If you’ve been to a reading by poet, librettist, and former CalArts faculty Douglas Kearney (Critical Studies MFA 04), you know that Kearney doesn’t merely recite and read poetry. He performs it, lives it, and breathes it on stage or at the lectern with an energy that’s more akin to hip-hop and jazz with varied rhythms and turns of phrases.
Kearney has published seven poetry collections, including Sho (Wave, 2021), this year’s National Book Award nominee, and Buck Studies (Fence Books, 2016), winner of the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize, the CLMP Firecracker Award for Poetry, and the California Book Award silver medal for poetry. His collections have addressed themes of Black subjectivities and experiences, masculinity, and fatherhood and are characterized with rhythmic use of Black vernacular and experimental layout and typography.
A Foundation for Contemporary Arts Cy Twombly awardee and Cave Canem fellow, Kearney currently teaches Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. In October, he returned to CalArts as a visiting guest artist and lecturer for the Creative Writing Program’s Writing Now Reading Series.
For the 24700 podcast, we caught up with Kearney before his lecture and chatted about his book, Sho, the performance of poetry, his writing influences, and teaching.