I can’t think of San Francisco anymore without thinking of Kevin Killian. He’s like the Sam Spade or Rice-A-Roni of poetry. Spend any time in the Bay Area, and before long you can’t see Kevin’s name without hearing the clang of the cable car. (*Ding ding dinga dinga ding!*).
Since I moved to Portland, I’m learning how to share Kevin with the rest of the world. For at least 7,506 unsuspecting Americans, he’s simply Amazon reviewer number 101, whose dazzling and occasionally acid reviews of everything from corporate gift baskets to glow-in-the-dark body jewelry, big budget movies to criminally under-read small press poetry, may be the most important conceptual writing project of our time.
Kevin’s also just returned from a V.I.P. reading engagement at Art Basel 38, the so-called “Olympic Games” of the art world. I guess like jazz or David Hasselhoff, Kevin’s had to go to Europe to find his true measure of glory. (Shame on us.) He’s just published a kind of Jamesian lamb-among-the-lions account of his trip to Switzerland, called “Diary of a Nobody.” In it, he stalks a pretentious art luminary paparrazi-style; recruits the passing talent to perform in his plays; and, as always, takes time to get the pulse of whatever the youth are up to. (There's not a being on the planet more generous to younger writers than Kevin is.)
Kevin’s zippy dissection of Art Basel reminds me of all the things I love about his work. His writing makes art seem sexy—that Kylie Minogue, Pollock-in-denim kind of sexy, the kind of sexy we usually reserve for movie stars and pop idols, but why? Why can’t Donald Judd shine just a little like Wynona? Why can’t high be low?
Kevin probes the unsettling erotics of fandom like nobody else I know. His work explores the way celebrity has of exposing our most intimate fears and desires publicly, almost collaboratively, in the ritualized obsessions of the superfan, the collector, the Amazon reviewer. Kevin’s writing, itself so often collaborative, is also a brave experiment (really a mercy mission) to make poetry sexy again. He treats the frumpy act of placing words on the page as if it deserved all the razzing, glamour, adulation and scandal that the famous get, even the B-list ones, and even at its most satirical, I’ve never read Kevin’s work, or seen it performed, without feeling somehow larger, like being a poet is an important and totally hot kind of thing to be.
Kevin, you’re not a nobody. You’re an Alp, and we’re thrilled to have you read for us in Portland.
4 hours ago