Killian, Kevin 1952-
KILLIAN, Kevin 1952-
PERSONAL: Born December 24, 1952, in Long Island, NY; son of Raymond (an engineer), and Catherine (a teacher and union activist; maiden name, Doyle) Killian; married Dodie Bellamy (a novelist and editor), 1986. Ethnicity: "White." Education: Fordham University, B.A., 1974; State University of New York—Stony Brook, M.A., A.B.D., 1975-80. Politics: "Predictably left." Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Collecting autographs.
CAREER: Novelist and playwright. Able Building Maintenance Co., San Francisco, CA, secretary, 1982—; Mirage #4/Period[ical], editor (with Dodie Bellamy), beginning 1985; Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets, Naropa Institute, Boulder, CO, workshop instructor, 1997, 2000, 2002. Actor in plays and stage productions, including Memory Play and Scenes from Goya's L.A., both produced in San Francisco, CA, 1994; Blood Pact against the World (also known as The Poet-Killer), Cheap Speech, and Young Skulls II, all produced in San Francisco, CA, 1995; Horror Tape Script, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1997; Cliff & Co., produced in San Francisco, CA, 1998; Blood on My Neck and Dianne, both produced in San Francisco, CA 2002; Manual for a Block and The Seventh Game of the World Series, both produced in San Francisco, CA, 2003; and Troilus and Hamlet Variations, both produced in San Francisco, CA, 2004. Actor in video projects At Home with the Stars, Featuring Denton Welch, 1995; Sunset and Video 97, both produced in San Francisco, CA, 1997; and Nightfall, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1998. Appeared in music video "Butyric Acid," 1994. Also appeared in films. Sponsor of poetry events. Also appeared as a performer, panelist, speaker, and lecturer at various venues.
AWARDS, HONORS: Lambda Literary Award nomination, 1990, for Shy; Award for Fiction, California Arts Council, 1991; Fund for Poetry grants, 1995 and 1996; Josephine Miles Award, PEN/Oakland, 1997, for Little Men; Award for Poetry, California Arts Council, 1997.
Shy, Crossing Press (Freedom, CA), 1989.
Arctic Summer, Hard Candy (New York, NY), 1997.
Desiree (chapbook), e.g. Press (Berkeley, CA), 1986.
Santa, Leave Books (Buffalo, NY), 1995.
Little Men, Hard Press (West Stockbridge, MA), 1996.
I Cry like a Baby, Hard Press, 2000.
Contributor of short stories to books, including Discontents: New Queer Writers, edited by Dennis Cooper, Amethyst Press (New York, NY), 1992; The Lizard Club, by Steve Abbott, Autonomedia (New York, NY), 1993; Sick Joke: Bitterness, Sarcasm, and Irony in the Second AIDS Decade (exhibition catalogue), Kiki Gallery (San Francisco, CA), 1993; Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men, edited by Brian Bouldrey, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 1995; Best American Gay Fiction 1996, edited by Brian Bouldrey, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996; Happily Ever After: Erotic Fairy Tales for Men, edited by Michael Thomas Ford, Richard Kasak Books (New York, NY), 1996; Sons of Darkness: Tales of Men, Blood, and Immortality, edited by Michael Rowe and Thomas Roche, Cleis Books (Pittsburgh, PA), 1996; Switch Hitters: Lesbians Write Gay Male Erotica and Gay Men Write Lesbian Erotica, edited by Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel, Cleis Books, 1996; 2000 and What?, edited by Karl Roeseler and David Gilbert, Trip St. Press (San Francisco, CA), 1996; Best American Gay Fiction 2, edited by Brian Bouldrey, Little, Brown, 1997; Best Gay Erotica 1997, edited by Richard Labonte, Cleis Books, 1997; Flesh and the Word 4, edited by Michael Lowenthal, Plume (New York, NY), 1997; Noirotica 2: Pulp Friction, edited by Thomas Roche, Rhinoceros Books (New York, NY), 1997; and Eros ex Machina: Eroticizing the Mechanical, edited by M. Christian, Rhinoceros Books, 1998. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Archive Newsletter, Avec, Bimbox, Blithe House Quarterly, Boo, Farm Farm Boys, Five Fingers Review, Framework, Front, Gerbil, Holy Titclamps, Ink, Interruptions, James White Review, Libido, Masquerade, New Langton Arts Catalogue of Programs, Red Wheelbarrow, Res, River City Sentinel USA, Some Weird Sin, Talisman, and Taste of Latex.
That, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1988.
Return to Sender, produced in Seattle, WA, 1993, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1994.
Island of Lost Souls, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1993.
Flophouse: The First Sixty Years of the Lab, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1994.
Three on a Match, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1994.
(Author of program notes) Philip Horvitz, Being Alive (musical), produced in San Francisco, CA, 1995.
(With Wayne Smith) Diamonds & Rust, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1995.
(With Leslie Scalapino) Stone Marmalade (produced in Vancouver, British Columbia), Singing Horse Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1996.
Wet Paint, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1996.
Political Animals, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1997.
(With Scott Hewicker) The Schwimmer Effect, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1997.
Cut, produced in New York, NY, 1998.
(With Rex Ray) The Vegetable Kingdom, produced in Oakland, CA, 1999.
(With Jocelyn Saidenberg) Capriccio, produced in San Francisco, CA, 1999.
(With Wayne Smith) The Shakers, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2000.
(With Kota Ezawa) White Rabbit, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2001.
(With Rex Ray) The Vegetable Kingdom, (revival), produced in Buffalo, NY, 2001.
(With Brian Kim Stefans) The American Objectivists, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2001.
(With Norma Cole) Art Colony Survivor, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2002.
(With Wayne Smith) Fascination, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2002.
Flamingo Road, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2002.
(With Karla Milosevich) Love Can Build a Bridge, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2003.
(With Brian Kim Stefans) The American Objectivists (revival), produced in Santa Cruz, CA, 2003.
Seeing Red, Mantis 3: Poetry and Performance, produced at Stanford University, CA, 2003.
(With Craig Goodman) The Smith Family, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2003.
The Big Keep, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2003.
Cupid and Psyche, produced in San Francisco, CA, 2004.
Also author of The House of Forks and dramatic monologue Who Is Kevin Killian?
Argento Series (serial poem), Krupskaya Books (San Francisco, CA), 2001.
Contributor of poetry to books, including An Ear to the Ground: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, edited by Marie Harris and Kathleen Aguerro, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1988; The American Poetry Archives Videotape Catalogue 1974-1990, San Francisco State University (San Francisco, CA), 1991; Gildzen at Fifty: A Celebration, Toucan Books (Kent, OH), 1993; This Is Not Her (exhibition catalogue), Kiki Gallery, 1995; and On Your Knees, Citizen: A Collection of "Prayers" for the "Public," edited by Rod Smith, Lee Ann Brown, and Mark Wallace, Edge Books (Washington, DC), 1996.
Contributor of poems to periodicals, including Angle, Angles Apex of the M, B-City, Black Bread, Bloo, Capilano Review, Chain, Die Young, Errant Bodies, Jack of Diamonds, James White Review, Kevin Magee's Newsletter, Kiosk, Lyric & Non-Object Permanence Open 24 Hours, Prosodia, Sentinel USA, Shiny International, Sink, Situation, Soundings, Sulfur, Tinfish, Torque/Object, Writing 22, ZYZZYVA, Fence, Second Avenue, The Poker, Berkeley Poetry Review, Germ, Gargoyle, and Commonweal.
Bedrooms Have Windows (autobiography), Amethyst Press, 1989.
(With Lewis Ellingham) Poet Be like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance (biography), Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1998.
Contributor of nonfiction to books, including Lighting the Corners on Art, Nature and the Visionary: Essays and Interviews, American Poetry Book (Albuquerque, NM), 1993; Gay and Lesbian Literature, edited by Sharon Malinowski, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994; and The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage, edited by Claude J. Summers, Holt (New York, NY), 1995. Contributor to periodicals, including ACTS, Advocate Men, Archive Newsletter, Arshile, Artforum, Artweek, Bay Area Reporter, Chicago Review Contact, Court Green, Dear World, East West, Electronic Poetry Review, Field Reporter Five Fingers Review, Food for Life, Hole, Impercipient Lecture Series, Ink, James White Review, Lambda Book Report, Last Call, Life Style Lift, Lower Limit Speech, Narrativity, Nest, New Review of Literature, NYFA Quarterly, Our Stories, Poetics Briefs, Poetry Flash Poetry Project Newsletter, RIF/T, Rusty Word, Sentinel USA, Shark, Suffle Boil, Sodomite Invasion Review Soup, Stranger, Stranger Books, Sulfur, Talisman, Temblor, Traffic, Trepan, Tripwire, Tyuonyi, Visions Art Quarterly, West Coast Line, and Witz.
Brother and Sister Retold from the Brothers Grimm (artist's book), pictures by Brett Reichman, Jonathan Hammer Studios (San Francisco, CA), 1994.
The Kink of Chris Komater (monograph), Patricia Sweetow Gallery (San Francisco, CA), 1999.
"The Train of Thought": Chapter Three of a Detective Novel, Zasterle Press (Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain), 1994.
Millennium Coming: The New Degenerate Art Show (exhibition catalog), curated by Chris Komater and Michelle Rollman, the Lab, 1995.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Spread Eagle, a novel; Bachelors Get Lonely, a memoir; Argento Series, an ongoing series of poems relating to the AIDS epidemic; Duets, stories written with other authors; an untitled New Narrative anthology with Canadian novelist Gail Scott; editing Collected Poems of Jack Spicer, with Peter Gizzi; Action Kylie, a book of poems.
SIDELIGHTS: Kevin Killian was born in Long Island, New York, on December 24, 1952, and grew up there. He received a bachelor's degree from Fordham University and a master's degree from the State University of New York—Stony Brook, where he completed all but the dissertation towards a Ph.D. Killian moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1980s, where his writing career flourished.
Killian has had his poetry, fiction, and various nonfiction works published in books and periodicals. He continues to write verse for the Argento Series, a serial poem about AIDS published in part in 1997. As Killian told CA: "Meow Press published a selection of some of the poems in this long, long serial poem I've been writing since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. But there are many more poems to come in this, I'm afraid."
In Strategies of Deviance: Studies in Gay Male Representation, Earl Jackson, Jr. discusses two of Killian's works: the novel Shy and the memoir Bedrooms Have Windows. The critic examined the delineation between Killian and his characters, writing: "Killian's typical first-person narrator is constituted as an act of appearing as oneself, in both the philosophical and show business senses of that phrase. Killian has literally appeared as himself (in the role of 'Kevin Killian') in his own plays, such as The House of Forks, and his dramatic monologue Who Is Kevin Killian? He also performs in the work of other playwrights, filmmakers, and videographers, and his characterizations are informed with the 'Kevin Killian' persona developed from playing himself." Jackson continued that there are "mutually implicating tensions between 'self' and 'character' and 'reality' and 'representation'" in Killian's performances and writings.
Jackson's comments indicate how Killian's work does not include firm distinctions between character and author, or between novel and memoir. Instead, Killian ironically highlights and subverts the supposed differences that many other writers explicitly define and reinforce. His work also contains a conversational quality that can be both emotional and playful. For example, a short story from Killian's collection Little Men features a character named Kevin Killian having a poignant conversation with a dead friend's mother, but then gives humorous instructions on how to discourage telephone solicitors. Killian won the Josephine Miles Award from PEN/Oakland for the collection.
With Lewis Ellingham, Killian wrote Poet Be like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance, a biography of San Francisco beat generation poet Jack Spicer and a chronicle of other poets of the period. This work is the first biography of Spicer, who has not received the same amount of attention as other beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Spicer died at the age of forty in 1965 of acute hepatitis brought on by alcoholism. According to Bernard Welt in the Lambda Book Report, the poet "sat (frequently on a barstool) at the center of the San Francisco poetry scene." Similarly, Library Journal contributor David Kirby described Spicer as "a key player in the San Francisco poetry and gay cultures." The biography includes interviews from Spicer's contemporaries, including author Lewis Ellingham, himself a poet and a friend of Spicer, and other acquaintances of the poet. In his Lambda Book Report review, Welt wrote that "the interviews in the book have a freshness and immediacy unusual in literary biography."
Also reviewing Poet Be like God, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "Ellingham and Killian tread too lightly on their subject's more troublesome personality traits," but observed that the book is a "well-researched and readable biography." Welt called Poet Be like God "delicious" and "fabulous," adding that "this is what we like in literary biography—a fine balance between the tell-all approach we expect with less elevated celebrities like movie stars and a prissy, spoilsport academic reserve." He concluded, "Spicer will be remembered and this biography will be the means of his memorial."
Killian told CA: "I started writing when I was a little boy, pecking out stories on my mother's black upright 1940s typewriter with the two-colored ribbon that fascinated me. Stupid stories, horse stories, romances, spy thrillers, school epics, and finally the sex writing which has more or less preoccupied me ever since. I kept writing and writing but, while I loftily told everyone I was a 'writer,' I never really got anything done till I was thirty or so, so busy was I with alcohol, drugs, and indiscriminate sex, pleasure—oh, and graduate school, which I wasn't good at.
"When I lived in New York I had a lot of excitement but it was in San Francisco that I met my compadres—the other novelists in the 'New Narrative' movement—and it was here that I 'found myself' as a writer. In quick succession I became a poet, novelist, critic, playwright, and a coterie writer. I won't ever have the success or wide readership of Stephen King or Anne Rice, but I hope to continue to entertain and work with a smaller audience of interested readers. I'm a very slow writer. Shy and Arctic Summer each took over ten years to write, and I worked on the life of Jack Spicer for eight years. It's because I write many different things at once, and in addition attend (or sponsor) dozens of poetry events a year, hoping to keep my brain open for new developments on the front. And also, because I work with a lot of different people on writing projects, I keep their schedules too. Issuing Mirage #4/Period[ical] every month with the novelist Dodie Bellamy has kept me busy.
"I have written on the Bay Area art scene for Artforum, Artweek, Framework, etc., and though not a natural 'sub,' I've labored mightily in video and theatre work for Abigail Child, Cecilia Dougherty, Carla Harryman, Sue Marcoux, Camille Roy, Leslie Scalapino, Sarah Schulman, Leslie Singer, Laurie Weeks, et al. I like acting and getting my picture taken. And collecting autographs. That's why I became a writer, I suppose—to meet other writers and get their autographs and to sleep with them."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Jackson, Earl, Jr., Strategies of Deviance: Studies in Gay Male Representation, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1995.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1998, review of Poet Be like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance.
Lambda Book Report, July, 1996; August, 1997; April, 1998, Bernard Welt, review of Poet Be like God, p. 9.
Library Journal, April 15, 1998, review of Poet Be like God, p. 80.