Thursday, October 7, 2010

Aimless Reading: The K's, Part 9 (Kevin Killian)

Little Men
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Killian, Kevin
Little Men

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

Kevin Killian and Dody Bellamy were the first two visitors to the poetics program my first year in Buffalo. At least, they are the first I remember.

I didn't really meet Kevin, as I was fresh in town and not really sure about how the social scene worked when all of these visitors came to town. Were you allowed to just talk to them? Or did you have to wait to be introduced by someone?

I remember his reading vividly, though. It took place in the Center for the Arts screening room-- possibly the worst venue in the history of the world for a poetry reading. It's a big modern cinema with pseudo-stadium seating and a small stage protruding out from under the screen. The lectern is a heavy wooden box with a school seal on it. There's nothing to do there buit stare at what is on stage. It's hard even to daydream, which is what I like to do during readings while I listen. Not to mention it is on the campus of the University at Buffalo, itself a cold, windy, brutalist nightmare.

Nonetheless, Kevin managed to bring some warmth into the room in his signature way. By signature I mean that he read an incredibly disturbing story about a random, violent sexual encounter between two men in a tone that was welcoming and friendly, one might even say cheery, and yet for all that did not feel at odds with the violence of the story. Nor did it feel like a kind of ironic commentary.

I remember that at one point a man is tied naked to the glass door of a shower stall, which he eventually falls through, shattering the glass and drawing a lot of blood. I remember Kevin reading the bloody description in the tone of voice one might use describe an interesting film to a friend over coffee.

Joel Kuszai threw a party in his back yard that night. I remember standing at the edges of a lot of conversations between the visitors and older students, but not really taking part in any of them.

I remember reading Kevin's amazing scene reports from the Orono poetry conference a few years later and thinking, wow, I'd like to talk to that guy. A few years later, I saw Kevin at the Poetry of the Forties conference in Orono. I saw Kevin there and shook his hand, but we didn't talk.

I finally got to talk to Kevin Killian in Buffalo when he visited last year to take part in the poets theater production of his play, "Celebrity Hospital." He'd read this blog and we talked about it for a while while standing around in the Essex Street Pub after the performance. He asked if I was worried that I might be telling all my good stories too early in the process and did I think I might run out of them before I got to the end-- a question that haunts me every time I run short of things to say.

Thankfully, I haven't run out yet!

from Little Men

from Zoo Story

If you've ever seen Cat People, with Nastassja Kinski, you already know the first part of this story--how I become obsessed with big cats, the panthers and leopards at the zoo, how I battled my own best interests to become skilled in deceit. Mom and dad had taught me right from wrong, but I dunno...I was always a contrary boy. But if you've seen Cat People you know that I crept out of my apartment every night that spring, to drive to a distant neighborhood out by the beach. That I parked my car blocks away and jumped the fence--

--landing with a jolt that made my legs grow numb, to creep toward the cages, night after night, sitting there in the wet grass motionless each night, staring at the cats.

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