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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Poet Steve Kowit Joins SHJ as Poetry Editor

Serving House Journal is proud to announce that Steve Kowit has agreed to come on board as Poetry Editor. Kowit is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Lurid Confessions, The Dumbbell Nebula, and the popular poetry teaching manual, In the Palm of Your Hand.

Kowit’s 2006 collection of poetry entitled The Gods of Rapture: Poems in the Erotic Mood was praised by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins as “poetry that marvelously inhabits the adjoining rooms of the past and the present.” Montana’s Poet Laureate Sandra Alcosser said, “The Gods of Rapture could provide an erotic daybook of the year. Pace yourself and prepare to be seduced.”

Steve Kowit’s work appears regularly in magazines and journals and has been read by Garrison Keillor on National Public Radio. Kowit is the recipient of a National Endowment Fellowship in Poetry. He is the winner of two Pushcart Prizes. His latest collection of poetry, The First Noble Truth, won the Tampa Review Prize for Best Collection of Poetry for 2007. Of this collection, Charles Webb, author of The Graduate and numerous other works, said: “The First Noble Truth is a green oasis where the water tastes sweet and makes me laugh, makes me feel warm and comforted, glad to be alive.”

Webb’s quote is apt. If you read Kowit, you too will feel warm and comforted. You will feel glad to be alive. And we might add: you will feel intellectually engaged and enlightened and you’ll want to go on-line and buy all of his books, and you won’t be sorry if you do. Kowit is one of the great poets of his generation, and we are very fortunate to have such a huge talent as a member of our editorial staff.

By Duff Brenna, Founding Editor

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In Praise of Impurity: On Literary Interviews

by Thomas E. Kennedy, Contributing Editor

The purist will insist that a book, a poem, a story, an essay must stand alone once its author has gone public with it. The purist wants no apology, no explanation. The purist of the purists don’t even want a bio note or a photo.

I’m not a purist. I’m not even pure. If I’m pure at anything, it is at being purely impure. And when it comes to literature, I crave all those extras—the footnotes, the prefaces, the introductions, the afterwords, the bio notes, the photos, even the blurbs, and the quotes from the reviews. All of it continues to hold me in its spell; even if wanting more than only the poem or the story itself might seem beside the point, I will continue to want more. I will eat the poem and the commentary, too, gobble down the bio notes and proceed to the photos, peering intently at the reflected faces of the authors for whatever else I might find there.

And I’m crazy about interviews, too. I’m crazy about reading interviews and love to be interviewed as well. I love to hear authors talk about everything from what kind of pencils they write with, to what they read, to where they best like to sit when they write, to whether they write drunk or sober or high or in between, to whether they have sex when working on a novel. (Hemingway claimed that he didn’t because the same motor was involved in both activities—poor Papa!)

I want to hear it all! Just like Eliot’s Lazarus come back from the dead to tell us all—I’m all ears! Tell me, Lazarus! Tell me every single detail!

And in this age when people no longer write letters, I believe that interviewers fill a gaping need by getting authors to go on record with their thoughts about their art, their thoughts during the process of creating their art, the extra-literary factors that impact upon the literary factors. How much they get paid—or how little. Whether they’re involved in choosing the covers of their books. Whether they seek advice from writer friends, from lovers. Whether they listen to music when they write—and if so, which music. Whether they write everyday and for how long. I want to hear it all!

So I am here to praise the interviewers—the John Griswolds (, the Derek Algers (—all the great interviews that appear in all the great literary magazines—the Writers Chronicle interviews, the Paris Review series, the Glimmer Train series—and indeed the interviews that appear in text or via links in the new issue of Serving House Journal—Issue 2 includes interview extras with Terese Svoboda, Jeff Lindsay, Mathias B. Freese, Walter Cummins and Laura McCullough.

Come to think of it, there’s also a great one by John Griswold with Duff Brenna to which there is a link from the new issue. The occasion for that interview is the republication, by New American Press, of Brenna’s second novel, The Holy Book of the Beard—a novel wildly praised throughout the United States when it first appeared nearly fifteen years ago and which should never have been allowed to go out of print.

Praise to Griswold for showcasing it on his blog! Praise to all the interviewers!

I just can’t get enough of this holy impurity!

About Thomas E. Kennedy