Friday, March 14, 2008

A Literary Couple

What a contrast: she writes poetry, and he writes about serial killers.

Kimiko Hahn and Harold Schechter are a fascinating, kind and generous literary couple who've been visiting us from New York for the past two days (they both teach at SUNY, Queens College).
Kimiko gave talks and readings on Wednesday and Harold last night.

Kimiko told me--kind of tongue-in-cheek--that it was necrophelia that brought them together. She had been teaching the book by Jeffery Dahmer's father in one of her frosh courses. When someone told Harold--the author of many historical books about psychopaths--what his colleague was up to, he just had to talk to her. (Kimiko was teaching the Dahmer book because she knew there were some frosh who'd never read a book the whole way through, and her goal was to find a book they wouldn't put down.)

Kimiko's poetry is fresh and intriguing. In her past two collections, she's been playing around with her own version of the zuihitsu, which she says is like a fungus: a fungus is its own species (neither plant nor animal) and a zuihitsu is also its own thing, not really poetry or prose. It's random thoughts woven around an organizing principle. It's miscellany, sort of stream-of-consciousness, and can contain lists and fragments. It's intuitive, illogical, spontaneous, ambiguous, contradictory and playful.

Harold is interested in the mythical creation of "monsters" in popular culture (including popular culture of the 19th century). He's written a whole series of books about murders that became famous in their day, exploring why certain crimes ignite the imagination (while others that may be even "more horrible" drop away from the headlines).

Harold wrote an episode of Law & Order about a (homosexual) murderer whose defense involves that he was influenced by television violence. (I
don't watch the show, but I figure someone out there who reads this may have.)

Being around both of them has been fun and inspiring. I'm now ready to attack my own writing today.

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