San Diego-based P&W-supported poet Ilya Kaminsky, author of Dancing in Odessa and co-editor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, blogs about Southern California's Red Hen Press .
It is impossible to begin a conversation about literary presses and happenings in Southern California without instantly mentioning P&W-supported Red Hen Press, which is a great deal more than just a literary press. Red Hen’s Kate Gale and Mark Cull, both talented authors in their own right, have created something very special with Red Hen—it is a press, a community force, an organization behind several reading series in Southern California, an outreach program for writing in schools, and many other things.
One Red Hen book I read recently moved me, the new novel by P&W-supported writer David Matlin, “A HalfMan Dreaming”—a second installment in his epic trilogy about the beauty and violence of the American landscape. Lupe, a protagonist is taken from the world of rose farms and egg ranchers in post-World War Two America, from a town haunted by the Enola gay and the nuclear Bomb, to prison in Detroit. The book is as terrifying as it is gorgeous, with beautiful, sensuous prose.
Another book of contemporary prose that I have read in recent months that just won’t let me be is Garth Greenwell’s “Mitko”—winner of Miami University Press’s 2011 Novella Contest  (one of the very few such novella prizes in the country), this is a book about betrayal, forbidden desire, where sentence structures are as engaging as the plot lines and prose is musical, meditative and evocative; this is the story of an American who finds himself in Sophia, Bulgaria. A new take on Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” Greenwell’s novella is able to ask hard questions about loss, sexual desire, and loneliness. In Southern California, where I have heard many a writer complain of loneliness and absence of literary community, this work, somehow, particularly resonates. Garth Greenwell will read from his new workon April 16 at San Diego State University .
Photo: Ilya Kaminsky.