Monday 28 July 2008

August Kleinzahler profiled in the LA Times

"I'm really just a nice, middle-class Jewish boy from New Jersey. If you take a swing at me, I'll probably swing right back. I write poetry." -- August Kleinzahler

I love August Kleinzahler's poetry, and I love his scrappy, no-bullshit attitude. The LA Times' John Gilonna has prepared an exellent profile on this excellent artist. Enjoy.

SAN FRANCISCO -- August Kleinzahler gets into fights at poetry readings.

Once, in Ireland, he traded insults with a host he found verbose. At a reading in a New York bar, he told a noisy drunk to shut his trap. Fists flew after the guy made a crack about Kleinzahler's coat, a sentimental hand-me-down from his father.

Kleinzahler goes to readings because he is a poet. He just doesn't act like one.

He is, at 58, the bad boy of American poetry, whose public outbursts make academics cringe. He dismisses university writing programs as "multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes" in which Volvo-driving poet-professors are too fearful of risking prizes or promotions to make waves.

Kleinzahler considers himself an outsider, compelled to stir up trouble. He has labored largely in obscurity -- more popular in London than in New York. And though as a rule he stubbornly avoids the poetry establishment, he surfaces now and then with a bone to pick.

In literary journals, he takes poets and critics to task for what he perceives as their slights and shoddy work. A few years ago, he even skewered Garrison Keillor's radio poetry readings.

So what if he's unpopular? It keeps his name in play. "I make my living off these stooges," he says.

You can read the rest of Gilonna's profile here.

For a sample of Kleinzahler's poetry, click here.

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