New Narrative writer and poet Kevin Killian showcases work

New Narrative style writer Kevin Killian visited Temple Contemporary Jan. 29 as part of the Rachel Blau DuPlessis letures.

Attendees of the event listen to Kevin Killian’s lecture. | Margo Reed TTN
Attendees of the event listen to Kevin Killian’s lecture. | Margo Reed TTN

Kevin Killian started writing on his mother’s typewriter when he was 4 years old.

“When we would get the weekly magazines, like LIFE, I would type L-I-F-E,” said Killian, a San Francisco-based poet.

On Jan. 29, the New Narrative style writer visited Temple Contemporary as part of the fourth annual Rachel Blau DuPlessis Lecturer in Poetry and Poetics.

The lecture honors DuPlessis, a notable professor in the College of Liberal Arts at Temple. DuPlessis is considered a crucial scholar of feminism and poetics and received Temple’s Creative Achievement Award in 1999.

“We are bringing in a poet every year who does critical and creative work in the realms of gender and sexuality,” said Brian Teare, a professor in the Creative Writing program.

Killian is considered one of the original New Narrative writers. The writing movement, which began in San Francisco in the late 20th century, experiments with fragmented stories and other traditionally poetic styles of writing.

New Narrative also often discusses social issues with sexual identity and gender.

Killian is a senior adjunct professor of writing and visual and critical studies and has written three plays, several books of poetry and novels.

The writer is also known for his critical knowledge and biography on early 19th century poet Jack Spicer. Spicer was a poet who worked and identified with the San Francisco Renaissance in poetry.

Killian also wrote a book of short stories titled “Little Men,” which won the PEN Oakland award for fiction.

The novelist and poet opened the night by reading a short poem called “Coloring Book.”

The San Francisco-based New Narrative writer showcased his photography series titled “Tagged.” In this collection, Killian takes a caricature of male genitalia drawn by Raymond Pettibon, who is known for his design of the Black Flag logo.

“It is kind of this replication that protects their modesty in a way, but also calls attention to the thing they are trying to conceal,” Killian said.

After the showcase of the photo series, Killian read two longer poems: “Fetish Photography” – which may hint to his work receiving recent attention – and “The Birth of Pallaksch.”

Killian is also well known for his reviews of Amazon products. Ranging from novels to dog toys, he has reviewed thousands of online products.

“It’s as resolutely sweet as a [1920s] Irving Berlin standard,” Killian said in his review of “Gerber Tender Harvest 1st Foods Sweet Potatoes.”

Fay Ferency is a professor of the Introduction to Poetry workshop and used Killian’s work as a medium to instruct her class on different poetic styles.

Ferency said she wanted to show her class some of the New Narrative writers.

 “I find the Amazon reviews in particular, very fun and accessible, and it shows how anything could be a spark for writing,” Ferency said.

Killian’s most recent novel, “Spreadeagle,” was published in 2012. The novel looks into the lives of several gay characters and dives into the culture of the LGBTQ community.

“He’s a force of nature,” Teare said.

Emily Scott can be reached at

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