The Studio One Reading Series Inaugural Benefit, Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Studio One Reading Series Inaugural Benefit

The Architecture of Poetry with

Murray Silverstein and Dora Malech



Featured Benefit Readers, Murray Silverstein and Dora Malech

Featured Benefit Readers, Murray Silverstein and Dora Malech

Benefit Details


PRICE: $100 (includes ticket to Reading & Reception & all food and drink)


PRICE: $30.00 (includes entrance to Reading & Reception & all food and drink)

Buy tickets via Paypal through the button below

(if buying more than one ticket, please indicate in comment box how many tickets you're buying and which type of tickets)


Send a check to ATTN: Casey McAlduff | 385 Alcatraz Ave | Oakland, CA 94618|

Payable to "Friends of Oakland Parks and Rec", with "Studio One Reading Series"

in the memo line.

Studio One Arts Center is a 501(c) 3 non-profit Corporation ID number 94-6000384


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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friday, December 5 @ 7:30 pm, w. Rodney Koeneke, Meg Day and Malachi Black

Join us on Friday, December 5 at 7:30 pm for a reading
with Rodney Koeneke, Meg Day and Malachi Black
 Admission is FREE.

Beer is FREE. Thank you, Lagunitas Brewing Company!

Beverages and snacks will be served.

365 45th Street, Oakland, CA 94609

We hope to see you there! 
Author bios and photos follow below: 

Rodney Koeneke’s Etruria is just out from Wave Books. Earlier collections include Musee Mechanique (BlazeVOX, 2006) and Rouge State (Pavement Saw, 2003). Recent work can be found in The Brooklyn Rail, Fence, Granta, Gulf Coast, The Nation, and at Harriet, where he was August's Featured Writer. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches British and World History at Portland State.

Meg Day, selected for Best New Poets of 2013, is a 2013 recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry and the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street 2014, winner of the 2013 Barrow Street First Book Prize in Poetry) When All You Have Is a Hammer (winner of the 2012 Gertrude Press Chapbook Contest) and We Can’t Read This (winner of the 2013 Gazing Grain Chapbook Contest). A 2012 AWP Intro Journals Award Winner, she has also received awards and fellowships from the Lambda Literary Foundation, Hedgebrook, Squaw Valley Writers, the Taft-Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities, and the International Queer Arts Festival. Meg is currently a PhD candidate, Steffensen-Cannon Fellow, & Point Foundation Scholar in Poetry & Disability Poetics at the University of Utah.

Malachi Black is the author of the poetry collection Storm Toward Morning (Copper Canyon Press, 2014).  His poems appear or are forthcoming in journals including Poetry, Ploughshares, Boston Review, AGNI, Narrative, The Southern Review, and Southwest Review, among others, as well as in several recent and forthcoming anthologies, including Discoveries:  New Writing from The Iowa Review; Before the Door of God:  An Anthology of Devotional Poetry (Yale UP); and The Poet’s Quest for God (UK).  The recipient of a 2009 Ruth Lilly Fellowship (awarded by the Poetry Foundation in conjunction with Poetry magazine), Black has since been granted fellowships and awards from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the MacDowell Colony, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the University of Texas at Austin’s Michener Center for Writers, the University of Utah, and Yaddo.  Black was featured as the subject of an Emerging Poet profile by Mark Jarman in the Academy of American Poets’ American Poet magazine, and his work has several times been set to music and otherwise featured in exhibitions both in the U.S. and abroad.  He was formerly the Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry at Emory University, and is now an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of San Diego.

A Conversation: Rodney Koeneke, Sheila Davies Sumner and Casey McAlduff

"Some constellation of ideas about the ancient and contemporary, the dead and reborn, the translated and the silenced, the historical and the disappeared, gradually took shape. Eventually, Etruria—my Etruria, anyway—came to seem like the right place for Jack Spicer to lay down with Sharon Mesmer, or Marianne Moore to fleer in an antiquated hat." 

- Rodney Koeneke 

Casey McAlduff: Your book Etruria (Wave, 2014) is a delight. The poems are thought provoking and have sincere emotion, and they’re also funny and filled with surprising language. The poems remain contemporary despite their complex interaction with ancient civilization and classical history. Many of the poems also contain a language & motion that is reminiscent of Flarf poetry. Even though your poems are clearly intentioned, they have a sense of freedom about them—the reader is never quite sure what will happen next. Can you talk a bit about your involvement with Flarf and how it may continue to inform your work? How has Flarf changed the way you use and approach language?

Rodney Koeneke:  What I tried to take forward from Flarf in Etruria—aside from the humor and surprise I’m glad you found there—is a certain approach to syntax. The language we were mining from the Internet back in 2003 wasn’t especially disjunctive. People were expressing themselves online in the most heartfelt and exposing ways, using everyday speech with a telegraphic directness a lot of us found exciting. It was different from the “eat your parataxis, its good for you” ethos we cut our teeth on in the ‘90s. But it wasn’t Ashbery’s syntactical suavity, either. (He’s gotten flarfier with age though, don’t you think?)

I think I wanted to see—without so much thinking about it, just sitting down and doing it—how much could connect inside a poem, how disparate the contents could grow and still feel semantically whole. In that respect, the poems in Etruria mimic my happier feelings on the Internet, where everything can seem potentially, surprisingly connected through those long link loops you pour your office time into.

That’s just the old problem of form transferred to digital though, isn’t it? I guess Flarf gave me metaphors for working through questions of form—what to record and what to filter, how to shape data into a poem.

Sheila Davies Sumner:  I think you achieved what you set out to do. While reading Etruria, I felt a strong sense of the book’s semantic ‘wholeness’. Despite its multiplicity of tone and style, there seems to be a whole pluralistic reach to the work. Stranger and antigod pass through the community, as well as mythical elders, Dido, Hermes, and Dante who stop by briefly, and the many modern poets dropping in for sustained visits such as O’Hara, Koch, Moore, and Spicer. The community really unifies and solidifies throughout the book into a comfortable neighborhood. I imagine this unity was built through intention and randomness. How did you find your way to it?

RK: Coming up with the title helped clarify what the poems were up to, and how they might settle down together into a book. I’d written the title poem early on in the process, which starts off with Napoleon’s Kingdom of Etruria, the realm he cut whole cloth from Italy and tossed to a Bourbon princeling. Over time, the “Etruria” idea took on more layers. I read D.H. Lawrence’s Etruscan Places (beautiful title) and discovered the work he gave Etruria to do, keeping life in a healthier balance with death, like the ancient Etruscans, who built their cities in parallel with their tumuli until Rome ploughed them both into empire.

On a visit with poets Ben Friedlander and Carla Billiterri, Carla told me that in Italy, “Etruria” still connotes the sophisticated and luxe—“Etrurian Watches, ” “Etruria Organic Food Products,” things like that. (The Romans had been great collectors of Etruscan art.) It was through Brandon Downing, I think, that I learned about Josiah Wedgwood’s model pottery works in industrial Staffordshire, which he named—you guessed it—“Etruria.” (Artes Etruriae Renascuntur, he took for its motto: "The Arts of Etruria are reborn.") My friend Julian Brolaski tells me it’s been cracked, but at the time I was writing, I thought the Etruscan script was still undeciphered, keeping its mysteries since Rome erased it. So there’s the frisson of that.

So some constellation of ideas about the ancient and contemporary, the dead and reborn, the translated and the silenced, the historical and the disappeared, gradually took shape. Eventually, Etruria—my Etruria, anyway—came to seem like the right place for Jack Spicer to lay down with Sharon Mesmer, or Marianne Moore to fleer in an antiquated hat.

CEM:  I too felt a sense of different entities uniting throughout the book. I was especially impressed by how you manage to maintain a coherence of tone across the titles of individual poems, despite the varying subjects and thought processes that the individual poems undertake. Do titles come easily to you? Do you have a strategy for titling your poems?

RK: Some come easy, some don’t. “Etruria” was a no-brainer; “no title,” like the name suggests, was a little tougher. I’m glad you mention tone; that was more on my mind than structure or concept while writing these. I didn’t want a monotone collection, but I hoped for some coherence—maybe a harmony—across the book. Titles helped with that, like in the reprise of poems named for poets, or called after the genres they comment on (“ghazal,” “nocturne,” “epithalamion.”)

SDS: As any reader will see, Etruria is an encompassing book of poems, with its contemporary and lyrical diction, spherical emotions, and then a wonderfully big poetic appetite. I really appreciate the level of evident feeling –– sorrow, humor, love –– and your willingness as a poet to let it fluently occupy the work. 

“... knowing how pale / 
and approximate any discussion of feelings will finally be, despite the / 
originals undeniable power.”

(“Toward a Theory of Translation”, p. 1)

Is this a controversial navigation for you?

RK: Navigation’s the right word! I often felt lost while writing these, not sure where the next line would come from or where it would lead. Any fluency appeared retroactively, looking back from the pier and tracing the wake. Which, when things worked, turned out to be the poem.

That’s a “pale and approximate” process, by its nature. You can’t always account for the end you arrived at, or recover the relationship between the finished poem and the original urge that launched it. If there was any inner controversy in putting the book together, it’s probably in that.

SDS: One poem that particularly strikes me is “Bardic Genetics” (p. 65), which is a poem “essentially about life and death.” You also write “Maybe the dead know how to live more fully.” How do you interpret that line? Do the dead have a better deal?

RK: “Bardic Genetics” chases after D.H. Lawrence’s “Bavarian Gentians,” where death appears as a kind of velvety, “blue-smoking” seduction that leads down to Persephone’s wedding bed.

I don’t especially like the Lawrence poem, but I’m intrigued by the way anthology pieces like that get talked about, the functions we expect them to perform. In a culture that doesn’t enjoy much of a ceremonial connection with the dead, the reverence for poems like Lawrence’s, or artworks of any kind, steps in to fill the hole. So it’s easy to feel, as a “live” reader encountering a dead writer, that the poet did live more fully, if only in leaving behind the poem we’re reading.

Also, the poem itself, in the moment of attention we give to it, is a sort of knowing intrusion of the dead upon the living, like the blue gentians are in Lawrence’s “soft September”: “Whom have you come for, here in the white-cast day?”

I didn’t have this thought out in any front-brain sort of way when I wrote that line, but it formed part of the mood that produced it. Joni Mitchell was probably a little closer to hand: “Don’t it always seem to go / that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”    

SDS: “Bardic Genetics” also “ plays with the relationship of Self & Other: 

“... through the voice of the speaker the reader can feel the /
emotions and thoughts of the author”

It seems as though you’re making a distinction between what is voiced and what is mute. I think of Tolkien who, in his introduction to the Fellowship of the Ring, refers to the “freedom of the reader and the purposed domination of the author.” Is this at all relevant to the poem you've written? 

RK: I like your Tolkien quote! Author as Sauron, reader as Hobbit, poem as Ring.

Your question makes me think how that interplay between author, speaker, and reader, which makes poems so slippery, also makes them good allegories for a certain kind of freedom. Etruria lies closer to the Shire than Mordor, I think. But I hope it also conveys at least a muted sense that Sauron’s at work out there somewhere, like History and Progress and Science and Time, eager to smash the round door.

Rodney Koeneke’s Etruria is just out from Wave Books. Earlier collections include Musee Mechanique (BlazeVOX, 2006) and Rouge State (Pavement Saw, 2003). Recent work can be found in The Brooklyn Rail, Fence, Granta, Gulf Coast, The Nation, and at Harriet, where he was August's Featured Writer. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches British and World History at Portland State.

Sheila Davies Sumner and Casey McAlduff are the co-curators of the Studio One Reading Series.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Friday, November 7 @ 7:30 pm, feat. KMA Sullivan and Phillip B. Williams plus art by Charlie Reilly

Please join us on Friday, November 7 @ 7:30 pm 
for a reading featuring KMA Sullivan and Phillip B. Williams, plus art by Charlie Reilly!

Admission is FREE. FREE Beer!  

Beverages and snacks will be served.

A HUGE thanks to our sponsor: 

Lagunitas Brewing Company

Studio One Art Center
365 45th Street
Oakland, CA 94609

KMA Sullivan is the author of Necessary Fire, winner of the St Lawrence Book Award. The collection will be released this January from Black Lawrence Press. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Boston ReviewSouthern Humanities ReviewForklift, OhioThe Nervous BreakdownGargoyle, and diode.  She is the editor-in-chief of Vinyl Poetry and the publisher at YesYes Books

Phillip B. Williams is a Chicago, Illinois native. He is the author of the forthcoming book of poems Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books, 2016). He’s also co-authored a book of poems and conversations called Prime (Sibling Rivalry Press). He is a Cave Canem graduate and received scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers Conference and a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Anti-, Callaloo, Kenyon Review Online, Poetry, The Southern Review, West Branch and others. Phillip received his MFA in Writing from the Washington University in St. Louis. He is the poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry.

+ Check out art by Charlie Reilly during our intermission!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Friday, October 3 @ 7:30 feat. Cedar Sigo, Lourdes Figueroa, Hugh Behm-Steinberg and Peter Burghardt

Come hear poetry! Join us on Friday, October 3 @ 7:30 pm for a reading featuring Cedar Sigo, Lourdes Figueroa, 
Hugh Behm-Steinberg and Peter Burghardt

Admission is FREE.

Beverages and snacks will be served.

Studio One Arts Center
365 45th Street
Oakland, CA 94609

Cedar Sigo was raised on the Suquamish Reservation in the Pacific Northwest and studied at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute. He is the author of eight books and pamphlets of poetry, including Language Arts (Wave Books, 2014), Stranger In Town (City Lights, 2010), Expensive Magic (House Press, 2008), and two editions of Selected Writings (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2003 and 2005). He lives in San Francisco.

Lourdes Figueroa, was born in Yuba City, California during one of the trips her parents made from Mexico to the USA when they worked in the campo tilling the soil for tomatoes. She grew up in the betweens of everything, not from here and not from over there. She is a native of limbo nation. Lourdes is a proud 2009 and 2011 VONA alum.  Some of her work has been published in Poets 11 (2008 & 2010), an Anthology of poems selected by Jack Hirschman, and also in Generations: a journal of ideas and images. She received her MFA in Poetry at the University of San Francisco. Her first chapbook, yolotl, was published  by Spooky Actions Books, a publisher of quality chapbooks. She currently works as an interpreter, translator, and advocate. Lourdes believes in your lung, your throat, your tongue.

Peter Burghardt lives in Oakland, where he works as a poetry editor and book designer for Omnidawn Publishing, and co-publishes the letterpress chapbook imprint speCt! books. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College of California, and in 2013 founded the Community Poets’ Workshop at University Press Books/Berkeley. He was a 2014 finalist for the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and recent work has been published or is forthcoming from such journals as Witness: The Magazine of the Black Mountain Institute, The Laurel Review, Tammy, Issue 4, death hums, and BlazeVox.

Hugh Behm-Steinberg is the author of Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books) and The Opposite of Work (JackLeg Press), as well as two Dusie chapbooks, Sorcery and Good Morning! Bird poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from such places as Spork, Fence, South Dakota Review, Denver Quarterly and Ping-Pong. With Matt Davignon he performs experimental improvised vocal music as the band Oa. He teaches writing at California College of the Arts, where he edits the journal Eleven Eleven.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Friday, September 5: 2014/15 Kick-off Reading! Featuring Rusty Morrison, Maxine Chernoff and Julie Carr, plus art by Patrick Sumner!

Please join us on Friday, September 5 at 7:30 pm 
for our 2014/2015 Kick-off Reading and 
our first-ever temporary art show! 

The evening will feature readings by Rusty Morrison, 
Maxine Chernoff and Julie Carr, with art by Patrick Sumner.

Admission is FREE.
Beverages and snacks will be served. 

365 45th Street
Oakland, CA 94609

Cross is Telegraph or Broadway//BART is MacArthur.

Author & artist bios follow below.

Rusty Morrison's new letterpress, limited edition chapbook from speCt! is Reclamation Project. Her book Beyond the Chainlink (Ahsahta Press) was published in January 2014. After Urgency won Tupelo’s Dorset Prize, the true keeps calm biding its story won the Academy of American Poet’s James Laughlin Award, the N.CA Book Award, Ahsahta’s Sawtooth Prize, and the DiCastagnola Award from PSA. Her first book, Whethering, won the Colorado Prize for Poetry. Her poems are anthologized in the Norton Postmodern American Poetry, 2nd Edition, The Arcadia Project: Postmodern Pastoral, and Beauty is a Verb. She also received the Bogin, Hemley, and Winner Memorial Awards from The Poetry Society of America. She has taught poetry in MFA programs and has been a visiting poet at many universities. In 2001, Morrison and her husband, Ken Keegan, founded Omnidawn Publishing and continue to work as its co-publishers. Besides co-running the press, Morrison gives private writing consultations and teaches poetry workshops through UniversityPress Books in Berkeley, California. Her website:

Maxine Chernoff chairs the Creative Writing Program at SFSU and edits the journal New American Writing. She is the author of six works of fiction and 14 books of poems, most recently Without (Shearsman, 2012), To Be Read in the Dark (Omnidawn, 2011), and Here (Counterpath, 2014). Winner of a 2013 NEA Fellowship in Poetry and the 2009 PEN Translation Award for The Selected Works of Friedrich Holderlin (Omnidawn, 2008), she was also a visiting International Scholar at Exeter University in England in 2013.
Julie Carr is the author of six books of poetry, most recently 100 Notes on Violence (Ahsahta, 2009), Sarah- Of Fragments and Lines (Coffee House, 2010), RAG (Omnidawn, 2014), and the forthcoming Think Tank (Solid Objects). She is also the author of Surface Tension-Ruptural Time the Poetics of Desire in Late Victorian Poetry (Dalkey Archive). Her poems and essays have been anthologized widely, including in Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology. She is the co-editor of the forthcoming volume Active Romanticism: The Radical Impulse in Nineteenth-Century and Contemporary Poetic Practice. Her co-translations of Guillaume Apollinaire and of French poet Leslie Kaplan have been published in Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere, and a section of Kaplan's Excess-The Factory was published as a chapbook by Commune Editions. Carr teaches at the University of Colorado in Boulder and helps to run Counterpath Press and Counterpath Gallery in Denver.

Patrick Sumner has a BFA in printmaking from Colorado State University, where he also studied metal smithing, painting and design. His work has been shown in the Minot Print Competition, Edinburgh Print Invitational, World Print III, Bridle Gallery in Camden, Maine, and the short-lived Chance Gallery in San Francisco. His design work includes posters, promotional material and C.D. cover-art for various Bay Area performing artists and composers, as well as selected audio artists produced by New American Radio in Brooklyn, New York. He designed and illustrated the graphic story magazine, "One of One", with short fiction by Sheila Davies, published in Oakland, California by Burning Books. In addition, he conceived of, curated and promoted the year-long telephone performance series "Thanks for Calling – Twelve pieces for the telephone". Currently, he is Lead Photographer at Bonham's Auction House in San Francisco and is working on a series of prints which, by association or intention, are related to writing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Friday, June 6, Futurepoem at Studio One!

Please join us on Friday, June 6 @ 7:30 p.m. for a collaboration with Futurepoem, featuring 
David Buuck, Samantha Giles, 
Frances Richard and Ronaldo Wilson

Admission is FREE.
Beverages and snacks will be served.

+ Come early for food trucks on the Studio One Lawn, presented by Bites Off Broadway

And special thanks to our emcee, Robert Andrew Perez!

We look forward to seeing you on June 6!

Futurepoem is a New York City based publishing collaborative that focuses on innovative literature. We just published our 20th book. Our books are available through Small Press Distribution in Berkeley and we just launched a press subscription program this year. Please visit us at to learn more.

David Buuck is a writer who lives in Oakland, CA. He is the founder of BARGE, the Bay Area Research Group in Enviro-aesthetics, and co-founder and editor of Tripwire, a journal of poetics. An Army of Lovers, co-written with Juliana Spahr, is just out from City Lights, and SITE CITE CITY will be published by Futurepoem in 2014.

Samantha Giles grew up in an industrial section of Santa Monica, California and currently lives in the flatlands of Oakland, CA. She is the author of hurdis addo (Displaced Press, 2011) and deadfalls and snares (Futurepoem, 2014). Since 2009, she has been the Director of Small Press Traffic.

Frances Richard is the author of Anarch. (Futurepoem, 2012), The Phonemes (Les Figues Press, 2012) and See Through (Four Way Books, 2003). She writes frequently about contemporary art and is co-author, with Jeffrey Kastner and Sina Najafi, of Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Fake Estates” (Cabinet Books, 2005). Currently she teaches at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Ronaldo V. Wilson, PhD is the author of Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man (University of Pittsburgh, 2008), winner of the 2007 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and Poems of the Black Object (Futurepoem Books, 2009), winner of the Thom Gunn Award and the Asian American Literary Award in Poetry in 2010. Co-founder of the Black Took Collective, Wilson is also an Assistant Professor of Poetry, Fiction and Literature in the Literature Department of the University of California, Santa Cruz. His latest books: Farther Traveler: Poetry, Prose, Other, is forthcoming from Counterpath Press and Lucy 72 will be released by 1913 Press.  He was a 2013 Artist in Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and the 2014 Artist in Residence at the Center for Art and Thought (CA+T).

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Conversation: David Koehn and Dean Rader

"A line is a dot that went for a walk." 
 -Paul Klee 
poetry & the twittering machine

("I ruin poems by getting in their way"- David Koehn)

 ( I suspect poetry and the poem would be perfectly happy 
if the poet would just leave them alone..." -Dean Rader) 

David Koehn: Good morning, Dean. Happy Easter. Do you want to talk about poetry a little bit?
Dean Rader:  Happy Easter! Great idea. Yes! books and poems and all that great stuff.

DK: Let me begin by saying that I have a huge affection for Landscape Portrait Figure Form.

DR: Thank you.

DK: For any variety of reasons including affections for Klee and for some of the subject matter in the book. The book is beautiful. I’ve written a review, which will appear in Borderlands, so that’s all exciting. I don't know if there’s a jumping off point that you wanted to start from?

DR: I really appreciate that, David. Thank you. You are a good poet and a savvy reader, so that means a great deal coming from you. I also like the book. I have a fondness for it. I think Omnidawn did a great job with it. It’s beautiful. They treat it with care. I am especially happy with the artwork on the cover, which is a painting by a fabulous artists named Lora Fosberg. The words coming out the head of the guy on the front are phrases Lora liked from the poems. It’s the best part of the entire book!

Also, though, the cover is an entrée into the book through its mixture of written and visual language. In truth, the whole book explores the matrix of poetry and painting. You actually do something similar in your book. I was reading through Twine last night. I loved the Klee “Twittering Machine” poem.

DK:  It’s a weird one. That was written quite some time ago. Arthur Sze had been challenging some of us to write in the form of a haibun. Doing a sort of conventional or stereotypical haibun seemed against the grain for me. I took a weird acrostic pseudo-political, historical tact. At the same time, I was trying to get at what the painting meant for me and simultaneously do something interesting with the figure of Klee. 
At the end of the day, it’s also in conversation with this confusion we have about how art means or what art means and when it means because it’s situated in a particular time and meaning changes in time. Klee himself had some interesting challenges as it relates to art.  So the “Twittering Machine” was a muddy attempt at trying to frame an aesthetic journey in response to that particular painting. Thanks for mentioning that. That was a curious poem to write.

DR:  Maybe you can talk a little about why you choose to begin the poem with that quote about democracy, because it suggests that the poem may or may not have a political or social component to it. Klee is essentially saying that democracy is going to lead an artist to the middle, to an uninspiring mean; whereas the artist’s journey is spiritual (as opposed to political or democratic). Were you thinking about those things?

DK: Yeah, for sure. A couple of “grand pronouncements” around assumptions, if I may: I don’t write political poetry full stop in any intentional way. If I’m coming at it -- it’s coming at it from a slant. A second “grand pronouncement” would be something like aesthetic choice will trump political choice in my process almost every time.

“Grand pronouncement” number 3 is that the pilgrims’ progress, the intention of my process, is primarily a spiritual one in nature before it’s anything else—whatever spiritual may mean— which for some could mean physics and for others could mean a guy with a gray beard in the sky.

I think in particular it is this twist on that particular stance which is the subject— the subject is political in nature, meaning subject to the democratic potential.

Most of the time, with the consensus process, the community process— if the choices that are made are determined by the Zeitgeist— you end up in a place that is either only accepted by a micro-community or alternatively accepted by a dispersed community — and in both cases the dependency on the acceptance has trumped the aspiration perhaps, or it has trumped the potential of the art’s goal or the piece’s potential. I ruin poems because I get in the way. If I can stay out of the way of a good idea, I have a far better shot at adding a page to the book (and the book being whatever the long history of writing poems means). 

The “Twittering Machine” piece was invested in that thinking process.  I think there’s a subversive attitude in the piece, but the idea is to put the resulting artifact in front of the point of view or the “politics”.  Community is somehow wrapped up in into this. I’ve said this before, but I operate outside of the poetry community in general. I sometimes long to be part of the community in general, and at the same time when I’m near to or part of the community, I long to be a part from it.

DR: I think that’s most of us. 

There’s a lot to like about the poem, but one of the things I was especially drawn to was something I was just talking about with my poetry workshop the other day: the poem juggles a lot of balls. There’s a lot going on in it. You’ve got the epigraph about democracy, and then you’ve got information about Klee that is sort of woven in with historical facts, not to mention the play with twitter . . . 
DK: That’s right.

DR:  Add to that the intricacies of the painting itself, The Twittering Machine. It’s one of my favorite paintings by him. It’s this big, crazy machine, perhaps built on and out of stilts, but in your poem it suggests democracy and the machine of capitalism. Plus, you have the haibun thing going on, so there’s prose and haiku. There’s eastern influence mixing in with American things, poetry mixing with prose, European Modernism mashing-up with Twitter...
DK:  There’s a couple of comments there. One is it was definitely a piece that was flirting with all those heterogeneous ideas. There’s also this assumption that the referent in any poem any more doesn’t have to be necessarily an appositive because we’re in an age where every single word at an instant can be exploded into all of its constituent parts.

There’s some element of that changing nature of information and reference at work. It was written before Twitter became a huge success, but the piece operates in the context of the technology backbone behind all of us. As much as we may like it or dislike it, the conjunction and disjunction of information that has come from the instantaneous hierarchy of every single reference that becomes immediately possible is also a part of that. 

DR:  Your poem reminded me that I also have a Klee haibun.

DK: That’s cool.

DR: It was published in Borderlands.

DK: I read that.

DR: I wrote it a couple of years ago, I think. I should try to dig it up.

DK: One of the reasons I wanted to run the review of Landscape Portrait Figure Form in Borderlands was because of that weird interconnection. I was pleased when Borderlands picked up the review for that particular reason. Those sort of funky interconnections are just fun, and are a secret joy.

I would love to get a copy of your haibun either from Borderlands or from yourself and take a look at it again. By the way, thanks for reading Twine at all. When we first started our conversation, you actually signed my copy of Landscape Portrait Figure Form before Twine had ever come out. I don't know if you remember what you wrote. You wrote, “Get Pinsky to blurb your book.”

DR:  That’s right, and he did! It was a good blurb too.

DK: Yeah, it’s a beautiful blurb. I was talking to Jeffrey Levine about the blurbs and he said, “Who’s going to read the book? Just read the blurbs.” I couldn’t be more flattered by it. One of the poems we talked about that night was your poem “The Poem Chooses Its Own Adventure.”

DR: Right.

DK: What reminded me of that poem was one of the things I said earlier, which is that in most cases I ruin poems by getting in their way. “The Poem Chooses its Own Adventure” is one of my favorites in the book.

I like it so much because it’s working on just a fundamental absurd narrative level but It’s also working on this meta level of how Dean Rader thinks about composing poems. For any writer, it’s an object lesson if you will. It’s one of the things that I admire in your work: that ‘polysemousness,’ to use Duncan.

DR: That’s a kind and smart reading of the poem. I had a lot of mixed feelings about that poem. In fact, that poem was not in the first version of the manuscript that I sent to Omnidawn. I wasn’t really sure if it was a successful poem or not. But, as Rusty Morrison and I were talking about assembling the book, I showed her the poem. When she read it, she said, “Yeah, this has got to go in the book and near the front.”

My fear is that it’s a little winky winky. I hope not. What seems to work about that poem in particular is that readers feel like the “you” in the poem is about them. Poets feel like the “you” in the poem is the poem talking back to the poet. I like that the voice in the poem can go both ways. On one level, it is a faux mean poem to the reader, but in truth it is totally a love poem to the reader.

On another level, it’s about poetry just being tired of the poet. I suspect poetry and the poem would be perfectly happy if the poet would just leave them alone…

DK:  Exactly.

DR: I always think that the poem would probably prefer anything to being in a poem. That’s what I wanted to play with in the poem. Ironically (or not), it was one of the only poems I’ve written that just completely took off on its own. I didn’t really do much. It just went its own way and got crazier and crazier. I didn’t try to reign it in. I’m always trying to slow down my poems, to work on restraint. I decided for this one just to use zero restraint and let it be over the top.

DK:  I want to circle back actually to that Rusty comment. She is a fantastic reader. I had her look at an early version of Twine, and poems that either 1) I was going to exclude from the manuscript or 2) had excluded from the manuscript she ended up identifying as quite right for the manuscript.  

There were also once where I was like, “I don't know. Maybe, maybe not” where she was like, “You don’t see what I’m seeing. This is what I’m seeing and this is why.” I was like, “Wow.” Those poems she anchored on are some of the best poems in the book — little did I know. She said something to the effect of “don’t discard your orphans.” 

Rusty as a reader is really unbelievable, and worth mentioning, as she had an impact on your construction and she also had an impact on mine as an early reader of Twine.

DR:  She did. I respect her preference for ambition and risk.

DK: Exactly. She would notice when a piece was taking risk and had depth and those risks can come in all kinds of shapes and forms, depth can come in all kinds of shapes and forms. Her desire to peel and go was influential.

DR: I totally agree. I also wanted to ask you about landscape. Formally, you have this really nice mix of traditional and experimental forms in Twine. You rock the sonnet, for example. I was particularly taken by “Notes from a Lecture on Sterna Paradisaea”.  How do you pronounce the last word?

DK: Mitqutailaq. 

DR:  Funky ass poem.

DK: Yeah.

DR: A lot of fun. So, to “theme,” as the kids say. I noticed you seemed interested in nature and history, or at least historical figures. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that. I assume that with the twine metaphor which comes up in your epilogue poem, you’re thinking about ways to stitch things together, or tie things together, or ways in which things are threaded. Maybe you could talk a little about the way history and landscape are intertwined, to use your word.

DK: There’s so much in that question. Form for me is part of the conversation with the art. I also abandon it and shred it and twist it so that there are certain pieces that are rigorously formal if you will.

DR: That’s true.

DK: But there are also pieces that are wildly not. This is just “grand pronouncement” number 4, which is “it’s all available to us” — the lyrical poems that run down the side of the page, burying between 3 to 7 beats in a line. Maybe a line of 8 beats to really throw off the reader. But also available to us is the syllabic poem like the one in the book  “Faith Healing,” as is the highly (iambic) metrical poem like “Above the Ranch.” 

Sonnets are also available, couplets are available, villanelles are available, pantoums are available. Then perversions of those are available. There’s no adventure that we shouldn’t permit ourselves to take both within and without form. 

For example, “Notes on a Lecture…” is wildly experimental poem in one regard,  but also highly regular in another way. It’s a Carme Figuratum in one way, but its versification is also eccentrically consistent. The topic of the poem is a lecture about the Arctic Tern. But it’s also about the Arctic Tern, the bird (not the lecture) and having lived on the northern tip of Alaska for a significant period of my life— somehow about the arctic in some way as well.

In fact, my 19-year-old daughter was born in Barrow, Alaska. The northern most tip of Alaska. The Northern most point in the contiguous United States. A little- know truth of that experience is that an amazing range of birds come to Barrow during the summer months to breed and the Arctic Tern is the one that travels (essentially) North Pole to South Pole every year. Not exactly the whole range, but the bird is capable of that range.

The Arctic Tern has this unique flying behavior. It has a particular beauty to its flight. It has in that environment a natural history that we’re familiar with from naturalism and biology. But it also has a natural history that comes from the native people of the North Slope, the Inupiaq.

I struggle with this all the time in my Alaska poems: “Is this another white guy writing a poem about Native Alaskan experience?” It’s a huge, huge struggle for me in virtually every poem that I try to write about my North Slope experience.

Mitqutailaq is the Inupiaq word for Arctic Tern. Mitqutailuq means “missing middle tail feather.” The poem intentionally omits one specific phrase right in the heart of the poem. There’s this oblique intention to get people to look at the Arctic Tern not just as a biological or naturalist object but as a bird that lives in the story of the people of the North Slope, the Inupiaq, and to not privilege one over the other but allude to the one that I want people to connect to — to take advantage of the opportunity to go explore for themselves without asserting my own bias.

The Tern plays that role in the poem. The Tern is a thing in nature that is so amazingly dazzling to watch in its own being that, while I try to explore some of that dazzle, I also wanted to leave the poem open to the missing middle tail feather, which is that there is a lot of other points of view on that dazzle, and ways of looking at that bird, that this poem only just barely alights upon.

I don't know if that even answers the question but that’s part of what was going on there.

DR: I can see that. The form of the poem underscores your interest in movement and action and pushing on. It’s a really interesting poem.

DK:  What’s going around the back of my head is the Elliot quote that challenges that kind of effort where it’s a fallacy to try and use the shape or syntax in a poem to mimic the object of the trope. That was one of those “I shall not break” rules that I chose to break because I thought it would work.

Whether it did or not is a different question. It was definitely a whisper in my classically trained ear — I was being told “don’t do this”— and what the poem was saying was “this is how the poem needs to be.” I don't know if that even answers the question.

DR: I think so . . .

DK: The North Slope was a place where I was exposed to native writers and started to work with American traditions that didn’t come out of the east or the west. For the first time I started to think about voices that contemporary poetry had yet to be fully informed by. I had some limited experiences with Sherman Alexie at Fishtrap. 

But it wasn’t until I got to Alaska and started the bibliography of North Slope Literature that I came into contact with the number of voices that populated the tapestry of the United States that weren’t dead white people. That was a piece of my story as well. The book itself is trying to intertwine all kinds of contemporary, social, political and aesthetic concerns.

It’s 3 sections of 19 poems and the final poem, the epilogue is 3 poems. There’s these symmetries and then there’s all these divergences. I think that the interconnection between things is apparent. There’s also this movement from self-perception to a dialogue with the objects of the poem to moving the poem into its own space and getting out of its way. There’s this attempt to make sure that the personal and the aesthetic evolve over the course of the book.

DR: I can see that. I think the book bears that out. It feels intentionally put together. The sections talk to each other.

DK:  It’s such a huge problem thinking about intention. I wouldn’t want anyone to be married to my intention. I would prefer they have their own reading of it. You’re invested in scholarship around Native American literature yourself, right?

DR: Indeed. My first scholarly book was a collection of essays on contemporary American-Indian poetry that I edited with the excellent poet Janice Gould. My most recent scholarly book was this big ambitious interdisciplinary study of recent American Indian art, literature, and film, entitled Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI. That book appeared in 2011, I think. Oddly, (or not), it shares many of the same concerns as Landscape Portrait Figure Form—the interplay of poetry and painting, the ability of artistic practice to alter and inform the world, the role of art and writing in contemporary society.

Native studies is certainly one of my interests both as a teacher and as a writer—and of course as a human as well. I always think that American Indian texts (as with American Indian interests) get overlooked in political, social and cultural realms.

DK: Are you reading anybody right now?

DR: I’m reading Jennifer Forester’s book Leaving Tulsa. I’m going to write a review on that and two other books. I’m actually behind. I was supposed to finish that review already. I like that book a lot. I like Natalie Diaz’s new book and I like Orlando White’s poems a lot too. I think he’s a really, really interesting young writer.

He’s got a book called Bone Light that came out with Red Hen Press a few years ago. He’s a Navajo poet who has written an entire book of poems about the letters of the alphabet.

DK: That’s so cool.

DR:  It’s really smart. It’s fascinating because if you read the poems you would never assume that White is Navajo. He doesn’t really include any of what you would assume to be “American Indian” themes. I’m using finger quotes here.

DK: Yeah.

DR:  Readers often assume that Indian writers have to write about Indian issues, or perform their Indianness, or prove their Indianness. He doesn’t do any of that. The opening of the book situates his Navajo-ness, but the rest of the book is all about the beauty of the letter I, the shape of J and how much he likes the letter O. Great stuff.

DK:  Yeah. I don't know the book but will definitely check it out. I was pleased over the last 4 or 5 years to see the emergence of Joan Naviyuk Kane. From my perspective, she’s the first sort of North Slope contemporary to emerge.

There’s been others in history. I don't know if she reads them or not but there was Sin Rock, an Inupiaq poet who was recorded, captured and inserted into the contemporary at the time but in a very aphoristic way. I think Joan’s work is great.

During my 5 years on the North Slope one of the projects we did was “Walking in Two Worlds.” We brought into conversation 5 different classrooms, a Tlingit classroom, a Yupik classroom, an Inupiaq classroom, a Navajo classroom, a South Carolina classroom, and I think a Riverside, California classroom.

The genetic makeup of that reader response was just crazy. It was enlightening to see. There were several books that we focused on but one poem in particular was Luci Tapahonso’s poem, Hills Brothers Coffee. To see some of the responses that emerged from the kids —  just amazing.

A lot of those kids went on to be very successful and it was a great experience to see that kind of dynamic, self-driven conversation. I think it’s healthy that Joan has emerged. I think that there’s a growing, healthy perspective on Native American literature in general.
Again, I think what you’re reaching beyond is we know we’ve succeeded when we don’t have to talk about poets talking about their race, gender or status. When that becomes an accepted part of — as opposed to our novelty about— then maybe that’s a success. I don't know.

DR:  Not too long ago I curated an issue of Sentence on contemporary American Indian prose poetry. One of the things I talked about in my introduction was how many of the poems by younger native poets are about aesthetic concerns, or travel, or being parents. Even my students seem to expect “Indian Writing” to deal with “Indian Issues,” as though parenting and travel and aesthetics are not.

There is something reassuring and I think maybe confidence building in a writer being able to identify as a Native writer and write about whatever he or she wants. Again, it provides a nice balance. I think that one of the concerns I have in teaching Native literature is that some readers think that if they read say a Louise Erdrich novel or a LeAnne Howe poem they are experiencing Choctaw culture or Ojibwe culture. And that’s a problem.

If you read LeAnne Howe’s great novel Shell Shaker you’ll learn a lot about Choctaw histories and realities that you probably didn’t know. But, it’s not folklore, it’s not ethnography. It’s art.  You’re experiencing art. It’s art and it’s as much about an individual project as it is about being immersed in an Indian experience.

Art is a window onto things; it is not that thing. Except when it is . . .

Let me ask you real quick. What are your hopes for Twine? What would you like it to accomplish? What effect would you like it to have on a reader?

DK: I have no idea how to answer that question. Did you say effect?

DR: Yeah. 
DK: I’m not sure I think about effect. I’m usually trying to create a piece wherin or where through the reader has an aesthetic experience, whatever that may be. Ideally, a deeply resonant aesthetic experience. If each and every poem in the book provides such and those experiences resonate, if the reader both relates to and is surprised by the work—what more to ask? I guess I look at the book as a series of notes, or a series of experiences, that have connection but also have disconnection. This (dis)arrangement creates a kind of disjuncture that adds to the overall experience. 
The perfect outcome of any one poem in my mind is that, if I can deliver what Koestler in The Act of Creation called the “Ahhhh,” the “Ha Ha,” and the “Ah Ha.” If one can do that in a single poem, that’s not a bad outcome. 

The “Ah” being the experience of the sublime, the “Ha Ha” being the funny disjuncture of surprise and laughter in comedy and humor. The “Ah Ha” being that sense of innovation or discovery of “I’m seeing something I had not seen before.” When those 3 things happen for a reader in a poem and people have  deeply resonant aesthetic experiences and come away from the book connecting to the work, that’s more than I could hope for. 
My assumption of course is that books of poetry have a very short shelf-life. My assumption is that Twine it will be washed away into the ocean of time in a matter of weeks. The book, largely forgotten forever, because that’s how things go. I don’t have any ambitions for the book other than if and when people read it, they have resonance with hopefully many pieces if not all the pieces in the book itself. That’s a weird answer to your question but that’s about it.

DR: That’s a good answer.

DK:  How about you? Is there anything else you want to say about Landscape Portrait Figure Form?

DR: I would say that with Landscape Portrait Figure Form, my concerns were primarily how the aesthetic and the social might interact. For the aesthetic part, I was obsessed with the things that poetry and art share—in particular the vocabulary they have in common: “landscape,” “forms,” “figuration,” “portraits,” “syntax,” “grammar,” “language,” and in particular the dual concerns with “the line.” Both painting and poetry begin with “the line.”

Klee talks a lot about line and poetry. He, too, is obsessed with lines.  One of my favorite Klee quotes Is: “A line is a dot that went for a walk.” I love that!  I think that extends to the poetic line as well. The sentence, the word, the letter begin with a dot because your pen starts at a point that winds up going for a walk across the page. I was (and am) interested in the practice of art and the practice of poetry. What do poetry and art share, and how do they go about making emotive meaning?

I’m also jealous of painting and photography’s ability to have an immediate emotional impact. Painters and photographers can address social and political issues more indirectly and obliquely than writers can.

You can have a photograph of a war-torn village or a rundown house in Detroit and it makes an emotional and political statement without having to rely on language to explain.

DK: Without the rhetoric. 
DR: Exactly, without the rhetorical explanation. I was also trying to do that in some of the poems, most notably with the opening poem in the book “American Self-Portrait.” I hoped I could write poems that maybe visually made an argument or posed questions about social or political issues without being confined to a stance.

DK:  Really well-said.

DR:  I hope that it’s at least moderately successful.

DK: Yeah, really well-said. Thank you, Dean.

DR: Thanks. Dave, this was a lot of fun. We’ll continue it.

DK:  We should.
David Koehn's poetry and translations were previously collected in two chapbooks, Tunic, (speCt! books 2013) a small collection of some of his translations of Catullus, and Coil (University of Alaska, 1998), winner of the Midnight Sun Chapbook Contest. David's first full length manuscript, Twine, now available from Bauhan Publishing, won the 2013 May Sarton Poetry Prize. David's poetry has appeared in a wide range of literary magazines including Kenyon Review, New England Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Rhino, Volt, Carolina Quarterly, New York Quarterly, Diagram and many others. His essays and reviews have appeared online and in print across a similar variety of magazines and he currently writes and runs a first book interview series called First Verse for, the Web property of Omnidawn Press.

Dean Rader’s debut collection of poems, Works & Days, won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize. His newest collection, Landscape Portrait Figure Form (Omnidawn) was named by the Barnes & Noble Review as one of the Best Books of Poetry of 2013. Recent poems appear or will appear in Best American Poetry 2012, Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Southern Review, TriQuarterly, Ninth Letter, Colorado Review, and Zyzzyva, which featured a folio of his poems in their fall 2013 issue. He reviews and writes about poetry regularly for The Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and The San Francisco Chronicle. Rader recently edited an anthology entitled 99 Poems for the 99 Percent, forthcoming in 2014. He is chair of the English Department at the University of San Francisco. You can read more of his work at