Mark Kuhar Speaks Out!

Markk Kuhar: Interview and Sampling of Poetry – Part 1

markk is a spoken word poet whose energy comes across the printed page with the enthusiasm of a zen beginner’s mind.

I first came across his work at back in 2001, when his postcards from America and American koan series as well as his generous welcoming response to new poets set him apart as a mentor as well as an extremely talented artist.

He’s been widely published on the net, in print, in anthologies such as “An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind: Poets on 9/11” (Regent Press); America Zen (Bottom Dog Press); “Action Poetry” (a LitKicks publication); “Cleveland in Prose & Poetry,” (League Press); “Infinite Tide (Studio Eight Books). He has published three chapbooks: “acrobats in catapult twist” (2003); “laughing in the ruins of chippewa lake park” (2004) and “e40th & pain: poems from deep cleveland” (2006).

He was a featured poet in the book Cleveland Poetry Scenes. He has read his work on WCPN, National Public Radio’s Cleveland affiliate, and he is the founder of the deep cleveland poetry hour, a live monthly spoken-word event. (For a fuller list of his doings and deeds click here.)

He’s published other poets, (how honoured I was to be published by deep Cleveland junkmail oracle) and has built up a network of literary projects some of which can be found on his site Deep Cleveland Junkmail Oracle ( Perhaps most visible is his tireless investment of energy to immortalize Cleveland poet D.A. Levy through the the d.a. levy center for progressive poetics & the art of the spoken word .

Since meeting markk and even teaching his work to high school students of mine, I’ve wanted to know more about him as an artist and an energetic force in the poetic world.

Let’s begin.

Full Name: Mark Steven Kuhar

Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Present Location: Medina, Ohio, USA

Favourite childhood memory: The night before Christmas . . .


Judih:  How would you describe yourself as a poet?

I consider myself a garage rock poet, a street poet, a subterranean poet, a junkyard poet. I’m not much on spitshine and polish. I love the spontaneous flow of words.

J: Do you have a favorite spot for writing?

I can write anywhere, but I do best underground. Basements, tunnels, etc.

J: Do you prefer to write longhand or by computer?

I would rather work longhand, but then I never transcribe them, so I just work on the computer mostly. It’s easier to tweak and submit that way.

J: How did you get started?

I began writing poems in second grade. My first one, which I still have, is about Springtime. It just sort of happened, like waking up one day and realizing that you like broccoli or something.

J: Have you ever been involved in writing workshops? Either as a participant or as a teacher? Can you say a few words…

I despise workshops. I just can’t get past the idea that other people are contributing to my poem. It’s not my poem if it didn’t come from me. I know these are helpful for some people, and I believe in the value of group energy, but just not with my poems.

J: Who has inspired you over the years?

Life in motion. d.a. levy, the Beat Poets, Turn-of-The-20th-Century Russian experimentalists. Universal energy.

J: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve done?

I kind of like “dreamfever cleveland.”

J: Can you offer it here?

It’s long. I can send it separately.(ed.note: magnificent poem available here)

J: Do you find it easy to sit down and concentrate?

Yes, when the music starts, I can write down the notes.

J: Do you have a method to your writing that you could share?

I believe in stream of consciousness, just tapping into the words that are flowing in response to thoughts, feelings, experiences, visions, sights, people, etc. Then after you capture the verbiage, you either let it stand as is (primitive word energy) or you can revise as you see fit.

J: Do you listen to music while you work? If so, who or what kind?

Not usually, but if I do, it’s Dylan or The Dead,

J: These days, are you connected to other poets?

Only by the internet. I have been in self-imposed exile for a few years. I need to get out of the cage more in the coming year. I did contribute to the 150-hour live poetry reading recently held in Elyria, Ohio at Jim’s Coffee House. I read for an hour.

J: Do you collaborate with any other poets or artists?

I have before, but not recently. It’s always a fun exercise when you know going in it’s a team effort. My favorite was “symphonie des phantasmagories,” which I wrote with Wisconsin (now New York) poet Andrew Lundwall.

J: You’ve done so many projects over the years. Could you mention a few- perhaps an unbelievably interesting one, a project that surprised you, an abysmal let-down,…

The first “levy lives!” event we did in 2001 was spectacular. So many of the participants have passed away, like Daniel Thompson, Jim Lowell and others, that it makes it that more special. I get disappointed regularly that more people don’t show up at the reading events around town.

About Spoken Word

J: markk, I watched you on video at The Lit in 2007. ( look like you’ve got total control of your face, your voice – your visuals. Tell me, how long have you been doing Spoken Word?

I’m a ham. I’ve been doing spoken word for about 10 years or so. I like the live energy and the spontaneous interplay.

J: Does being filmed intrude on your space?

Not at all. I’m a bigger ham if there’s a camera around.

J: Do you enjoy being on stage? Do you have any interesting tales from your live poetry readings?

I love being on-stage. I have never had any panties thrown at me, however.

Speaking out

J: I remember back in 2003/4 in the days of the prior incarnation of Litkicks when Levi Asher was talking about compiling an Anthology (later published as Action Poetry). You stated then that you felt it was important to be political. Is that an accurate memory on my part?

(If not, please put me straight) Do you feel it important to be political in your work?

I think I said “only poets can save the world” and/or “poets are the conscience of the world” and being political is an important part of that process, which I truly believe.

J: Which subjects in your life stir you – which social issues do you feel are most urgent to deal with?

I am focused on our spiritual quest, the search for “wellbeing and somethingness” to warp Sartre a bit. I love to focus on how tiny moments are actually huge momentous moments that we typically don’t realize at the time. Then of course the struggle to connect with others, because both the connection and the dislocation each make a different kind of poetry.

J: Do you think poets have the ability to shake up people’s minds? Examples – either anecdotal or a poem that you know has shaken up an audience.

Oh, Yes. Poets are coming at it from a different place, and that scares people sometimes. When Ginsberg read “Howl” for the first time he not only shook up and audience, but also a generation. Locally, I can remember how Terry Provost’s poem “The Terrorist” blew people away in the heady days after 9/11.

J: Is poetry a tool for therapy in your own life?

Oh gawd yes, if I didn’t have poetry and artwork I would implode into a pile of meat and bones. The energy has to come out somehow. If you don’t have a volcano you get an earthquake.

J: If so, could you offer a poem that you felt helped cleanse an especially raw node within you?

I wrote a poem called “the galloping road that leads out of ohio” which is about leaving behind my entire connection to Northeast Ohio in search of something larger. I never actually left, so my good-bye note of a poem is how I live out that experience.

the galloping road that leads out of ohio

what color is the galloping road that leads out of ohio?
red, the color of screaming alarm? blue, of descending sadness?
green, the color of lush growth? brown, of fecund decay?
does the road that leads out of ohio glow orange
like the third eye of a flame, of dying autumn oaks, melting foundry metal?

ohio is not the end of the world, they say
but in winter you might see it from there if you look long & hard enough
lean over its quaking ledge, peer below, vanish southward like swarms of moths
looking for the brightest of porch lights
the porch light is on tonight & crickets click,
mosquitoes seek blood sustenance, rabbits cautiously peer, raccoons stalk slowly in shadows, up the road in plowed fields green spikes appear
under creepy moonlight, bony tree branches
kick with skeleton legs, one by one living room lights
& tv screens fade to black & by default this entire town becomes mine

ohio you have a strange cadence, the beat
of rain on truck stop trailers, the thump of friday night football marching bands
the repetitions of factory machines in labor
robust backhoe crawlers trenching under bleached heat
the stirring of massive pots in penitentiary kitchens,
one kiss follows another in the dark of purring automobiles

ohio tell me what you have to offer me
your rolling maple hills? brick public squares?
dusty hardware store smiles? lost cities? lemonade afternoons?
snaking river basins? tall silos?
a great gray blotch of lake water with gravel beaches
& sad, seasoned people? your song of hope? the blank wonder in your eyes?

ohio your geography is not enough to hold me
you move slow, in a tranquil coma
i seek big thoughts, not a small welcome
i need temptation, tangible evidence
i want to hold the heat of bronze love
feel the sting of a scorpion moment in which
i strip away part of myself to find myself
i’ll never do that in your hollow hand
& i can’t convince you at all why this is true

ohio i need bright neon day-glo rainbow colors,
not your mauve & faded blue, wheat & ivory white
one day i will glimmer, glitter like
your own personal galaxy of tears,
all for you, something i could never offer you
lost beneath your dim woolen skies

i hear the sound, markk

Before I wrap up this part of the Interview with Markk, I’d like to offer ‘Live at the Ku Tiki Room” a marvellous spoken word piece. Enjoy. And see you after the break.

Live at the Ku Tiki Room

Go to Part 2!