Best Local Poet-Crank

August Kleinzahler

It takes range to be well reviewed by both Allen Ginsberg and The Economist. In his latest collection, The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, August Kleinzahler maintains the scabrous, street-level energy we expect from a proper S.F. poet, without forfeiting an ounce of high wit or formal control. As a critical nonfictioneer, too, he has few rivals. Enemies, maybe. "People here will be cross with me for saying so," Kleinzahler wrote in a recent online diary for "If you don't love San Francisco -- volubly, utterly, and all the time -- you are an ingrate and turncoat. 'Go back to where you came from,' the good San Franciscan will testily volunteer." Sacred cows tend to get tipped when Kleinzahler's around. To him, Robert Lowell has "no ear," Nicolas Cage "can't act," and Garrison Keillor is bad for poetry. It's all lively, well-wrung, committed stuff; everything matters. When Kleinzahler received the Gold Medal for poetry in this year's California Book Awards, it restored the conventional wisdom that medals are things you win in battle.

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