Kevin Killian

Wonder, 2014

“The arts and crafts of another era war with our modern thrust for selfhood,” says Tara, after opining that the “spirits are moody tonight.” She’s a trance medium and a character in Kevin Killian’s one-act “The Pre-Poetic.” While Tara is referring to the late 19thcentury international design movement that aimed to abandon the industrial aesthetic for older, more fanciful ones, Killian is talking about his home, San Francisco. Whether poem, letter, or play, even the most lighthearted pieces in Tweaky Village read as elegy for a city being eroded by meth and tech. In a series of poems called “Repetition Island,” two porn stars converse mid-coitus: “From loading dock on one end to lighthouse on the other it’s a company town, bro.” Here, bits of dialogue and imagery like the director’s shouts, shellfish lunch options, and milk enemas (“to render the ass whiter, creamier”) repeat, but are altered slightly, so each occurrence feels more surreal and desperate. Killian moves dreamily from the crass and chatty to fantastical, stunning imagery in a poem that mourns Heath Ledger: “poetry rose from his seed / in the pink of his bones we saw a better world / with weird flowers.” Killian admits to a “vulgar mania for citation,” and his personal reference pool of Jack Spicer; minimalist choreographer, Yvonne Rainer; and unreleased Kylie Minogue songs become the book’s real stars. But after all this abundance, readers may find themselves wanting some exacted vengeance on the tech-world’s wallowing force (as in the détournement and biting irony in Killian’s twenty thousand ongoing Amazon reviews). Instead, Killian may seem overly defeatist in moments like the repeated ending of “Repetition Island,” where the drying “trails of semen” are an analogue for California’s Bacchic roots as Killian proceeds to reach for something other than poetry in his armament against the dot com specter.