Larry Kearney’s lyrical, probing voice has been an essential in American poetry for the last 50 years.
Kearney is one of those unsung cats who has been producing intelligent thoughtful snarly deeply musical poetry, deeply felt wryly wrought astute poetry of the first rank for decades for a select few—you’re in for a rare treat.
His ear is uncanny, tuned with perfect fidelity to culture high and low, to all the temptations of language and heaven. His curiosity about form and metric have turned his work into a palace of music; it’s a poetry so melodic and harmonically inventive as to approach the aural splendor of, say, Charlie Parker’s Birdland . . .
Poems that are gently (but not too gently) philosophical, yet direct and personal. They say what they need to say, steadfast, nothing wasted.
You are not likely to find this much openness to pain in much other poetry. He passes through major desolation, death-in-life, with nothing in spirit falling/nowhere, but with joy and without surrender, with surrender.
To listen to the vernacular sing, a whole greek chorus overheard in the street and remembered that night in bed, is for the old hopes for writing an honest poem (like “all these poems are”) to be rekindled.
The principle of Larry Kearney’s art is permeability. He doesn’t reference the world, he reveals it’s essential poetry. Nothing is not included.
Larry Kearney’s work has from its beginning taken on the most commonly unnoticed phenomenal presence on the set: harm. Good and evil are human trivialities. Harm is the Allshadow. To my way of thinking, Kearney and Jack Spicer, two noble kinsmen, stand alone among anglomundo poets in this regard, having noticed and thereby understood what was being asked of them.
Larry Kearney never wavers in his quest to understand the sapphires in the mud, or the import in each human footstep. His typical poem is very short, very long, brashly assertive and searchingly sotto voce, and over the years he has produced a corpus of irreplaceable poetry in which “time stops for minds.”
Larry Kearney was Born in Brooklyn, New York. He moved to San Francisco in ’64 and became involved with the group of poets centered around North Beach and generally and inaccurately described as the San Francisco Renaissance—Spicer, MacInnis, Duerden, Duncan, Brautigan, Stanley, Blaser, Kyger, Meltzer, Hirschman et al.
His closest friends in poetry were Jack Spicer and Richard Duerden, and Spicer’s insistence on being willing to, and capable of, saying what the poem wants to say when it wants to say it, endures for him as a working definition—poetry as the whole of the real—the seen and unseen, heard and unheard—the voices of the haunted living and the unsuccessfully dead.
He has published twelve books of poetry and three works of non-fiction, as well as a children’s book. Six screenplays and a book on films of the late forties are ready to circulate. Four volumes of memoir are complete, and two more in progress. In his role as ghostwriter he has produced five books, four of which have been published, and his own press, Worm in the Rain Publications, lists a hundred-and-forty-five titles in its catalog.
A partial list of places where he has read, lectured or taught would include the St Marks in the Bowery Poetry Project, Intersection, The Language Lab, The Kootenay Writing Society, Vancouver BC, the New College of California, San Francisco State, the University of San Francisco, Robin’s Books in Philadelphia, the Bolinas School and Dunham Academy.
The five noir novels written under the name Ben Gunn have yet to circulate among publishers. One of them, Hearts like Smoke, also exists as a screenplay and a fifth, called Martha, is in progress.
He currently lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Mouron-sur-Yonne, France.