Kevin Spenst, a Pushcart Poetry nominee, is the author of the poetry collections Ignite, Jabbering with Bing Bong, (both with Anvil Press), and over a dozen chapbooks including Pray Goodbye (the Alfred Gustav Press), Ward Notes (serif of nottingham), and Flip Flop Faces and Unexpurgated Lives (JackPine Press). His work has won the Lush Triumphant Award for Poetry, been nominated for both the Alfred G. Bailey Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, and has appeared in dozens of publications including Oratorealis, subTerrain magazine, Prairie Fire, CV2, the Rusty Toque, BafterC, Lemon Hound, Poetry is Dead, and the anthology Best Canadian Poetry 2014. He is a cohost at Wax Poetic on Vancouver Co-op Radio, part of the organizing team at the Dead Poets Reading Series, and a poetry ambassador for Vancouver Poet Laureate Rachel Rose.
A finalist for the Alfred G. Bailey Prize and winner of the Lush Triumphant Award for Poetry, Ignite is a collection of elegiac and experimental poetry powder-kegged with questions about one man’s lifelong struggle with schizophrenia. Born into a strict Mennonite family, Abe Spenst’s mental illness spanned three decades in and out of mental institutions where he underwent electric shock treatment and coma-induced insulin therapy. Merging memory and medical records, Kevin Spenst recreates his father’s life through a cuckoo’s nest of styles that both stand as witness and waltz to the interplay between memory, emotion and all our forms of becoming.
Jabbering with Bing Bong: Kevin Spenst’s much-anticipated debut collection of poetry opens as a coming-of-age narrative of lower-middle class life in Vancouver’s suburb of Surrey, embroidered within a myriad of pop-culture and “post-Mennonite.” Jabbering with Bing Bong interrogates memory and makes its way into the urban energies of Vancouver. Language is at play with sit-com sonnets and soundscapes of noise; videogame goombas and an Old-Testament God; teenage longing within the power chords of heavy metal and the complicated loss of a father to schizophrenia. Jabbering with Bing Bong, chronicles the heartbreaking and slapstick pursuit of truth in the realms of religion, mental health, and poetic form itself.
PLUGGING INTO LITERATURE ON THE WEB
Since 2003, I’ve maintained a literary presence online through websites, blogs, sneaky email practices and now twitter. I began writing fiction online in October of 2003 wherein I wrote one story everyday for a year. The following year I took the daily writing experiment and combined it with visual art, using a painting or drawing from a contemporary artist with an online presence as inspiration into a piece of flash fiction.
My third year of writing online involved a subterranean distribution system whereby I emailed stories to a global omnium gatherum of people (artists, writers, friends, etc) who then printed them up and hide them in the nooks and crannies of their world. My email address was at the end of each story along with a plea to contact me with the discoverer’s whereabouts.
In 2007, I self-published a small sampling of the stories that I’d emailed out. “Fast Fictions” was launched with a fifty-venue, one-day only reading tour of Vancouver. As the stories were extremely small and plentiful, I figured a series of ridiculously short readings would be an appropriate book launch.
In 2008, as an experiment in truth, falsehood and fiction online I once again wrote a story everyday but this time under a completely different pseudonym each and every day. In turn, I received hate mail (when I pretended to be Yann Martel), fan mail and questions for my professional medical advice.
Photos by Brian Campbell