Private: Introducing Kevin J. Kinsella

Kevin J. Kinsella is a poet, a translator of Russian poetry, and a doctoral student in comparative literature at CUNY’s Graduate Center, with a focus on early 20th century Russian poetry. His translations of Osip Mandelshtam’s poems have appeared in The Drunken Boat, 3rd Bed, and Archipelago.

In person, Mr. Kinsella is charming, and, if you’re paying attention, very funny. When asked to identify and quote a few lines from his favorite Russian poet, he says:

I have never gotten over my college boy crush on the “Handsome Twenty-Two-Year-Old” Vladimir Mayakovsky. But how could I?:

I shall go by,
dragging my burden of love.
In what delirious
and ailing
was I sired by Goliaths —
I, so large,
so unwanted?

–from “To His Beloved Self, the Author Dedicates These Lines,” 1916

He calls Robert Lowell “a poet of the highest order, a truly great American poet, of which we have so few.” He goes on:

It’s a shame that it took so long for the Collected Poems to come out but Frank Bidart, a former student and a fantastic editor in his own right, did an excellent job editing it. That said, Lowell was a very problematic man… depressed… alcoholic… belligerent… O.K., a real asshole.

Kevin grew up in Newport, Rhode Island, where he worked for a beachside french fry concession stand for 14 summers and mastered “ways of serving up fries that are frozen solid in the middle yet golden brown on the outside.” He has four brothers, including his twin brother, Keith, and they’re “sort of like the Irish Mafia.” (Newport has its share of big Irish clans, he explains.)

While Kevin was glad to grow up with someone exactly his age who shared his interests–he and his twin started a punk/hardcore fanzine and label together–there’s always been:

the thing about people comparing us: which is fatter (we both held this position), which is smarter, which is better endowed. Keith is a fantastic artist and I’m sad to say that he’s moving to L.A. at the end of the year, but the happy result of that is that we’re gonna start a bi-coastal blog (tentatively known as Red Domino) once he gets out there.

Kevin has lived in New York and Boston since leaving home, but he’s not unwilling to live elsewhere. I asked how he’d adjust if he and Dana (his girlfriend) moved to Savannah, Georgia, where he went to school. He said, “I’d probably follow her around to the bar she can’t shut up about… Pinkies. I’m sure I’d adjust fine, she’s told me some great stories about Savannah.”

These days he lives in Williamsburg, an area of Brooklyn often ridiculed for its relentless hipness. Williamsburg offers quick access to Manhattan via the L train, but when I asked Kevin for hipster L train stories he demurred. “I’m reserving my answer to this for your blog tomorrow. I have a little story,” he said.

People, do you appreciate what entertainment I bring you with this second-to-last Friday guest blogger?