So many people who intersected with Kevin Killian during his lifetime have wanted a way to support his legacy. Friends and family are organizing this support of his burial in an epic and site-specific location, Cypress Lawn , as well as the facilitation of managing his estate and archives.
NOTE: We've raised the goal just a bit so that Dodie can hire an actual assistant to help with archiving and organizing. Any extra funds will help smooth Dodie's transition during this difficult period. I know Dodie is so touched by the generosity and grateful that so many people have played a role in securing this very special bit of real estate for Kevin.
For so many, Kevin
needs no introduction, but bear with this for the sake of others not lucky enough to know him. Kevin Killian died from a catastrophic reaction to chemotherapy in June, 2019. Considered a pioneer of queer literature, Kevin Killian was a central figure of San Francisco’s New Narrative movement and an active poet, novelist, playwright, art critic, scholar, prolific Amazon reviewer, and fan. His impact in the world was felt deeply by communities in his home of San Francisco and beyond, with scores of tributes and remembrances shared in print and in private between friends. His professional accomplishments are many—as a writer, professor, and scholar particularly of Jack Spicer; but his personal accomplishments no less important—as an irrepressible fan of others, famous and not; as a confidante to friends new and old; as a husband and collaborator with his wife Dodie Bellamy; as an astute advisor and editor to students and peers; as a constant presence anywhere interesting things were to happen; and as a friend to so many.
Kevin wrote and edited poetry and short story collections—including I Cry Like a Baby (2001), Action Kylie (2008), and Tweaky Village (2014)—essays, three novels, Fascination
(2018), his memoir
, and more than fifty plays for the San Francisco Poets Theater on topics ranging from AIDS to the films of Whitney Houston. All funds raised will go directly to his wife Dodie to handle the numerous costs associated with the unexpected and untimely death of a loved one, including procuring the Cypress Lawn niche for Kevin, the memorial plaque, and associated funeral costs as well as the legal and organizational costs related to the estate. Read on to learn about Kevin's connection to Cypress Lawn and Jack Spicer: Kevin and Jack Spicer
His long-time engagement with the queer San Francisco poet Jack Spicer
resulted in copious readings and talks, and two co-edited books—an anthology and biography
, and continued with another anthology and a collection of letters Kevin was working on at the time of his death.
(Jack Spicer with the "Head of Spicer," late 1950s)
Kevin was instrumental in bringing Spicer's work to a larger audience, and many people sought out Kevin in their own Spicer research upon visits to San Francisco. Kevin would often tour scholars, students, and friends to Spicer-related sites over the years, culminating in visits to Jack Spicer's own grave
after Kevin learned of its existence in 2014:
“Find-a-Grave” tells you where, how to get in to the place, what row these people are in and how many plots down from the fence, etc! But there was the listing for Spicer, apparently entered back in June 2013, by a cemetery fan who walks this cemetery trying to find out who is buried here. Eddie Fisher is here, so is William Randolph Hearst—the Hearst of San Simeon. And apparently “John Spicer” in a columbarium. I could confirm this occasion and thus satisfy a huge longing in my own heart because, as I hope you have seen, for a man like me there’s no closure unless I go to the grave and fall down on it, as I did to John Ford’s grave in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, and embrace spectral memory as a living thing in my arms."
(Spicer's niche, his name in the middle row, one from the bottom )Cypress Lawn
Through Kevin, Spicer's grave became a site of pilgrimages; the aged step ladder serving as a stage for readings and conversations, bathed in colored sunlight from the Tiffany glass above. It has become a place of communion for Kevin and scores of other poets, Spicer fans, and friends.
Anyone who ventured to Cypress Lawn was taken by the experience, always performative and ritualistic, whether a simple reading or a photo shoot. Daniel Katz describes a typical visit: "Yet soon enough there I was, Kevin leading me down and around and into the iridescently green columbarium where Spicer’s ashes lie in a kind of collective drawer—a rectangular, bronzefosse commune. Kevin brought over a tall step-ladder so I could sit beside Spicer’s mortal remains, have my picture taken, and, of course, read a couple of poems, which he recorded me doing. We also explored the extraordinary space of the columbarium with its elaborate stained glass ceilings and domes, bathing the halls in varied and remarkable hues."
Katy Bohinc shared, "I loved talking about graves that day with Kevin, the history of graveyards in San Francisco and all the special ones we drove by near Spicer’s. On the way home I think I asked him what he thought about death and as I recall he paused, and thought, took a breath and said he didn’t think about it that much and wasn’t afraid. I think that’s why I loved Kevin so much. He was fearless with joy, elegance, artistry and beauty."
(Kevin's photo of Katy Bohinc during their visit)
Jason Mitchell writes "At one point we stopped beside a glen and had our picture taken together. I remember Kevin saying to me, 'Let’s pretend we’re English Romantic poets, J. I’ll be Coleridge and you can be Wordsworth!'" Karen Willis speaks of her visit "as close to a Byzantine ritual as I have come and will ever come." David Kuhnlein writes "The green light in Spicer’s tomb felt like liquid around me while my two friends, Add and Kellie, read Spicer’s poems to his ashes in an adjacent room. Their muffled words complimented the feeling that I was underwater, and the sensuality of my slowed limbs haunted Kevin’s lenses like the specters who wrote Spicer’s poetry."
(A quote written by Kevin on the van of Walter Skold (whose hobby of visiting poet's graves brought Spicer's grave to Kevin's attention) during their visit to Cypress Lawn.)
(Spicer's niche with the red and white flowers, and niches where Kevin's ashes might lay)
Spicer's ashes lay in a pauper's grave, sharing a high niche with a dozen others in a small room in the most beautiful but mostly disused part of the network of columbariums. The building is kept under lock and key (the management fears vandalism of the Tiffany stained glass), the cool light and dark bronze a contrast to the brightness of the lawn outside, dotted with marble crypts (with more than one celebrity inhabitant). A few empty niches remain near Spicer, as no one has been placed there for decades. What a perfect place for Kevin to stay for eternity, in this grand space—the setting for some perfect noir film, or poet's theater production, or furtive literary climax. In this spot of his own "spectral memories," he will have the company of his beloved Spicer, and the trickle of visitors who will now be presenting themselves to him.
(The main columbarium, outside Spicer's and Kevin's room)
There will be no memorial event at the site, although a public memorial is planned for Sunday afternoon, August 25, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. All supporters will be notified when the arrangements are finalized and Kevin is ready to receive visitors, so they can make their own plans to visit.
There are too many stories of these visits to include here, please feel free to leave any remembrances in the comments for us all to read. I am a close friend to Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy and working directly with the family, who will receive direct disbursement of the funds.