Killian and Halpern at Alley Cat Books

Kevin Killian and Rob Halpern 7.21.2012

Kevin's photo of the reading audience

Saturday night: Alley Cat Books in the Mission hosted a reading to launch Kevin Killian’s new book SPREADEAGLE, part of The Fellow Travelers Series, printed and bound by Publication Studio, founded in 2009 by Matthew Stadler and Patricia No. The Publisher’s Forward notes that “Above all, the ambition of the new Fellow Travelers series is to become the image of newly-won liberties: the right for everyone to think, to write and read freely, regardless of markets—for pleasure alone.”

Rob Halpern read from Music for Porn, recently published by Nightboat Books in New York.

Music for Porn is, Rob said, a result of his obsession with  the figure of the soldier.  Of his book, Lauren Berlant  writes: "Music for Porn is an astonishing event of poesis. Rob Halpern writes a ravaging and tender incantation of the bodies that die for love in the intimate, political wars of our present.”

The book is a weighty 165 pages and comes in a brown paper wrapper, which when removed, reveals a beautiful and colorful collage of gay porn produced by Halpern and Tanya Hollis. Black and white collages punctuate the various sections of the book which include: Envoi, Imaginary Politics, Speculations, Note on Affection and War, Runaway Soldier Punk, Memoranda, Obscene Intimacies, Porn, and Dedication.  The book begins with the following quote from Gertrude Stein: “A soldier a real soldier has a worn lace a worn lace.”

Rob Halpern. Photo Courtesy of Kevin Killian
Like Stein’s work, Halpern’s writing is staged in impure genres. Much of the writing in this book is prose. Some pieces, such as “Some Speculations Around George Oppen’s Parousia,” are lineated; this one is composed in tercets with an italicized hanging initial or final line as here:

So this must be the passion whose
Patient parousia by which I think
He means a body in a present
One’s own
                                --labor failed to make   (33)

Halpern’s writing refuses simplicity, the enclosure of genre; his is a writing that calls out, exposes, opens itself to the possibilities of prosody and criticism, mourning and desire, the body, the eroticized, the militarized, the individual’s messy entanglements in the social,the social’s unmarked reproduction of its own disasters.

In “Whither Porn?, or the Soldier as Allegory,” Halpern writes,

Adjunct of multimillion dollar contracts, my soldier appears within an apparatus of control pornography, prosthetic of police where the visible and the invisible, funded and defunded, normal and pathological, public and private, militant and military, impersonal and intimate are produced, delimited, and reinforced. But porn is so ambivalent, it can always go both ways. Without denoting an essential quality of the image, porn connotes a whole technology for governing the tension between eros and identity, life and death. Porn brings to light, permits and publicizes, just as it darkens, prohibits, and privatizes. Check out all the closed and repetitive codes privileging male pleasure ensuring hierarchies and machines of domination. Like the military, pornography is a biopolitical operation for regulating the social body and all the particular bodies that comprise it, admitting some, canceling others (157).

I’m just beginning to spend time with this amazing book. I’ll leave you with some excerpts from a piece I like very much, “Notes on Affection and War,” writing that is meditation, close-reading and critique all in one as it moves across prosody, lyric, Whitman’s soldier, war and nation building, bodies and affect:

Whitman arouses so many intimacies in his democratic vista mythic future of my country, extension of a mangled present seemingly raw at first, unbound to any proper social knowledge. The open form of feeling in the Civil War verses organizes an emergent sound—“the hum and buzz of the great shells”—echolocating inchoate feeling tones fear shame sorrow tenderness rage whose sub-vocal expression Drum-Taps goes on to marshal as purposeful emotion. In doing so, Whitman performs the affective tuning of a military figure, a sound figure perhaps only fully realized in our own present. This tuning has naturalized my ears, so I can’t hear the noise any longer, a silence we might now call completed sound, converging with its own suppression.

Even while prohibiting it, military culture stimulates homoerotic affection in just proportion with a paranoid disavowal of its usefulness. It’s a textbook illustration of ‘instinctual renunciation,’ whereby the prohibition of eros becomes the site of erotic satisfaction. By contrast, Whitman affirms the use of homoerotic affection while still pressing it into the service of nation building. His homoerotic comradeship partisan and militant becomes fraternal mourning unaligned and disarmed as soon as comrade become soldier.

Whitman’s prosodic drive toward a postwar democracy is contradictory not unlike my own and quietly harbors militarized sense, at once ahistorical prescribing amnesia and metaphysical positing value. This desire for democracy requires a sacrifice, a body that disappears withdrawn from view just as it achieves a sublime meaning. How to restore that thing to the relations from which it’s been absented? To be that sacrificial body, a soldier’s corpse is drained of its historicity bare life, dead meat, taboo just as the nation’s mourning is hygienically cleansed of partisan militant subjectivity.  (48-50)

Kevin Killian, whose stylish grey hair I envy, then read as only Kevin can—in a quiet but staged, bemused address. SPREADEAGLE is nearly 600 pages and was begun in 1990 when Sam D’Allesandro died from AIDS. Kevin said that he had wanted to find a way to keep Sam alive, and so in 2012, in SPREADEAGLE, D'Allesandro lives.   

The book has two parts: Part I: Extreme Remedies and Part II: Silver Springs.

Photo of Kevin taken by Daniel Nicoletta

Part I takes place in A-Gay San Francisco and involves the characters Kit, an AIDS activist and fundraiser who was once the boyfriend of Sam D’Allesandro, but who now lives with Danny Isham, a 50ish writer constantly mistaken for Armistead Maupin. Danny writes a series of Rick and Dick novels.His father is the famous poet Ralph Isham. He and Danny have been estranged.

Here's a little taste:

When Kit moved to California, he came from Connecticut with a picture in mind, a Technicolor sunrise, that neither time nor experience ever changed. Even the grim toll of AIDS, which otherwise occupied him to the point of monomania, had dimmed his mental image only a whit. ‘I’m still high on San Francisco,’ he told his friends, who told him to take a job with the Chamber of Commerce. Now as he looked out his window on Pacific Heights, he knew he’s living above his head. Literally he was high, since he and Danny lived on the fourth and fifth floors, made you dizzy to look down. Surrounded by balconies filled with earth and shrubs and flowers, the top floors were like their own encampment above the rest of the world. Kit always enjoyed having people over who don’t  whistle when they see the view it, because it depressed Danny when they were not impressed. Danny could never play poker that’s for sure, since disappointment showed on his face like the Slough of Despond. Even these sophisticates though usually said something about Vertigo when they glanced past the violets and vervain to the dizzying drop down to Chestnut. Kit was watching TV, and gabbing on his cell, and handing the gardener Danny’s check, and still he was thinking about when he first came here, to this city and how magical it was then and blah blah blah dot dot dot, etc.(233-34)

Here’s a section describing Sam:
Sam D’Allesandro was handsome, not young any more, but unusual even in a city with thousands of good-looking men. Or he had been handsome, and then facial wasting had set in, and he couldn’t afford the treatments that would return his former contours, so he lived in the shadows now, like Paul Muni at the end of I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.

He was a writer and travel agent. A book of poetry he had published  himself had garnered good reviews in the gay press. He hated to think of it—the ignominy of publishing his own work—and he hated the work itself. He had put poetry aside and was writing prose now, longish prose narratives, texts that explored and deconstructed the idea of a self while spreading transgressive sex thick across the page like butter across a slice of toast. His book of stories,The Zombie Pit, had appeared in 1990, and another one, sort of  a remix of the first, was The Wild Creatures and came out in 2005 (67-68).

Part II takes place in Gavit, a fictional small town in California’s Central Valley. The main characters in this section include two brothers, our narrator Geoff and his brother Jim who is a police officer in town, Avery, a young man who makes an appearance in Part I and lives for a while with Kit and Danny. There are also the brothers Adam and Gary Parker Radley. Gary comes to town with “his dark spectral stare and his muscle-bound body” (297) and tells Geoff to “lie spreadeagle” in his trailer (308). There’s a ton going on in this rollicking novel which traverses a vast array of references from Robert Bresson, Dario Argento, and Downton Abbey to Audrey Hepburn and Fleetwood Mack.

Here’s another morsel, an interaction Geoff has with a librarian that is quite funny. I note this with affection, having fielded many reference questions myself.
When I was a boy, my mother had a cat on the wall that told the time, its black diamond eyes swinging from one corner of the kitchen to the other, every time the second-hand ticked back and forth, disguised as its tail.
That cat was the funniest thing. When someone asked , ‘What time is it?’ the standard answer was, ‘I don’t know, ask Felix!’

Everybody in Gavit knew about our clock, most like it, and some compared it to the eye of God, always watching and seeing no matter where you try to hide. When I was a boy I asked casually, ‘Where’d you buy that clock, Ma?’ and she said it had been a wedding present from Montgomery Ward. Thereafter, because Mother’s Day was on its way, I saved up fifteen dollars washing cars, and I bought her an identical Felix clock, from the Montgomery Ward catalogue down at the Library. The librarian, Mrs. Hill, was a youngish woman who had been in Gavit too long. ‘Your mother has that clock, Geoff, are you certain she’s going to want a second one?’ ‘Sure I’m sure.’ ‘To me it would be like having twins or some other multiple birth.’ ‘She’ll like it for sure.’ One is okay, no—more than okay! One has made her kitchen a happy place, but two will make her the laughing stock of Gavit.’ ‘I’m going to take the chance,’ I replied, every bit as stubborn as any old librarian. ‘I’ll rake the chance of offending her with Felix the Second.’

I was a bit gruff with her, butch, but nothing a grown woman shouldn’t be able to handle from a kid. She swiveled her chair to the typewriter and, her back straight as a rod, continued typing my envelope for me. To Montgomery Ward (309-310).
‘You are a peculiar boy,’ said Mrs. Hill, whipping out my envelope with a dramatic flourish. She snorted through her nose, flicking her curls off her forehead. I’d like to see what your mother’s precious John Updike would make of such a situation. Your mother was born a Woodruff and nothing cures a Woodruff till they take our feet first.

‘You sound like you’re a million years old,’ I said, grabbing the envelope.

‘I can remember a time when there was no such thing as a cat clock in this town,’ she said. She closed the cover to her typewriter and swiveled back to me, chin first. ‘If that makes me old, so be it.’

‘I’ll check out these books here,’ I said.

‘You are too young to be reading the life of Audrey Hepburn,’ she said. ‘As a matter of fact, I don’t know why we keep these books in the library so children get their hands on them.’

‘Was she a sinner?’ I asked, thinking of my mother’s boyfriend, Marion Crawford, and his sermons on Sunday about the sins that hide under baskets.

‘No,’ she said. “But if these books aren’t over your head, then we’re all in danger. Why don’t you spend less time in the library from now on and for goodness sake, try to forget there ever was a woman called Audrey Hepburn’ (310-312)

Dash out and get these two gems here:

SPREADEAGLE at http://www.publicationstudio.biz/
and  Music for Porn at http://www.spdbooks.org/


Poetry of the 1980s!

Poetry and Poetics of the 1980s
June 27-30, 2012
National Poetry Foundation
University of Maine, Orono, Maine

Orono after a rain storm June 27, 2012

This was my second NPF poetry conference (I attended the Poetry of the 1970s in 2008) and I have to say, despite the lack of sleep, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maine, it turns out, has great local beers, warm nights, spacious dorm suites, but beds too hard for weary bodies, at least for mine!

For some time I have been writing about a selection of writers working in the 1980s, so how could I miss this event! While the conference references "Poetry and Poetics," I am using the term "writers" above quite deliberately.

During the 1980s some people thought of themselves as "writers" rather than "poets." In fact, in one of the panels, Laura Moriarty referenced just this. Laura complicated the simple term "writer" by noting that during the 1980s, if she were referred to as "a writer," she would immediately think of herself as a "woman writer," and if referred to as a "woman writer," she asserted that she was in fact "a writer." I think Laura's claim speaks to the complex intersections of not only gender and poetics, but also suggests the entanglements of "poetry" and "prose" and "poets" and "writers." Many of the writers I work on seem to fall into this messy and amorphous, rather intentionally ambiguous and capacious category. For example, someone like Robert Gluck writes both poetry and prose; the books in prose are often categorized (by publishers, libraries [with subject headings and classificatory systems]) as novels. But I think of his work as emerging in the context of the poetry community in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not everyone fancies this blurring; some people and institutions get downright frustrated by writing and writers not neatly categorized.

Something like Gluck's 1994 Margery Kempe (High Risk Books) is neither a traditional "novel" nor poetry, but it borrows from each genre and uses prose to traverse the differences. Nathaniel Mackey's epistolary series, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, consists of a series of fugitive texts, often referred to as "novels" or "fiction"  (e.g. Bedouin Hornbook [1986] was published as part of Callaloo's Fiction Series). The "Dear Angel of Dust" letters that comprise the series originally appeared as poems in Mackey's Eroding Witness (1985); the first letter is entitled "Song of the Andoumboulou 6" and the second (only two appear in Eroding Witness) is part of "Song of the Andoumboulou 7."  While it is true that post-Eroding Witness these letters no longer appear as poems or in the context of poetry books, the letters exert an influence on the poetry, and are themselves deeply connected to this genre we call "poetry."

So, in short, for some writers, the 1980s is a decade of genre troubling. Of course, there is a long history of poems and poets and writers messing with genre. Think of Jean Toomer, William Carlos Willliams, Gertrude Stein, and many others. But there does seem to be something about the 1980s that produces a decade of investigations in prose and poetry that tend to undo and redo these categories, specifically, deliberately, strategically.

Laura Moriarty's pic of the lovely conference co-directors Steve Evans and Carla Billitteri

Genre popped up as a site of inquiry and discussion in a number of the Orono panels, including in:

  • "Gender and Genre" with David Need on Bernadette Mayer and Ben Gillespie on Rosemarie Waldrop and Ellen McGrath Smith on "Women's Prose Poetry in the 1980s." I walked in late to this panel and caught just the tail end of David's paper but heard Ben and Ellen. Ben discussed Waldrop's use of the page and suggested that Waldrop's prose "took away the page's power to define the genre of the poem."  Ellen covered a lot of territory, situating the prose poem in a long history of feminist practice, remarking on the prose poem's frequent association with subversion, an association that doesn't always hold up. 
  • "Post-Generic Writing in the 1980s" with Stephen Fredman, Kaplan Harris and Peter Middleton, and Marjorie Perloff as a respondent. The room was packed for this panel and the papers were quite distinct and rich. Stephen discussed a wide range of writers from Kathy Acker, Charles Olson, David Antin, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and others. As a way to introduce his investigation into the importance of San Francisco as a site of writing experiments, Kaplan began with an excerpt from Acker's The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec that features Ron Silliman as a character, and Peter explored Lyn Hejinian's The Cell, drawing our attention to "the cell" in a variety of arenas--in the sciences, finance, history and cultural studies. Marjorie Perloff responded with her characteristic breathless energy and declared that San Francisco was no longer a site of exciting writing experiments, questioned what might have been "new" about New Narrative, and expressed doubt about the category of the "post-generic."
Keynote Talks and Readers Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein, Marjorie Perloff, Kevin Killian, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge and Nathaniel Mackey were all top-notch. Kevin's talk on "Activism, Gay Poetry, AIDS in the 1980s" was powerful and generated a standing ovation. Kevin has generously allowed me to include a little teaser here. The entire talk will appear in Paideuma. And you can watch a video of it HERE.

 Other Panels I attended included the following (caution: notes about talks perhaps suffer from faulty memory and/or note-taking!):
  •  "Estranging the Logos: Michael Palmer's Book of Echoes" organized by Patrick Pritchett and with papers by Richard Deming ("Senses of Echo Lake: Michael Palmer, Stanley Cavell, and the American Philosophical Tradition"), Peter O'Leary ("Poem of the End: Michael Palmer's Apocalyptic Sun"), and Norman Finkelstein ("From'C' to D: Michael Palmer from the Eighties to the Nineties (and Beyond).
  • "No More Secrets:" The Poetry Project in the 1980s" which included papers presented by Kimberly Lyons, Patricia Spears Jones, Gary Lenhart and Eileen Myles and Elinor Nauen. Eileen and Elinor were not present and so their papers were read by Kevin Killian and Donald Rothschild. These presenters traced the many and varied writers who read at the Project during the 80s and offered stories about the reduction of NEA funding, programming challenges, and the battles for diversity and inclusion.
  • "Feminism in the 1980s" was organized by Arielle Greenberg who provided an overview of the diverse feminist experiments occurring in the 1980s, and included papers by Cathy Wagner on Denise Riley's work, the "uneasiness of lyric subjectivity" and the exclusion of the lyric "I" in conceptual writing; Linda Russo used a series of note-cards containing quotes and comments to organize her approach to thinking about the long poem; she proposed "space" as a way to begin to consider the "always under construction" nature of the long poem and urged us to take into consideration that gender as an analytical lens is one that needs to be historicized.
  • I caught a bit of the "Gay Poetics" AIDS, Place, Postmodernism" panel with Nate Mickelson, Adra Raine and Katie Fuller. Mostly I heard Adra's paper and I was fascinated by her claim that readers growing up in the 80s, as did Adra who was born in 1978, respond to postmodernism and commodity culture in ways far different from an older generation.
  • Dashing over to the concurrent panel on "Language Poetry: International Cluster," I caught Peter Culley's very interesting account of "leisure poetry," what now might be called, he said, "slow poetry," and its anti-work or anti-labor oriented approach as juxtaposed with the American "language" poets' emphasis on work/labor; I also was able to hear a good portion of Abigail Lang's interesting exploration of "The Franco-American Conversation in the 1980s."
  • Aldon Nielsen organized a top-notch panel entitled "Of Time and Bodies: New Black Aesthetics/New Black Critique which included presentations by Evie Shockley ("What Comes After 'Nation Time'? Diasporic Configurations of Time in the African-American '80s"), Mecca Jamilah Sullivan ("'You are an Imperative': Black Women's Embodied Poetics of Difference"), and Meta DuEwa Jones (Ntozake Shange's Peripatetic Poetics of the Eighties: Locating Diaspora in A Daughter's Geography"). Sullivan's paper addressed Ntozake Shange's work, asserting a link between black women's bodies in the 1980s and explicit generic innovation. Both Shockley and Jones discussed, among other things, Nathaniel Mackey's work, with Shockley linking Mackey's 80s writing to the Black Arts Aesthetic while Jones explained how diaspora is figured graphically and thematically in "Passing Thru," one of the poems in Eroding Witness. Meta's paper included a powerful reading of the work accomplished by the graphic that begins this poem.
  • "Small Presses and Magazines" included three fascinating talks: Laura Moriarty's "Editing the '80s: Jerry Estrin's Vanishing Cab, Daniel Scott Snelson's "Relocating Jimmy & Lucy's House of 'K,'" and Donald Wellman's "Editing Coherence in 1981: Desire in the Shadow of First-Generation Language-Centered Poetry."
  • The last panel I attended was "Transmission, Tradition, and Change" which included Susan Gilmore's paper on "Primer Time: the 1980s Poetics of Gwendolyn Brooks," Alan Golding's "Armand Schwerner's Scholar-Translator: Notes, Paratexts, Avant-Garde Poetics and Institutional Form(ation)s" and Jonathan Skinner's "Scratching the Beat Surface: Ecopoetics in the 1980s." Each of these papers was engaging. I'd never heard of Schwerner's work, but Alan's paper has me intrigued.

There were many other compelling panels, unfortunately and unavoidably, scheduled at the same time, so we all had to make difficult choices.

The panel I was involved in "Discrepant Engagements: Long Form and Hybrid Genres in the Writing of Nathaniel Mackey, Erica Hunt, Beverly Dahlen, Anne Waldman, and Robert Gluck" was very much interested in the question of form and genre. Here's the prompt that we (yours truly, Kathy Lou Schultz, Kaplan Harris, Rob Halpern and Erica Kaufman) worked with:

Against the backdrop of a decade characterized by the rise of neo-liberalism, a number of writers in the Bay Area, New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere found themselves asking urgent questions about poetry and politics, experimentation and identity, narrative and the paratactic fragment, the problematic and the performed "I," "theory" and "praxis," poetry and prose. "French theory" in the form of writings by Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Georges Bataille, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, Louis Althusser, and others opened up writing as a site of de-centered pleasure, transgression, ideological constraint and productive critique;"language-centered" writing challenged the poetic field, proclaiming its newness and group ethos; gay and lesbian, feminist, and writers of color contested both mainstream and avant-garde writing and publishing practices and ideologies.

Our panel contends that the 1980s witnessed a dispersed and emergent, strategic shift from verse-based poetics to various experiments in prose, often hybrid and performative. In his introductory essay, "Language, Realism, Poetry" from In the American Tree, Ron Silliman points out that "another transformation of poetry was taking place--into prose" (XIX). The turn from verse forms to various modes of prose-based writing occurs among numerous writers who are not part of this anthology, including Robert Gluck, Bruce Boone, Kevin Killian, Eileen Myles, Aaron Shurin, Beverly Dahlen, Anne Waldman, Kathleen Fraser, Alice Notley, and many more.

Photo courtesy of David Lau: Kevin Killian reading Rob Halpern's paper, yours truly, Kathy Lou Schultz, Kaplan Harris and Cathy Wagner who read Erica Kaufman's talk

Our panel proposed the following questions:

Does a prose-based poetics function not merely as a structure for formal experiment, but also enact critical and utopian re-readings of gendered and racialized histories, communities, and futures?

How does one's position in various social margins/movements overdetermined by heteronormative prerogatives manifest at the level of genre in the work of already marginalized experimental writers?

How do publishing practices extend and critique the masculinist tradition of the long poem in ways that are undertheorized by formalist schools of criticism?

Does prose have an edge on activating "history" and "identity" as explicit concerns? Or is there something specific about the move to prose and long hybrid forms in the 1980s that argues for these things?

What potential does the hybrid form hold in terms of educating/education? The epic, not unlike the realist novel or long poem, can become a sort of history book linking the individual to larger forms of social organization. Is there something about the 1980s that makes this form particularly resonant in terms of recording time?

Kaplan Harris photographing a Maine Rainbow
Two of my suite-mates: Laura Trantham Smith and Kathy Lou Schultz
Feminism in the 80s Panel: Cathy Wagner, Arielle Greenberg and Linda Russo

Laura Moriarty, Patricia Spears Jones, Kathy Lou Schultz and Cathy Wagner
For more pictures, see Aldon Nielsen's blog, HeatStrings. For Patrick Pritchett's conference report, visit his blog Writing the Messianic.

from Kevin Killian at the National Poetry Foundation Poetry and Poetics of the 19980s

An excerpt from Kevin Killian's 
Keynote Talk: "Activism, Gay Poetry, AIDS in the 1980s"

Let me hold on to this figure, as an example of gay poetry in the 1980s, for Jack Sharpless was subject to all of the winds and weathers that raged the eighties.  He is forgotten today, though I say that knowing that one or more of you is probably writing about him, for the academic readers who rejected our Spicer biography complained that Spicer was forgotten, and maybe no man or woman is entirely forgotten, but Sharpless was a strange case in that, during his whole career, he was so little known he never published a single poem in America.  People wondered who was this dude.  But even those people have died.  Years after his death, Gnomon Press in Kentucky published a brilliant edition of his collected poems, “Presences of Mind.”  Like the statue of Ozymandias, it remains.  We thought of Jack Sharpless as San Francisco’s gay Zufoksky, if that isn’t redundant, and his partisans were Zukofsky’s.  Duncan, who owned Zukofsky, proclaimed Jack Sharpless the best poet of his generation.  Guy Davenport and Jonathan Williams wrote blurbs, and Ronald Johnson edited the book.  He and Thom Gunn both loved him.  He was like, the A-guy.  He was two years older than I, he was my peer.  When he died he was 37.
In England he was better known, and twice captured an important UK prize for best poem of the year, shocking poetry fans both here and there.  I had an important point to make that drew out how San Francisco was England’s mirror, as much as it is Japan’s, and Peru’s.  But I want to keep focused on gay poetry as I knew it, and how AIDS came along and brought the curtain down on a glittering world.  Foucault denied it existed, AIDS, he claimed it was only American anti-sexual hysteria.  Edmund White, too, I remember drinking with him at the Mirage, and he telling us that AIDS would never come to France.  It wouldn’t dare.  I was once angry with Ed Dorn and Tom Clark for the mocking cartoon they ran in Rolling Stock, of a beaker filled with red tainted blood poured across the names of the winners of the AIDS Awards for Poetic Idiocy.  I waged a fatwa against them, well that’s what Dale Smith called it, and I would see red, literally, when I thought of how they had hounded Steve to death, but finally I came to see how it could have been anyone’s iconoclasm that did them in, under the guise of cultural satire, it could have been mine, for at first there was no way to predict how terrible AIDS was going to be.  If I pushed the culprits closer to their deaths that’s my sin, and yet it didn’t take long to know this was going to be a war filled with sin on both sides.  “I do not forget.  I do not forgive,” I wrote, years later in my open letter to the Buffalo-based magazine Apex of the M.  “A great wrong has been done and memory will never be silent.  Memory persists in squawking its fool head off trying to make sense of the evil done to innocent sufferers.  I’m hysterical today, let my hysteria explode inside the great white apex of Ed Dorn’s heart.”  I was always hoping that my words would carry me away with them, like the figure in the barrel over Niagara Falls, so that the things I saw and did with my own eyes would recede, the casual cruelty, the malice, the spectacle of me, Kevin, poring through the used poetry section at Greenapple and tsk tsking when I recognized the books of Steve Abbott, the books of Ron Johnson, the books of Sam D’Allesandro, and all the beautiful things that came my way via this madness.

--Excerpts from Kevin's talk will appear at Publishing Genius and the piece in its entirety will be published in Paideuma.  For a picture of Jack Sharpless, visit Mark I. Chester's web site here.