Need I Say More?
Portraits, Confessions, Reflections
El León Literary Arts, April 2015
One of the most versatile writers of his generation, Stephen Kessler has distinguished himself over the last forty years as a poet, critic (“certainly the best poetry critic in sight,” according to Lawrence Ferlinghetti), translator, novelist, and a wide-ranging journalist. As editor he founded the international journal Alcatraz (1979-1985) and the Santa Cruz newsweekly The Sun (1986-1989) as well as The Redwood Coast Review (1999-2014). Following his first two books of essays, organized around themes of poetry and cultural criticism, in this third collection he gets more personal and political. Kessler’s keen eye, sharp wit and readable style—whether reflecting on Viagra, multilingualism, Miss America, fatherhood, Gertrude Stein, cooking, anarchism, education, Robinson Jeffers, Vivian Maier, the pleasures of gossip, a trip to Cuba, Steve Jobs, Charles Bukowski, shopping for a used car, or getting mugged in New York—keep his writings vividly alive. The eclectic essays in Need I Say More? have both the immediacy of the present moment and the lasting value of literature.
For sample essays, click here.
This book, a selection of cultural journalism from 1977 through 2010 and a companion volume to Moving Targets, addresses itself to a range of phenomena, artists, filmmakers, musicians and writers including the creative repercussions of September 11, Google’s Universal Library, the Watts Towers, Bob Dylan, Luis Buñuel, J. D. Salinger, Philip Roth, Harry Belafonte, Edward Hopper, Thelonious Monk, Charles Bukowski, Saul Bellow, Romare Bearden, Sonny Rollins, Henry Miller, and many others, famous and obscure. Its unifying theme is the central role of the creative imagination in provoking and enriching our apprehension of reality. (Sample essays can be found below.)
To read part one of an interview with Stephen Kessler by Zara Raab for the San Francisco Book Review , click here.
To read part two of an interview with Stephen Kessler by Zara Raab for the San Francisco Book Review , click here.
To read Roberto Ontiveros's review in the San Francisco Chronicle, click here.
For a report on Stephen Kessler's August 25 book launch at Bookshop Santa Cruz , click here.
The Santa Cruz angle: click here to read Wallace Baine's article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
For Richard von Busack's review in Santa Cruz Weekly, click here.
These personal and critical essays explore the lives and works of twenty-four key poets of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Examining his subjects in their social, historical and biographical contexts, Stephen Kessler reveals with unusual clarity and insight the essence of their accomplishment. For those familiar with these writers, Kessler's informed perspective will refresh and expand their understanding; for the uninitiated, he provides an illuminating introduction to a range of the most vital voices in the literature of our times.
The book includes portraits and appreciations of Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, William Everson, Bob Kaufman, Gary Snyder, Jack Hirschman, Charles Bukowski, James Laughlin, Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, W. S. Merwin, Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka, Wendell Berry, Billy Collins, Vicente Aleixandre, Fernando Alegría, Ernesto Cardenal, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Yehuda Amichai, Guy Davenport, and Czeslaw Milosz, as well as provocative essays on the art of translation, “antiwarism,” poetry and radio, and “seducing the muse.”
“I finally got around to reading your Moving Targets, and I must tell you it’s the best survey of West Coast poets I’ve come across, and you are certainly the best poetry critic in sight....I learned a lot from it!”—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in a letter to the author
“There’s never a dull moment here, and Kessler’s concern with the precision of language, which derives largely from his work as a translator, leads him to create really memorable phrasing....Moving Targets offers the rich harvest of Kessler’s intellectual labors, and proof, if one wanted it, that the art of cultural criticism is alive and vital today.”—Jonah Raskin, Rain Taxi
To listen to a conversation between Stephen Kessler and California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, on The Poetry Show, hosted by Dennis Morton, on KUSP radio, Santa Cruz, April 18, 2014, click here.
For Stephen Kessler's remembrance of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013) in Poetry Flash, click here.
personal, critical and journalistic essays, reviews, columns,
features and interviews have appeared since the mid-1970s in
such Greater Bay Area periodicals as the Santa Cruz Express
Francisco Review of Books
, The Sun
(Santa Cruz), Monterey
, Metro Silicon Valley
, East Bay Express
, North Bay Bohemian
and Poetry Flash
, of which he is a contributing editor,
as well as in The Redwood Coast Review
, which he edits.
SAMPLE ESSAYS BY STEPHEN KESSLER
Excerpts from personal letters to Stephen Kessler on his essays:
“Thanks very much for the clipping. I thought it
was great.” —Henry Miller
“You are an Ace.” —Charles Bukowski
“I know that writers are supposed to ignore what is
written about them. I am practicing, and can ignore praise
and blame fairly well. But I can’t ignore intelligent
understanding that doesn’t oversimplify. Jack [Shoemaker]
sent me your article…and I would be ashamed not to tell
you how deeply grateful I am for it.” —Wendell Berry
“It’s a wonderful feeling for an author—and
a rare one—to know that he has been completely understood
by a reviewer. Thanks for a most lucid and intelligent reading” [of
When Nietzsche Wept]. —Irvin Yalom
“I just got around to reading the essay [‘How
Marijuana Ruined My Life’], which was thoroughly delightful….Louis
Armstrong smoked several joints a day throughout his adult
life, which suggests that weed is not necessarily incompatible
with success, hard work, or creativity.” —Hendrik Hertzberg
“Thanks for sending your fine article on Bellow. I thought
your critical assessments were just right, and you gave a very
good account of the success of Herzog. Nice work!” —James
“What a wonderful piece of writing [‘The Integrated
Man: Harry Belafonte’s Cultural Politics’]! You
do justice to the man. Obviously we have both experienced the
innumerable ways in which Belafonte is an excellent subject
for contemplating race, music, and American life and culture.” —Henry
Louis Gates, Jr.
“I’m directing this to you via Poetry
that the editors will also be complimented for publishing what
is probably the most acute and wonderful critique of James
Laughlin’s life and work that he will ever receive. Bravo!” —Lawrence
“I am honored by your writing, its range and care, its
considered perception and the concern that has gone into the
background of it. It clearly comes from years of reading and
thinking about the poems and I am honored by your attention….it
is a summary that bespeaks the kind of reader we all hope exists,
and I am grateful to you.” —W. S. Merwin
Catamaran, The Redwood Coast Review, Poetry
Flash, North Bay Bohemian, East Bay Express, Metro Silicon
Valley, Santa Cruz Weekly, Monterey County Weekly, San Francisco
Review of Books, Bloomsbury Review, Review of Contemporary
Fiction, Exquisite Corpse, kayak, The Sun (Santa Cruz),
Santa Cruz Express, and others.