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In December 2019 comes Jesse Seldess’ third full length collection, Several Rotations. In April 2020, Kenning Editions will publish a collection of Audre Lorde’s lectures, readings, and interviews given in Germany during the 1980s. Audre Lorde: Dream of Europe is edited by Mayra Rodríguez Castro and offers a certain, sometimes surprising curriculum for engaged poetics based on readings of American counter-culture. Later, look for new books by Devin King, Legna Rodriguez and Holly Melgard. Care of editor Daniel Borzutzky, Juan Luis Martinez’s The New Novel will appear before too long, also, the first translation into English of this influential and strange rupture in the generic edifice of poetry.

The previous season saw much lauded releases, including: Kevin Killian’s selected plays, Stage Fright; Grenade in Mouth: Some Poems of Miyó Vestrini, edited by Faride Mereb, and translated by Anne Boyer and Cassandra Gillig; and Craig Dworkin’s The Pine-Woods Notebook. September 2019 brings The Chilean Flag by Elvira Hernández, translated by Alec Schumacher, and with an introduction by Cecilia Vicuña. The Dirty Text by Afro-Cuban poet Soleida Rios (translated by Barbara Jamison and Olivia Lott) was named by Entropy one of the best works of fiction published in 2018. Juana I by Ana Arzoumanian (translated by Gabriel Amor) was released and we were able to bring Ana to the United States for her first ever readings in New York and Chicago.

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Kenning Editions presents a book launch with Olivia Lott and Daniel Borzutzky reading from Soleida Ríos’s The Dirty Text and Devin King reading from his The Grand Complication, Saturday, September 7th, 5:00 PM at The Dial Bookshop, 410 S Michigan Ave #210, Chicago, IL 60605. Free and ADA accessible. Details can be found here.

Soleida Ríos is an acclaimed Cuban poet whose work draws from Afro-Cuban traditions as well as writers as diverse as Juan Rulfo and Aimé Cesaire. She has published fourteen books from 1977 to the present, and The Dirty Text (El Texto Sucio) is her first book to appear in English. Written in the 1990s in Cuba, it is a book of poems, a book of stories and, most vividly, a book of dreams. Barbara Jamison worked personally with Ríos and produced the first draft of this book. Her intimate engagement with and belief in Ríos’s writing led the way, but unfortunately, Jamison passed away before her work could be concluded. In 2017, scholar and translator Olivia Lott took on this project with a remarkable sense of dedication and enthusiasm. Lott edited the translation with the greatest respect for the work that had been done before her, and with a vast understanding of Ríos’s project within the context of Cuban writing at large.

Devin King is the poetry editor of the Green Lantern Press and the author of CLOPS, The Resonant Space, and These Necrotic Ethos Come the Plains. Says John Tipton: “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.”

SPD’s “staff picks” section features this recommendation of Kevin Killian’s Stage Fright, by the inimitable Trisha Low:

I think that people tend to have a lot of preconceived notions when it comes to Poet’s Theater – poets themselves especially because poets are Judgmental and there’s something about the sense of amateurism that people balk at. I always find this funny because there’s literally no other genre in which someone is allowed to make a mistake and then smooth it over by being like ‘well that’s what i meant to do, I mean I found the mistake interesting…’ – only in Poetry, I guess.

But Poetry aside, when all is said and done, STAGE FRIGHT demonstrates, at its core, that Poet’s Theater is far from a theater of miscommuniques, mistakes, or infelicitous acts of speech. Rather, it demonstrates the limitations of genre itself, which is also to say, that in its expansive acts of unreality, its practice of exceeding its form, Poet’s Theater is about inhabiting new worlds, new situations – as a different act of being. Not simply for the purposes of political gain, or bettering the world, but simply for the pure enjoyment of it.

Joy is something that is especially difficult to figure in moments like ours, but how can you not feel it when you put those persons most prone to absurdity and imagination in the same physical space just simply to have fun? How can you not feel it when you find some version of Isabella Rossellini rubbing up against Tippi Hedrun and Melanie Griffith? How can you not feel it when we, as Kevin writes, “act too, inhabit other realities than [our] own… as if the magical hills of San Francisco didn’t already give us all the permission we needed, to become someone else, even just for one night.’

Kevin himself, with the sparkle in his eye and his Chloe Sevigny photo face was the master of this – a ringleader of mischief, and radical instigator of the joy we most need in order to find the strength to do the real work, the important political work – the joy itself, of being. This collection is a beautiful testament to the radical possibilities of this joy. So drink a beer, put on a record, and go crazy. Sometimes, it feels as though there’s little we can do, but this, we can do together, on the collapsing stage of our degenerate world. Let’s do it.

…a work of fiction allows you to capture reality and at the same time what it conceals.

—Marcel Broodthaers

It’s a dire summer. There is no escape, but there is an answer. Read fiction that reveals. All Kenning Editions titles that have been rumored or marketed as fiction are on sale through Sunday, $7.00 lowly a piece!

Juana I, by Ana Arzoumanian, translated by Gabriel Amor

The Dirty Text, by Soleida Rios, translated by Barbara Jamison and Olivia Lott

Insomnia and the Aunt, by Tan Lin

The Compleat Purge, by Trisha Low

and

Ambient Parking Lot, by Pamela Lu

Over at Tarpaulin Sky:

Oh holy hell, this is good. These are texts (mostly poems) written by the Venezuelan poet, journalist, and screenwriter Miyó Vestrini between 1960 and 1990. I’ve slowed down my reading of Grenade in Mouth to maybe a line or two at a time as I want it to last as long as possible. I’m also skipping around a bit so that there will be poems I missed to discover later. I’m laying the ground for my next pass. Vestrini is amazing. How can she be so breezy and so intense? How can she sound like someone you know and nobody you’ve ever read? How can this be so much about her world and ours? Translators Anne Boyer and Cassandra Gillig, in their super sharp Introduction, say, “To translate Miyó Vestrini is like letting a deadly current pass through one’s body and hoping not to get hurt. To read Miyó Vestrini is much the same, and any introduction to her work must end with a warning: of course this is dangerous territory.” The work is, of course, as vital and energizing as it is deadly. It is wild and brilliant. Nobody should ask me to write another “What I’m Reading Now” column for a while because I will still be reading this.

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.

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