King’s Grand Complication is a dizzy fugue of forms—regular stanzas in radical variety. And the sources of its argument are just as varied—The Thebaid of Statius, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Melrose Place. It’s reminiscent of Zukofky’s omnivorous, inventive formalism. King orchestrates actors and narratives into a weltering long poem: William leads stoners to his apartment, thinking Julia will follow, but instead, she leads Abbie into Luke’s room and Mike follows, though Mike had flirted with Julia before she jumped in the pool while Amphiaraus was swallowed by the earth. I know. It’s complicated.”

Secure your copy via subscription. Subscribers receive the entire 2018-2019 season’s titles for a mere $75.00. That includes Ana Arzoumanian’s Juana I, Soleida Ríos’ The Dirty TextGrenade in Mouth: Some Poems of Miyó Vestrini, and Kevin Killian’s Stage Fright: Selected Plays from San Francisco Poets Theater among others. Later this year, expect to see The Chilean Flag, by Elvira Hernández, translated by Alec Schumacher and with an introduction by Cecilia Vicuña. Subscriptions are available also by donating to Kenning Editions, a 501c3 non-profit.

Edited by Faride Mereb and translated by Anne Boyer and Cassandra Gillig, Grenade in Mouth: Some Poems of Miyó Vestrini introduces to Anglophone readers the work of one of the vanguard voices of Venezuelan poetry with texts that cover three decades: from the year 1960 to 1990. The book offers a broader spectrum of her poems than ever previously compiled, including previously unpublished texts alongside her best known and most important works.

Critics have called Miyó Vestrini the poet of “militant death.” Vestrini is known, too, as the Sylvia Plath of Venezuela, but if she is a Plath, we think she is one who would have set Ted Hughes on fire. Read three poems from the book via Granta. Learn more about Vestrini and about this important new book here.

Says M. Buna at Hyperallergic: ‘In her writings, death and poetry have their own dark choreography that doesn’t shy away from affirming the stark contradictions at its core — exercises in morbidity also result in the resurrection of a new will to live, in a counter-suicidal impulse, even if it’s only a temporary one. These are whimsical poems that reveal the most familiar domestic settings as designed for eternal sleep. She allows no room for cozy feelings or attachments and no space for empty metaphors or shallow formal experiments — when she refers to men as lizards “who open the covers/and enter./without fresh turmoil/without heat or melancholy/without casting a spell,” she conjures a vivid and unequivocal picture. Intimacies and comforts are peeled off to expose the universe to its bare bone, and replace it with hypercharged particles…’

Grenade in Mouth is one of several new titles in translation available via subscription to Kenning Editions.

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Kenning Editions is pleased to announce the publication of Stage Fright: Plays from San Francisco Poets Theater, by Kevin Killian. Collecting work dating from the late 1980’s to the early 2010’s, this is the first representative selection of Killian’s plays. Once describing his productions as a form of “blanket permission,” Killian added, “I think people might come away thinking, I could do that! Isn’t that the best kind of work, something generative? Action painting was sort of like that…” This is a book to read, where reading means catching some action.

Says Lynne Tillman:

Kevin Killian’s plays remind me of Preston Sturges’s movies, with their fast repartee, hilarious ripostes, and crazy situations. Killian lets readers listen in on imagined conversations with literary greats, film-makers, celebs, actors—the Bowleses, Sheena Easton, Lars Von Trier, Kim Basinger, Lauren Bacall, and many more. He invites readers to their smart parties, where wit and scandal run riot, where everyone snipes, conspires, pontificates, and gossips about pop and literary arcana—and each other. Killian’s humor is sophisticated, his sensibility wry, and he knows just about everything. Kevin Killian’s plays are pure, or impure, pleasure.

Details and ordering information here.

 

Kenning Editions is proud to announce the publication of The Pine-Woods Notebook, by Craig Dworkin. Following the traces of the trail blazed by Francis Ponge in Le Carnet du bois de pins (1947), The Pine-Woods Notebook offers a simultaneous study of two environments. It documents the ecologies of two particular stands of conifers (one in the Wasatch front of the Rockies’ western edge, the other in the coastal Cascades of the Pacific Northwest); at the same time, it investigates the linguistic environment at the intersection of the words pitch and pine in all of their denotations. An essay built from densely patterned sentences, The Pine-Woods Notebook records the surprising resonance of chance lexical encounters and argues for the inextricable interweaving of the phenomenology of the conifer (its shape, scent, and cool darkness — as well as the distinctive sound of the wind in its branches) together with the vitality of its fluid sap and disseminating reproductive processes. Here, the erotic longing of pining meets the affective reflex of breath as they articulate the branching of the signifier.

Craig Dworkin is the author of over a half-dozen books of poetry, including, most recently: Chapter XXIV (Red Butte Press, 2013); Alkali (Counterpath, 2105); 12 Erroneous Displacements and a Fact (Information As Material, 2016), and DEF (Information As Material, 2017).

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