Bay Area Lit Scene: Studio One Reading Series February, 2015


What: Studio One Reading
Where: Studio One Art Center, 365 45th Street, Oakland, CA
When: Doors-7:00, Reading-7:30
Who: Aaron Kunin and Andrew Maxwell
Contact: Casey McAlduff at

Review by Kevin Kvist Peters, Feature Writer

The reading was set in one of the comfortable gallery rooms of the Studio One Art’s Center, opening its doors at 7:00 for the audience to come in and enjoy some food and refreshments before the reading began.

Two poets read for the event, Aaron Kunin and Andrew Maxwell. Aaron Kunin is an assistant professor of English at Pomona College and the author of three books of poetry including Folding Ruler Star: poems, The Sore Throat & Other Poems, and Cold Genius; and also a novel titled The Mandarin. Andrew Maxwell is the co-director of the Poetic Research Bureau and author of Peeping Mot and Candor Is The Brightest Shield, and has also published numerous chapbooks and pamphlets.

Aaron Kunin was the first reader. Immediately into Aaron Kunin’s reading, I was struck by the strangeness of Aaron Kunin’s mind. There is a clear sense that he is writing out of necessity, and when he reads, it is as if there is only the words in the room, or that he wasn’t present with us during the reading at all. Even though he had the text in front of him, he was constantly closing his eyes, furrowing his brow, seemingly in pain searching for the feeling he was expressing on the page. His reading felt like a meditation upon a unique mind, with long investigations on subjects typically glossed over or taken for granted such as laughter and tickling. Even with his impersonal reading style, I felt so invited into this odd realm that expressed so many variations of different thought-experiences. It was endearing and at some moments quite funny because of the oddities. One of the more interesting aspects of his reading was his delivery, which, with his unexpected pauses, gave a fractured rhythm. Also, his decision to read a piece by Mary Roth and Walter Raleigh during his reading was a nice change of pace.

Andrew Maxwell’s poetry shared a kindred spirit with Kunin’s, in that his selections were very cerebral and meditative, taken mostly from his newest collection Candor Is The Brightest Shield. Although Maxwell was much more present, there was momentary banter with the audience. Maxwell had a conversational cadence, yet the poetry stumbled, as if he was curious of the meaning of his own thoughts, or he was searching for something hidden in the language that he was using. The poems and the delivery of the poems denoted a deep uncertainty: “I must have somewhere to go.” During the reading, I was left wanting to follow these private conversations further and further down the labyrinth. I was comfortable embracing each poem’s interior logic and sometimes metaphysical voice.

The Studio One Reading series is held on the first Friday of each month, located in Temescal, Oakland. It is housed at the Studio One Art Center, and curated by Casey McAlduff (who, full disclosure, is my roommate) and Sheila Sumner (a feature writer for Omnidawn).