Thursday arts pick: August Kleinzahler, poet

August Kleinzahler has been dubbed the “pugilistic poet” for his hard-boiled street-smart style that’s nevertheless laced with utterly lovely whimsy and thoughtful intelligence.

Kleinzahler reads from his work 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6, a guest of UT’s Michener Center for Writers.

The event is free and in  in the Avaya Auditorium in the ACES on the UT campus at the southeast corner of Speedway and 24th Streets.

Kleinzahler’s  Sleeping it Off in Rapid City (2008) won the National Book Critics Circle Award.  His newest book of poems is The Hotel Oneira, which the Guardian describes as “dreamlike yet savvy, among the most delightful flowerings of American poetry in our times.”

His prose also regularly appears in the London Review of Books and Slate, among others, and he has published a volume of meditative essays, Cutty One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained.

Among my personal favorites of Kleinzahler’s poems is  “The Dog Stoltz”  which manages to be absurd, surreal, gritty and endearing all at the same time.

Never one to mince his opinion, Kleinzahler added to his bad-boy reputation a few years ago when he rather famously took on Garrison Keillor and his cloying Writer’s Almanac show on NPR.

In his review of Keillor’s Good Poems anthology for Poetry magazine Kleinzahler wrote: “Everything that comes out of (Keillor’s) mouth in that treacly baritone, which occasionally releases into a high-pitched, breathless tremolo when he wants to convey emotion, is a sermon. The homily runs something like this: we are good, if foolish and weak, and may gain redemption through compassion, laughing at ourselves, and bad poetry badly read.”

Read the rest of Kleinzahler’s review here.


August Kleinzahler
August Kleinzahler

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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