Kevin Killian

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Kevin Killian
Killian Kevin by Daniel Nicoletta.jpeg
Born(1952-12-24)December 24, 1952
Smithtown, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 15, 2019(2019-06-15) (aged 66)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Alma materFordham University,
Stonybrook University
GenreLGBT literature
SpouseDodie Bellamy

Kevin Killian (December 24, 1952 – June 15, 2019)[1] was an American poet, author, editor, and playwright primarily of LGBT literature.[2][3] My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, which he co-edited with Peter Gizzi, won the American Book Award for poetry in 2009.[4]

Killian was also co-founder of the Poets Theater, an influential poetry, stage, and performance group based in San Francisco as well as the New Narrative movement in San Francisco.[5]

Life and career[edit]

Kevin Killian was born on December 24, 1952 in Smithtown, New York.[6] He was raised Roman Catholic and attended a Roman Catholic parochial school run by Franciscan friars.[7] He discussed these experiences in an essay in the edited work Wrestling with the Angel.[8] He was also the New York City spelling bee champion.[9] He attended Fordham University and graduate school at Stony Brook University in the 1970s.[6]

Killian moved to San Francisco in 1980.[10] A year later in 1981, he met fellow author Dodie Bellamy, both are bisexual.[1][6] The couple were married for 34 years.[1][11][12]

Killian admired the work of JT LeRoy (later to be revealed as the pen name and persona of author Laura Albert), and held public readings of LeRoy's work in 2000.[13]

As a beginning novelist, Killian tied for first place in the "Hamming Up Hammett" Dashiell Hammett bad-writing contest in San Francisco in 1988.[14] Author Dodie Bellamy featured him as a partially fictional character in her vampire novel The Letters of Mina Harker.[15] His poetry has appeared in the anthology The Best American Poetry 1988, the magazine Discontents, and the anthology Good Times: Bad Trips.[16] Killian once based a volume of poetry on the work of horror film director Dario Argento[17] (motivated to do so as a response to the AIDS epidemic). Killian also helped author Alvin Orloff polish chapters of his novel Gutterboys.[18] Noted author Edmund White described his work as "a kind of mandarin American casualness that is peculiar to … West Coast writers … a school of refined but deceptively offhand stylists."[19] The Village Voice called My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, which he co-edited with Peter Gizzi, "impeccably edited".[3] The work was also highly praised by The New York Times.[20]

Killian's 2009 collection of short gay erotic fiction Impossible Princess won the Lambda Literary Foundation Award for best gay men's erotica.[21] The first story in the collection, "Young Hank Williams," was written with Canadian cult writer Derek McCormack.[22] The collection was inspired by Kylie Minogue's album of the same name and, in turn, it inspired Conrad Tao's piano composition "All I Had Forgotten Or Tried To".[23]

Killian was founder and former director of Small Press Traffic.[24] He also edited the poetry 'zine Mirage.[25]

Killian died from cancer on June 15, 2019.[26][12]

Poets Theater and retrospective work[edit]

Killian's interest in theatre emerged in the early 1980s when he saw experimental plays by Carla Harryman.[27] Harryman and Tom Mandel subsequently cast him in their play Fist of the Colossus.[28] He co-founded the Poets Theater in San Francisco,[5] and acted in as well as wrote pieces for the group.[27] As of 2001, he had written 31 plays.[28] He co-authored the performance art piece The Red and the Green in 2005 with cinematographer Karla Milosevich.[29] In 2009, Killian and David Brazil co-edited a collection of Poets Theater pieces, The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theatre: 1945–1985.[5]

Killian was also active in bringing attention to important LGBTQ artists and writers of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. He held poetry readings of a wide number of influential poets and writers and participated in a number of panels, art installations, retrospectives, and memorials. For example, in 2008 he was a featured speaker at a University of Maine "Poetry of the 1970s" conference.[30] He and artist Colter Jacobsen also helped organize a tribute ("Kiki: The Proof Is in the Pudding") to the Kiki Gallery, an influential art gallery in San Francisco in the 1980s that featured the work of LGBTQ artists.[31]

Published works[edit]

Story and poetry collections[edit]

  • Little Men. Hard PressInc. 1996. ISBN 9781889097015.
  • Argento series. Krupskaya. 2001. ISBN 9781928650102.
  • I Cry Like a Baby. Painted Leaf Press. 2001. ISBN 9781891305665.
  • Action Kylie. In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni. 2008. ISBN 9781934639009.
  • Impossible Princess. City Lights Publishers. 2009-10-10. ISBN 9780872865280.
  • Tweaky Village. Wonder. 2014. ISBN 9780989598521.
  • Tony Greene Era. Wonder. 2017. ISBN 9780989598576.



Edited works[edit]

  • The Wild Creatures by Sam D'Allesandro (Suspect Thoughts Press, 2005) ISBN 9780976341116
  • My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (co-edited with Peter Gizzi; Wesleyan University Press, 2008) ISBN 9780819570901
  • The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985 (co-edited with David Brazil; Kenning Editions, 2010) ISBN 9780976736455
  • Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing 1977-1997 (co-edited with Dodie Bellamy; Nightboat Books, 2017) ISBN 9781937658656



  1. ^ a b c Bellamy, Dodie (June 20, 2000). "My Mixed Marriage". Village Voice.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ David Bergman. "Do We Need a Gay Literature?" The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. January–February 2010, p. 25; "Stars and Rainbows." San Francisco Chronicle. June 22, 2001, p. 5.
  3. ^ a b "The Best Books of 2008." The Village Voice. December 10, 2008.
  4. ^ American Booksellers Association (2013). "The American Book Awards / Before Columbus Foundation [1980–2012]". BookWeb. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2013. 2009 [...] Gizzi and Kevin Killian (Wesleyan University Press)
  5. ^ a b c Pohl, R.D. "Poets Theater at Burchfield Penney Art Center." Buffalo News. April 2, 2009.
  6. ^ a b c "Kevin Killian (1952–2019)". Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  7. ^ Wiegand, David and Holt, Patricia. "Books in Brief." San Francisco Chronicle. June 18, 1995.
  8. ^ Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men. Brian Bouldrey, ed. Reprint ed. New York: Riverhead Trade, 1996.
  9. ^ Carroll, Jon. "Jon Carroll." San Francisco Chronicle. May 22, 2008.
  10. ^ Bradshaw, Joseph. "Reviving Jack Spicer: An Interview with Kevin Killian." Rain Taxi. Winter 2008. Accessed 2010-05-29.
  11. ^ Buuck, David (January 1, 2014). "Dodie Bellamy by David Buuck". BOMB Magazine. Retrieved 2021-05-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ a b Elison, Meg. "SF author and poet Kevin Killian dies". The Bay Area Reporter / B.A.R. Inc. The Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  13. ^ Tudor, Silke. "Night Crawler." SF Weekly. May 10, 2000; Chonin, Neva. "An Enigmatic Writer Depicts Secret Worlds." San Francisco Chronicle. June 26, 2000.
  14. ^ "Would-Be Writers with Style, Dash Hammett Up in Contest." Toledo Blade. November 1, 1988.
  15. ^ Benderson, Bruce. "Book Review: The Letters of Mina Harker." The Village Voice. April 14, 1998.
  16. ^ Gilbert, Matthew. "Book Review: The Best American Poetry 1988." Boston Globe. January 27, 1989; Harmanci, Reyhan. "Flip That Bad Trip." San Francisco Chronicle. September 13, 2007.
  17. ^ Dark, Jane. "Fever Pitch." The Village Voice. August 13, 2002.
  18. ^ Ford, Dave. "Author Hangs Onto His Mad Cap As He Captures '80s Gay Scene in 'Gutterboys'." San Francisco Chronicle. August 13, 2004.
  19. ^ White, Edmund. "Sex and the City." The New York Times. February 21, 1999.
  20. ^ Garner, Dwight. "Sometimes Love Lives Alongside Loneliness." New York Times. December 24, 2008.
  21. ^ "22nd Annual Lambda Literary Awards." Lambda Literary Awards
  22. ^ "Derek McCormack & Kevin Killian, 7-14-09". Vimeo
  23. ^ "Conrad Tao's 'All I Had Forgotten Or Tried To' (2017)", 92nd Street Y, January 25, 2019
  24. ^ Schwartz, Stephen. "Alternative S.F. Bookstore Hits Tough Times." San Francisco Chronicle. August 27, 1992.
  25. ^ Feinstein, Lea. "Twenty-Five Artists, Five Spaces, Five Weeks, and a Multitude of Visions." SF Weekly. July 26, 2006.
  26. ^ "Kevin Killian". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  27. ^ a b Cook, David. "The Poets Theater Jubilee Brings Verse to the Stage." SF Weekly. January 23, 2002.
  28. ^ a b Sullivan, Gary. "Kevin Killian: Interview." readme. Spring/Summer 2001. Accessed 2010-05-29.
  29. ^ "Angel Street." The Oregonian. September 2, 2005.
  30. ^ Burnham, Emily. "Words Processing." Bangor Daily News. June 7, 2008.
  31. ^ Vogel, Tracy. "The Anger and the Ecstasy of Kiki Revisited." SF Weekly. July 9, 2008.

External links[edit]