Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Buffalo News Review of Human Scale

R.D. Pohl wrote a very thorough and very nice review of Human Scale at the Buffalo News "Arts Beat" blog. It's called "Michael Kelleher's Beautiful Warnings."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Revolting Sofas

I was invited to write a poem for a site called, "REVOLTING SOFAS: Sordid Settees. Primo Poetry and Prose." How could I resist!

The editor, known as Startha Mewart, sent me a photo of an orange and black sectional with arms shaped like a Greek Omega. You can check out the site here:

I'll leave the connection between my poem and that revolting sofa to your imagination. I now have a fair amount of work online, so I think I am going to create a set of links over to the right that lead to various poems, essays, recordings and editorial projects.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Review Of Human Scale

Eileen Tabios has posted "an engagement" with Human Scale on her review site, Galatea Resurrects.

You can read the review/engagement here:

Anyhow, it's nice to read such a thoughtful and personal response to the work written by someone I've never met.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Another Busy Week in Poetry Town

Nathaniel Mackey
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Pretty amazing 8 days for poetry in Buffalo since I last wrote. Robert Hass read at the University on Friday the 9th. I think he won the National Book Award the next day or maybe a couple of days after that.

I had every intention of making it up there for the reading, but I was very tired after shuttling Pamuk around. My exhaustion was compounded by the fact that we received an offer on our house at about 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. We spent a very intense 90 minutes negotiating the price before we finally accepted the offer. It wasn't everything we'd hoped for, but it was probably as much as we could have expected given the neighborhood and the market. By the time that was over, all I really wanted to do was vegetate.

I did get to see the amazing reading by last year's National Book Award winner, Nathaniel Mackey, on Thursday night at Hallwalls. This guy is a true master. I am sure he's probably sick of hearing about how much his work is like jazz, but man is it ever. Outside of actual sound poems, I've never heard anyone write with such intense musicality before. What amazes me is that these are essentially narrative poems, albeit disjunctive ones, and yet Mackey is continually able to drive the music forward without losing the narrative thread. It's almost overwhelming to listen to the rhythms and alliterations that punctuate every single breath. It's like (JAZZ ALERT) listening to a Coltrane solo, where he bends the melody so far outside one's normal sense of regularity that we get lost in the bending, and then just as it seems we are about to spin into harmony- and melody-less space, we hear the head drop back into the song -- "these are a few of my fa-vo-rite things!" Wow, bravo, Mr. Mackey. It was heartening to see so many people at the reading -- at least 90 people were there.

Next night my old dear friend Dan Machlin and former Buffalonian (now of Flushing) Stephanie Gray read in Just Buffalo's Small Press Poetry series at Rust Belt Books. Dan read from his new collection, Dear Body, just out from Ugly Duckling Presse. It's a very measured work that delights in exploring some of the outer linguistic reaches of mind-body dualism, without ever trying to come down wholly in favor of a materialist or a dualist or a spiritualist world view. Most of the poems are letters written to and from the "The Body" to or from a narrative voice that may or may not be the consciousness housed in that body. The poems are mournful and playful and the collection comes to a stirring conclusion in the final section, which is comprised of a long, knotted, dense sequence called "Beautiful Linear Bodies." My favorite section is the middle section, "Antebodies," which is comprised of six line poems written in lines of seven syllables each. These poems achieve a minimalist precision I can really appreciate.

Stephanie read mostly prose poems from a forthcoming collection entitled, Heart Stoner Bingo (great title). Her poems work very assiduously with repetition. They are poems written by a person struggling both to hear and to be heard, and the insistence with which they repeat words and phrases becomes an exploration of meaning and context and incremental variation, as well as celebration sound itself. The poems are intelligent, poignant, and often very funny. Anyhow, I look forward to the book.

And some sleep. All for now.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pamuk Photos

Here's my Flickr set:

Here's another on Picasa by Prof. Bruce Jackson:

An Afternoon With Orhan Pamuk

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Orhan Pamuk visited Buffalo for about 9 hours on Thursday. We brought him in to kick off Just Buffalo's new literary series, Babel. For the past several months we've been encouraging the entire region to read his novel, Snow, a political novel about a small, isolated Anatolian town in the midst of a crisis over the clash of political Islam and secular totalitarian government. He was scheduled for a VIP reception at 6 and for a reading/lecture/q&a and book signing starting at 8. I picked him up at the Airport at 1:30 and took him on a whirlwind tour of the Buffalo/Niagara region before the official festivities began.

Our primary destination was, of course, Niagara Falls. We drove straight there from the airport. On the way, however, he asked if we could stop to buy a winter cap somewhere, as he hates shopping in NYC and so ends up buying a lot of necessities on the road, where the stores are less crowded and require less mental energy to navigate. So, I took the Nobel Prize-winner to the Outlet Mall! We found him a sort of Holden Caulfield-type hunter cap with small earflaps. He wanted to purchase earmuffs, but we couldn't seem to find any at Saks or at J.Crew, so we left with the cap and headed to the falls.

It was dark, wet day at the falls, but there was almost no one there and they hadn't yet closed the steps leading down to the overlook on the American side, so we were able to get a close-up view of the falls. We discovered a mutual interest in snapshots, and so ended up taking hundreds of pictures over the course of the day. If you look at the photoset on my Flickr site, you can see he’s shooting a photograph in just about every picture I took of him. I say snapshots, because neither of us seems really interested in taking photos that are particularly artful. I am rather more interested in their documentary value. This is an extremely new interest for me, one I resisted for years, preferring my own memory to the photos themselves. However, my memory isn’t what it used to be, and I find I very much enjoy the social dimension of photo sharing on the Internet. That said, I shoot my snapshots with a Fujifilm Finepix F45fd, he shoots his with some kind of Leica “point-and-shoot,” so I imagine his snapshots come out pretty well no matter what. My favorite photo of the day was one I took of two ducks sipping water in the middle of the American falls. It’s actually an ok photo in itself, but it was a joy to see in person.

After the falls, Pamuk told me he is interested in the decay of modernism – decay in the most literal, physical sense. I told him he had come to the right place! I have three tours I give visitors, depending on their interests and time constraints – The Falls Tour, The Architecture Tour, and my personal favorite, the Entropy Tour, which charts the sublime ruin that is much of Buffalo. We managed quickie versions of all three this afternoon. First stop was the grain elevators in south Buffalo. These massive concrete structures are in wildly varying states of use, disuse, decay and utter ruination. They make for great photos, as many an artful photographer has discovered.

Following the grain elevators, we drove through the sad wastes of Buffalo’s East Side over to the Central Terminal, Buffalo’s most spectacular ruin. We were fortunate to arrive while a group of students were being given a tour of the inside of the complex, so we just walked in and started shooting photos ourselves. Pamuk was in ecstasy, running around in the half-darkness shooting photos of every nook and cranny. We quickly found ourselves in some off-limits area near some old bathrooms. I could hear the tour group leaving at the other end of the terminal and became concerned we’d get locked in. I ran across the main waiting area toward the front door. Sure enough, the caretaker was there, ready to lock us in. He was not happy. He started screaming at me, and would not accept an apology. When he found out Orhan was still inside, he started screaming at him too. I debated whether or not to tell him he was screaming at a Nobel Prize-winner, but decided it would have little effect. Welcome to Buffalo, Mr. Pamuk!

Next stop was the Louis Sullivan-designed Guaranty building, an ornate, terracotta-covered 19th century office tower. I sent him in to see the lobby, but the security guard would not let him take pictures. O well. Our last stop was meant to be a drive-by of the Darwin Martin House, one of several Frank Lloyd Wright homes in and around Buffalo. I let him out and waited in my car at the curb while he took photos. Turned out part of it was still open, so we went in for a quick tour of the carriage and guest houses. One of the tour guides recognized him, so we got extra special treatment, which we appreciated (especially after the last two stops).

Time was getting short, and since he was not staying the night we decided it would be easiest to run back to our house to change clothes before the event, which we did, and had just enough time for two quick shots of espresso and a quick book signing (we asked him to sign a first ed. hardcover of his newest book, Other Colors, which he inscribed to "Michael, Lory [sic] and mama cat."

The reception took place in the underground lounge at Babeville. Just Buffalo’s board, funders and those who subscribed at higher levels all attended. The reading itself was packed. We sold out all of the tickets four days before the event and every seat in the house was full. I spent three days working from home to write an intro for Pamuk – I think it came off pretty well (my friend Lucy told me she cried, so I guess I did something right!). Pamuk’s talk was more of a lecture about the novel than anything else, but it was a very useful one. He read essays from the new book, mostly. The first, since everyone here was reading Snow, was about the research he did in writing that novel. This was followed by a longer discussion on novel writing as an art, on reading novels, and on some of the novels that most influenced him as a writer. When he reads, he’s got what I would call a sort of eastern European bearing – organized, mildly stern, unwavering in his opinions. But when he looks up from the book and engages the audience directly, he becomes much more endearing.

I returned to the stage after that to read him questions from the audience. We spoke about it beforehand and he said he wanted to take a question about the Armenian genocide, but only one, as he did not want his political persona to overshadow the novelist persona. So, we did one, and the rest were on writing, the novel, Snow, Turkey, et al. One question was written in Turkish, so he read it aloud in Turkish and then answered in English. In the final question, he was asked if he had a muse, to which he replied: no, except that he likes to read his work aloud to friends and loved ones to gauge their interest, and that this was in fact his greatest inspiration. He got a standing ovation, and then proceeded to sign 300 books in about 20 minutes. It was about the fastest book signing I’d ever seen.

As he stepped into a black car headed for a day of interviews in a hotel room in Toronto, I slipped him copies of my two books of poetry–

what the hell, right?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Busy Week With No Poetry Readings

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Isabelle Pelissier visited us all week. She came to Buffalo to retrieve all the art she left here when she and Joanthan moved to Maine in 2006. We were sad to see the Hibiscus paintings, which we had hanging in one of our guest rooms, leave the house. Had we the money, we would have just bought them, but alas... We really miss having Isabelle and Jonathan here in Buffalo -- even though we probably see them almost as often now as we did when they lived here. Both light up the room when they are around.

Remarkably, I have not been to a literary event all week.

I spent most of the week gearing up for Orhan Pamuk's visit next Thursday. It's amazing how much work is required for a reading this size. Hopefully it will all come together for the big show. I need to spend the next few days writing an introduction. In this case, I think I'll likely need to give up my usual laconic style in favor of something a bit more grand.

I was on a TV talk show called PM Buffalo on Thursday. The guest before me was a Buffalo guy who now has a TV show on Animal Planet. His animal that day was a live crocodile, about 4 feet long, which he had sitting in his lap throughout the interview. Twice it flicked its torso and started hissing -- even though I was 20 feet away it was still pretty frightening.

We saw "Gone Baby Gone" last night, which I highly recommend. Ben Affleck is still learning as a director, and some of his techniques were a bit cliched -- like using time lapse photography of the sky changing to signify the passage of time, etc., and there were perhaps one too many kinks in the story, which made it drag a bit. Aside from that, he has put together a very affecting film about the complexities involved in making a wrenching set of moral decisions. Not easy to pull off. I liked it better than Mystic River, which suffered from a lot of histrionic acting from the leads, especially Sean Penn, who needs to try doing something understated for once. Casey Affleck's performance is a case study in restraint and should be commended (and imitated!).