Michael Klein

Michael Klein is a writer who “sees the world broadly, deeply and clearly, and uses each word with ultimate care,” writes Liz Rosenberg. His first publication was the anthology Poets for Life:  76 Poets Respond to AIDS (1989), which received a Lambda Literary Award. Klein returned to the subject of AIDS in both of his subsequent anthologies, In The Company of My Solitude (1995) and Things Shaped in Passing (1997). It is also the focus of his first book of poems, 1990, for which he received a second Lambda Literary award.

More recently, he has received significant praise for his second collection of poems,

then, we were still living (2010). “In these roughly whispered poems,” writes Nick Flynn, “Klein somehow—miraculously—manages to evoke a past of empty suitcases, of ghosts, while being fully present in the moment, in the now.” September 11th, the Iraq war, the recession, the nationwide obsession with electronic gadgets—all of these come into these poems, which struggle to distinguish reality from illusion, past from present, ghosts from the living. Chase Twichell calls then, we were still living one of those books “that changes the way I read poems.”

Klein’s poems, essays and interviews (with Mark Doty, Jean Valentine and Adrienne Rich) have been published widely, and he has also published two memoirs, Track Conditions, a memoir reflecting on his alcoholism, childhood abuse, a strained relationship with his lover, and his experience as a professional groom for a Kentucky Derby-winning horse, andThe End of Being Known (2009), which explores sex, desire, love, friendship, incest—and the points at which these things intersect. Eve Ensler writes,“Klein enters his memories with a searing clarity steeped in tenderness. The stories create a fugue of whispers—mysterious, sexy, and demanding to be heard.”

Klein has held teaching positions at Sarah Lawrence College, City College of New York, Binghamton University, Manhattanville College. At present he is a professor in the Low-Residency MFA Program at Goddard College. During the summer he teaches at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he was a Fellow in Poetry in 1990. Klein currently lives in New York City with his partner, Andrew Hood.

Poetry Center Reading:

Spring 2011

The playwright

for Maria Irene Fornes

She was talking about the mystery happening to
the artist as necessary light. The subjects for her plays:
the poor,
people who want to learn something they didn’t think they could have.
Not what an American audience expects.
An American audience expects fame.
She covers her mouth when she has nothing to say.
Then she was talking about how she made people.
She said, you don’t know, but people know—people know what you’re like.
She didn’t know the character was homosexual until she finished writing
him, and how he would thrive in the world. Then, he thrived.

From then, we were still living (GenPop Books, 2010)

The massage

for Peter Harris

When you went into the neck, a tunnel happened
and I was crawling back to Uncle Ted and his prayer
to the butterflies—killed, framed, his.
Collection: what you borrow, in the order you took it, from the world.
The prayer I am hearing in your hand: lake, chimera, glow.
The prayer I am telling you: I feel the world as love
without the object.

From then, we were still living (GenPop Books, 2010)

The twin

I wasn’t supposed to have a body. I’m not from a family of bodies.
None of us were supposed to have bodies.
Then, the light left us off in the dark chamber
And each of us stood in the hall of her old heart beating.
My mother and my brother were there.
I was inhabiting a body of company.
Could I have my own, apart from the one I was inside
apart from the one floating next to me which looked like mine?
My soul was already confused.
It didn’t know how consciousness pulled the body
into the world or pulled it out of the world.
My soul was inside the inside.
All this, I was thinking, still lying there in my mother’s cocktail
only a light filling in a body
frail in the countermusic of my brother’s heart
who had another body but was in the same time of his body that mine was in.
Then, 48 years later,
my brother died and dropped his body on the bed.
And I carried the effect of him afterwards down some coiling stairs
into the streets of Boston—music, garments, literature, some beauty stuff.
When he was living, we used to dare each other.
I dare you, he said. I dare you. And then, he died.

From then, we were still living (GenPop Books, 2010)