Kelli Stevens Kane Sep01

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Kelli Stevens Kane

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This Pittsburgh poet is gracing stages around the country and turning her moving written words into a performance art. Kelli Stevens Kane brings her words to life in captivating shows. She loses herself as her words float through the audience before settling down and sinking in.

Inspired by the honesty of children, Kelli Stevens Kane started writing poetry in 1996 when she was a preschool teacher. She remembers, “Listening to young children speak–their honesty combined with their naturally inventive use of language–was the amniotic fluid in which I became a poet.” 

That “amniotic fluid” developed into more than readings, Kane transforms herself on stage to transcend language.  In one  poem she becomes a ballet dancer.  “I wanted to give myself and everyone else permission to share whatever we’ve got,” she says. “So often we shrink ourselves by trying to fit in.  I believe that poetry is closer to wilderness than it is to trimmed hedges and manicured lawns. If we’re able to fully surrender to that wilderness in the work and in performance, it liberates everyone. It feels more supernatural than natural actually.”

Sometimes she struggles with words and feels she’s lost on an unending journey and then something magical happens. A breakthrough.

Here’s an excerpt of her work:

And two wooden birds watched me with their right eyes

and a wooden man beat his drum beside me

and a wooden cat kept watch on the other side

and I was held in place by wooden floors

and I was tucked in by wooden doors

and daylight was framed by a wooden window

and if I could see a bit of glory I would

and if I could talk about it any more I would.

I asked her which poet she most admires. Her response is a beautiful poem itself,  “The one who, with or without awards or recognition; with or without support or understanding from peers and family; and in spite of everything it takes emotionally, financially, and spiritually to make the life of a poet work, even for one day, on any level; returns to the blank page with no map, and tries again to write a poem because there’s no other path.”

Kelli Stevens Kane’s poetry appears in numerous journals including The Mom Egg, Kweli Journal, and Mythium Literary Journal. She’s a Cave Canem Fellow, a Flight School Fellow, an alum of the Callaloo, VONA, and Hurston/Wright poetry workshops, and of a Norman Mailer Center playwrighting workshop. She’s the author of a poetry manuscript, and an oral history manuscript about Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Find her here on the web.

Kelli Stevens Kane, 4.9 out of 5 based on 19 ratings