poem index

About this poet

August Kleinzahler was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1949, and raised in Fort Lee, New Jersey. After high school, he attended the University of Wisconsin as an East Asian studies major, but dropped out of Wisconsin and finished his studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia where he majored in English and studied with Basil Bunting.

Kleinzahler is the author of eleven books of poetry, including The Hotel Oneira (FSG, 2013); Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (FSG, 2008); The Strange Hours Travelers Keep (FSG, 2004), winner of the International Griffin Poetry Prize; Live from the Hong Kong Nile Club: Poems, 1975-1990 (FSG, 2000); Green Sees Things in Waves (FSG, 1999); and Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow (FSG, 1995).

In a blurb for an early volume of Kleinzahler's work, Allen Ginsberg wrote: "August Kleinzahler's verse line is always precise, concrete, intelligent and rare—that quality of 'chiseled' verse memorable in Basil Bunting's and Ezra Pound's work. A loner, a genius." Writing for the New York Times, Timothy Williams described Kleinzahler’s work as “a modernist swirl of sex, surrealism, urban life and melancholy, with a jazzy backbeat. [His poems] are a reckless tumble of words mixing the high and the low, like a rummage sale after the death of someone who adored both Shakespeare and smut.”

His honors include a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lila Acheson-Reader’s Digest Award for Poetry, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Berlin Prize Fellowship, the Griffin International Poetry Prize, and the post of poet laureate in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

In addition to poetry, Kleinzahler has written two books of prose: Music: I-LXXIV (Pressed Wafer Press, 2009) and the meditative memoir, Cutty, One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained (FSG, 2004).

Kleinzahler has lived in San Francisco, California, for over twenty years. He has held a variety of jobs, including working as a locksmith, cabdriver, lumberjack, music critic, and building manager. While living in Alaska, he designed educational kits for native children at the Alaska State Museum. He has taught writing at Brown University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, as well workshops for homeless veterans in the Bay Area.




Selected Bibliography

Poetry

The Hotel Oneira (FSG, 2013)
Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (FSG, 2008)
The Strange Hours Travelers Keep (FSG, 2004)
Live from the Hong Kong Nile Club: Poems, 1975-1990 (FSG, 2000)
Green Sees Things in Waves (FSG, 1999)
Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow (FSG, 1995)

Prose

Music: I-LXXIV (Pressed Wafer Press, 2009)
Cutty, One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained (FSG, 2004)

The Strange Hours Travelers Keep

August Kleinzahler
The markets never rest
Always they are somewhere in agitation
Pork bellies, titanium, winter wheat
Electromagnetic ether peppered with photons
Treasure spewing from Unisys A-15 J mainframes
Across the firmament
Soundlessly among the thunderheads and passenger jets
As they make their nightlong journeys
Across the oceans and steppes

Nebulae, incandescent frog spawn of information
Trembling in the claw of Scorpio
Not an instant, then shooting away
Like an enormous cloud of starlings

Garbage scows move slowly down the estuary
The lights of the airport pulse in morning darkness
Food trucks, propane, tortured hearts
The reticent epistemologist parks
Gets out, checks the curb, reparks
Thunder of jets
Peristalsis of great capitals

How pretty in her tartan scarf
Her ruminative frown
Ambiguity and Reason
Locked in a slow, ferocious tango
Of if not, why not

From The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Copyright © 2003 by August Kleinzahler. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

August Kleinzahler

August Kleinzahler

August Kleinzahler was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1949, and

by this poet

poem
Green first thing each day sees waves—
the chair, armoire, overhead fixtures, you name it,
waves—which, you might say, things really are,
but Green just lies there awhile breathing
long slow breaths, in and out, through his mouth
like he was maybe seasick, until in an hour or so
the waves simmer down and then
poem

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

poem
How much meat moves
Into the city each night
The decks of its bridges tremble
In the liquefaction of sodium light
And the moon a chemical orange

Semitrailers strain their axles
Shivering as they take the long curve
Over warehouses and lofts
The wilderness of streets below
The mesh of it
With Joe on the front