Poetry News

An Interview With Kevin Killian Covers All the Bases

By Harriet Staff
Kevin Killian

Rejoice: The Believer Logger interviews Kevin Killian! "In a sexier and more exciting world, Kevin Killian would be a household name," ​writes Cam Scott, who caught up recently with the poet, writer, critic, and photographer while he was in New York for I ♥︎ John Giorno. They talk about artist Tony Greene (after whom Killian's new book of poems is named), Arthur Russell, Killian's photography projects and their connection to Raymond Pettibon, New Narrative, Jack Spicer, and more. An excerpt:

BLVR: Collaboration seems to be a motive force in your work. Some of my favorite tanka-length poems in Tony Greene Era were produced for a collaboration with Ugo Rondinone, correct?

KK: I’ve been working with Ugo for five or six years. He saw a poem of mine online, written out in my execrable handwriting for an online auction of manuscript pages of different poets, to raise money for the healthcare of one of us who was suffering. I took out a collection of Sharpies and touched up the holograph page—for sales appeal. Years later Ugo saw this, and liked it enough to sound me out about writing poems in conjunction with his first show at Barbara Gladstone, a show of sculptures called Nude. I read all those sculptures as people who were homeless, destitute. They were naked and recumbent, or propped feebly against the wall, looking like they were in their last moments. The poems I wrote and decorated were printed alongside collaged photos of Ugo’s sculptures in an artist’s book. For our next project, Ugo sent me a number of photos of paintings he’d been doing, windows, doors, and walls, and invited me to write poems about them. That’s what you see in some of the poems in this book. 

BLVR: The rebus-like poems, you do all those illustrations?

KK: Yes, though I asked a friend, artist Daniel Samaniego, to draw the late Pete Burns for me, looking very androgynous and decadent, and my illustrations for that poem look amateur compared to his. But that’s what it’s about, showing a range of styles. Ugo would encourage me in wonderfully hyperbolic style. Once he said he had to rethink his whole conception of what drawing was when he saw mine. Why, he told me I possess “the color sense of a Matisse!”  Anybody would feel encouraged, that’s what all we nascent artists want to hear. 

Read more, of course, at The Believer.

Originally Published: September 13th, 2017