As I was preparing over the weekend for my interview with D. A. Powell later this week, I ran across references to Kevin Killian, a poet I've told myself again and again to check out. I finally got myself to a library and checked out the only book of poetry ASU keeps by him: Argento Series. I just finished it on the way home today, partially because my bus was late twice in the past two days, and mostly because I couldn't (wouldn't) put it down.
I work through poetry very detectively: I attended an AWP panel last year moderated by Jim Elledge, whom I love, and heard David Trinidad read. I read David Trinidad's books over the summer and read somewhere a reference to Tim Dlugos. Then I read Tim Dlugos (LOVE*FAINT*SWOON). I read somewhere a connection between Dlugos and Killian. I added Killian to the list. I think Killian is also mentioned in the preface to Tea.
When poets know poets I like, hang out with poets I like, or work with poets I like, I tackle them in succession.
Anyway, Argento Series is a weird book, and actually timely for me. I find the universe refers me to the books I need to read when I need to read them. I'm hesitating to mention this is a book that discusses? mentions? memorializes? critiques? AIDS. I don't know how to say it, and the phrases "the poetry of AIDS" and "AIDS poetry" don't cut it for me anymore. How reductive. How irresponsible.
In a conversation I had with Sarah and Todd last night, we got to talking about AIDS poetry—in a roundabout way, I think—and I started to realize exactly what an emergency AIDS is. Unlike gay men my senior, it didn't happen to us: it was always there, it was something we talked about in high school. How traumatic to have lived through. And confusing, and horrifying, and uncertain, and emotional.
I don't want us to stop writing (talking) about AIDS.
AIDS is not banal. It's not controlled/controllable. It devastates other continents. Critics put down gay men's poetry and begin their review: As an AIDS memoir, Killian's book echoes much of what we've already read...
Poetry, in its most effective form, can be a bright light to clean up the shadows. But this monster doesn't run an hide when you flick the switch. It's reading the same books we are, knows the same things we know. Killian's book is a firm reminder to me that our work continues. We have this beast who knows us. But we make ourselves beautiful. Chains of words.
*climbs off impromptu soapbox*