Argento Series, Kevin Killian, Pilot Press, 2023, 12 x 25 cm, 130 pages, PB, ISBN: 9781739364922
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Reprinted for the first time in over twenty years, Kevin Killian’s first book of poetry is an audacious, operatic dive into the darkest recesses of the AIDS crisis. 

In 1991, Killian reported he was “frozen, unable to think of a way to write about AIDS crisis”. A year later, his friend Kathy Acker suggested the “films of Dario Argento as a prism through which to take apart horror of living and dying in AIDS era”. The result is Argento Series, framing Killian’s real-life experience of losing his friends and lovers to the disease through the camera lens of Italian horror filmmaker, Dario Argento. Here, AIDS is cast as the horror film monster, wreaking cold, unfeeling chaos and destruction wherever it finds itself. 

Blending a chilling, impersonal observation of death with Killian's typical high camp, tenderness and O'Hara-like wit, the poems use unflinching honesty and gallows humour to devastating effect. In Argento Series, Killian finds expression for a crisis, and moment in history, that changed everything, forever.

Kevin Killian (1952-2019) was a San Francisco-based poet, novelist, playwright, and art writer. Recent books include Fascination: Memoirs and the poetry collections Tony Greene Era and Tweaky Village. He is the coauthor of Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance, the first biography of the important US poet. With Dodie Bellamy, he coedited Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing, 1977–1997. He died in 2019. 

Praise for Argento Series:

'Here is Kevin Killian, pounding with bloodied fists on Poetry’s door. My heart swells with pride as I claim his masterpiece for our beleaguered city. Argento Series is Kevin’s Lament for the Makers, a monument reaching half-way to the stars for our fallen stars and every big dream of the world lost to AIDS.’ 

— Robert Glück, author of Margery Kempe

‘Lush, tossed off and incisive, there's no other American poet who lived more vividly on the page of his time and its culture—center, edges all of it. Kevin's Argento Series is a treat and a complete fact. Grab this volume, fast.’

— Eileen Myles, author of Chelsea Girls

‘High weirdness, thorny beauty, cruel loss – it's all here, in Kevin's voice, and always will be. We will never stop needing this book.’

— Anne Boyer, author of The Undying

'At once tender and terrifying, Argento Series is a dispatch from the end of the world. Moving through Italian horror, memories of lost friends, and the long shadow of the AIDS crisis, Killian finds a language for the impossible. This collection is as urgent and vital as ever, seeing the light of day after being unobtainable for far too long.'

— Sam Moore, author of All My Teachers Died of AIDS 

'What Jackson Pollock said of himself, I will say of Kevin Killian: he is nature. Argento Series takes its title and frame from the Italian horror film maker Dario Argento but the effect is 100% Killian. Which is nature itself. Argento Series was written out of the carnage of the AIDS crisis. The poems are haunting, somnambulant, aggressive, plaintive, uncompromising, sullen, hilarious, brilliant, and outraged, creating a dynamic theatre of true horror. Argento Series now takes its place alongside the other queer masterworks of San Francisco poetry, including: Robert Duncan’s The Opening of the Field, John Wiener’s The Hotel Wentley Poems, and Jack Spicer’s Language. It’s important we have this title available again for new readers.'

— Peter Gizzi, author of Sky Burial

'Through the fake horror of Dario Argento’s giallo movies, legendary writer and editor Kevin Killian captures the true horror of living through the AIDS crisis. ‘The poetry was in the gore,’ Killian writes, and these poems are unsane, trembling, lesioned, possessed; horrorcore whimsy, rotting camp. With all the mordant, adrenal wit of a slasher movie’s final girl, his Argento Series is a survivor’s story, vividly retold.’

— Diarmuid Hester, author of Nothing Ever Just Disappears

Foreword by Derek McCormack
Cover artwork by Hedi El Kholti
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