5 Questions with Evan Kennedy, Author of METAMORPHOSES: City Lights Spotlight No. 22

Apr 24, 2023

Evan Kennedy is a poet and bicyclist. He is the author of I Am, Am I, to Trust the Joy That Joy Is No More or Less There Now Than Before (Roof Books), Jerusalem Notebook (O’clock Press), The Sissies (Futurepoem), Terra Firmament (Krupskaya), Shoo-Ins to Ruin (Gold Wake Press), and Us Them Poems (Book*hug). He runs the occasional press, Dirty Swan Projects, and was born in Beacon, New York, in 1983. He lives in San Francisco, California.

Evan will be celebrating the release of his new book METAMORPHOSES: City Lights Spotlight No. 22 on Wednesday, April 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. PST in City Lights’s Poetry Room. Evan Kennedy will read together with Sophia Dahlin. The evening will be moderated by Garrett Caples.

Where are you writing to us from?

Standing in line to see Iggy Pop in Chicago. I want to get up front on the rail. It’s 35 degrees.

What is bringing you joy right now, personally/artistically/habitually?

Joy should be deferred until the end of a lifelong pursuit. Failing that, there’s Mozart’s string quartets dedicated to Haydn. Iggy Pop’s shirtlessness, the way his skin appears draped over his frame. A show of perseverance and frailty. It’s my birthday this month. Also, seeing my sister graduate divinity school.

Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?

Obviously Ovid—I hope he doesn’t mind I stole his title! I haven’t heard his name spoken where I go, so it’s a bit of publicity in those backwaters. I heard that queer Catholic poet John Wieners was asked a similar question. He answered “the Virgin Mary,” and the audience laughed… I’ve been interested in Apollo after years of studying Jesus. Metamorphoses is my pagan book.

Also crucial to the book’s exploration of identity’s transience is the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita (Eknath Easwaran’s translations and commentary). Another influence is Dead, the vocalist of black metal band Mayhem—the grain of his voice. He’d bury his clothes in his backyard, the Norwegian forest, and exhume them for concerts. Jackqueline Frost’s poetry continually reorients me.

What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others?

Laura Woltag’s Serviceable Clothes for Life in the Open has been the biggest recent eye-opener. Ted Rees’s Dog Day Economy. And Salman Rushdie’s Victory City, especially its demand that the imagination be permitted to flourish. Difficult to imagine a better way to shape a life.

If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?

How about a bookstore in San Francisco called Start-Up? Bestsellers are written by my poet friends, though I’m unsure what the city would look like if that happened. But I have to put my plans on hold. The doors of the Salt Shed are opening.

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