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Humboldt County, California, United States
Donna Kuhn is a poet, author, dancer, visual and video artist.

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email me:donnaskuhn@yahoo.com



Andrew Lundwall reviews "purse no birds" 2004

recently i had the pleasure of the reading donna kuhn's when your eyes snow... she had sent it to me via snail mail... i was quite excited to receive it.... after
opening the package i had instantly unblinkingly sat down and read the chap in one sitting... with a pot's worth of coffee near me and an aura of mystery dotted
with exclamation points hovering about the atmosphere that day...

through collaborative projects with donna i have had the pleasure of getting to know her process of composition... and what i have become aware of is this:

donna is a master collagist...

i find ms. kuhn's work to be similar in some respects to the work of pierre reverdy with its juxtaposition of seemingly incongruous objects... materials.. O.
stuffings... we might say that the work presented here was written by an ultra-modern pierre reverdy... i don't think that would be entirely appropriate
though... because donna's style... her words.... are entirely her own... there is a playful child-like innocence sprinkled throughout the chapbook as well as a
primitive funhouse mirror eroticism which make for one hell of a read acrobatic... i am fascinated by the parallels found here... there's also this ghostly haunted
quality which i had found in my travels as i searched the chapbooks language it's meat as i really dove straight into this maelstrom of this twisted beauty of a

i would highly recommend this work to everyone and anyone...

 to order when your eyes snow by donna kuhn please visit foothills publishing for details on how to do just that...

� andrew lundwall

Esther Press
Review by James Wagner

Monday, September 06, 2004

Donna Kuhn
Purse No Birds
Chapultepec Press
30 pages
Softcover, $5

Interested in a kind of cut-up lunacy (the moon shows up often), Donna Kuhn, a visual artist, poet, dancer/choreographer and videographer creates poems with an off-kilter rhythm and a conversational tone. They have moments of direct address mixed with descriptive details of internal landscapes, self-questioning and phantasms of memory and/or longing, seemingly half-heard/half-seen.
Here is "cold rain" from her chapbook, Purse No Birds:

thighs like yam cream, cold rain
someone jumped out a window
i couldn't figure out why i was
writing u i forgot about lip
plumper thunder i was writing
u in the forest don't breathe
the paint dream fine whoosh
i have to go out yesterday
i asked for cold rain a vegan
throat i was writing i couldn't
someone jumped don't breathe
i have to cold rain thighs turn
i can i want to it was yr face
i was writing to rain figure out why
whoosh u in the forest i was
writ ing writing u

I think I am drawn to this writing for a few reasons. I like the insistent registers of talking and almost the need for over-talking, which confronts the basic anatomic problem of having multiple things going on in one's mind and having naturally, censoring, false starts/true starts, occur in the mind continually. Kuhn has made this editing-quality of thinking and speaking the place for her poetry. There is also a fixed element of forgetfulness and doubtfulness on display, which I deeply enjoy, as the things people don't know easily overwhelm the things people think they know. It gives voice, a welcoming voice, to uncertainty,
to bewilderment.

Amid the questions and moons, there is also dream-state diction, which can be humorously unsettling. Here's "egyptian liposuction":

i would rather give up almost anything.
have the fat sucked out of my whore.
u want to get liposuction in eqypt?
that is the where the whore is, thank you.
was yr dads name on her thighs?
was yr dads name almost anything?
my fathers name was green stuff.
its disgusting. i think to throw things.
i could swear its george burns.
what's with the fetuses?
what's going on? u said he's not dead.
dead people in a fancy drawer.
yes, please come here stuffing yr face.
i don't want to have almost anything.
i don't want to have my fat sucked.
why are we talking? i would rather give up.
death and thigh fat and stuff.
was my fathers name bernard's thighs?
when i'm in the tub i like to throw things.

Thankfully, Kuhn doesn't go for quick one-l iners in her work. One could see where she could easily enough. Her poetic worlds expand by not doing so, even when repeating certain words, and the result is a kind of exploratory focusing of attention toward the ongoing poem rather than the singular elements of the poem itself.

There are many imaginative, convulsive lines throughout the book, however. At random, from "can i put the bird back":

gentlemen, i cant carry that
im not any river in yr face

from "birdseye":

i curl birds like landlord skin

from "Poetry Dolls":

hello, i'm confused now
i shouldn't be, of course u can
use me for my body

from "make-up boats":

i'm afraid yr face can bark a song, a business

and from "baby toys":

thanks for the bizarre pot roast wheelbarrow


To which all I can say is: No, thank you!

Patricia Gomes Interview:

   1.Painter, poet, dancer. Tell me about morning's Donna: when you hop out of bed, is your very first daily instinct to pick up the brush, the pen, 
   or turn the stereo on?

   My very first instinct is to head for the cappuccino machine and nobody better get in my way. Then I try not to answer e-mails, erase spam etc.
   Then I write, pen or computer.

  2.You grew up in New York and you hated it; in your own words, you "got on a Greyhound with a $300 one-way ticket and headed west."How 
   old were you at the time of your escape?

   I was nineteen.

3. What was it about NY; did you feel as if your creativity was stifled there, in a place many artists consider a Mecca for their muse?

   I grew up in Queens and just knew I didnt belong there, dreamt of leaving my hwole childhood. I was just old enought to start exploring Manhatten 
   because I left for college in Upstate New York when I was 17. It was beautiful but freezing. I never liked the cold. I didnt feel the pull of Manhattan
   as an artist. Even though I took art and piano lessons, wrote, wanted to be an actress, I wasnt focused at that point, and just wanted to be somewhere
   beautiful, preferably in the country.  It felt more like my soul was stifled. I moved to San Francisco for awhile but have lived in less urban parts of the 
   Bay Area for more than twenty years now.

   4.You've always wanted to go to Paris; have you changed your mind considering the current state of tension between the US and France due to 
   the Iraq situation? 

   I have absolutely no desire to go to Paris whatsoever! Or even any part of Europe for that matter. I've always been interested in Australia. I like New 
   Mexico. I havent been out of Santa Cruz for four years.  I travel in my art.

   5.Has the ongoing war affected your writing? Have you written, even metaphorically, of war?
   I use cut-up technique for almost everything I write. So the old is blended with the new, including e-mails and dreams. So, war and politics is part 
   of the brew, but not consciously. One reviewer said she doesn't just write about nature, she writes about war! So i guess I write of war and it 
   affects me and my writing.  I have written consciously of the Holocaust and 9/11 where the poems came out whole and complete like they used 

   6.You've been compared to the Black Mountain Poets; have any of them been a source of inspiration for you? Which poet(s) have been your 
   strongest inspiration?

   Well, you got me to look at Robert Creeley again and I was surprised to see a connection there. I've been strongly influenced by Anne Waldman and 
   most of the Beat writers. I studied with David Bromige and was considering quitting writing for dance when he suggested I cut up my work. Then I 
   became interested in the Language/Experimental poets.

   7.Tell us about your first time reading your own work in public: were you terrified? Did you spend days planning your outfit?
   Did you rehearse a hundred times before hitting the stage?

   I used to move around so much, it was hard to remember the first reading. I think i had to take buses for two hours because I had no car. I won
   a contest to be in a anthology published by JFK University.  I got up to read a very short poem. I think I was very nervous, it wasn't like reading
   in a funky cafe. It was very professional and academic, intimidating but exciting. I love being on the stage and I have terrible stage fright at times.

   8.You've a thousand irons in the fire; what are you working on right now? 

   I am looking for a book publisher, writing everyday. I've been obsessed with altered books for months and am painting canvases
   rather than the usual works on paper.

   9.Of which poem are you most proud to have written?

   That's hard, I'm prolific. I'll say "white peaches" because you and Michael Landanyi like it so much.  He quoted from it in one of his poems
   and that was a first.

   10. I have to ask about your poem white peaches because it's my personal favorite—the opening lines are "go sharpen some clouds/city u could 
   turn the sky …" It has a 60's feel to it, very hippie Hendrix. Do you remember what brought this gem on?

   No, I don't remember.  I don't really wait for inspiration. I don't even remember writing it.

   11. You use color quite often in your poems; do you think that being a painter causes this rainbow-mirroring?

   It probably does, I find colors very soothing or stimulating. If I haven't done any art in awhile I really start needing
   paper and color. I think it's the only time I'm meditating. I'm very aware of what surrounds me and how it makes
   me feel, including color.

   12. A little free association?I'll name a color, you give me an adjective:

   brick red:  Ugly apartments in Queens

   daffodil yellow:  I want to draw with colored pencils and only colored pencils will do

   robin's egg blue: It's a relief when winter's over and its spring again

   forest green: It smells clean. I don't have a sinus infection and I want to be in the trees.

   13. Finish this sentence: "I hate editors who __scold me______________________!"

   14. Best advice you have for novice poets:

  U Write something everyday, even if it's scribbling in a journal. Don't wait for inspiration, work.

   15. Do you see yourself writing ten years from now, and if you can answer yes, do you think you'll ever write a memoir?

   Yes, I think I'll probably write for the rest of my life but I don't think I'll write a memoir. I'm not linear enough to write a short story.

   16.Name one subject you'll never write about.


   17.Picasso taught me that arcs bring forth bulls; who's your painting god: Picasso. You guessed right!

   18. Name your writing god(s), and don't limit yourself to just poets.

   Anne Waldman

   Stroking Castro's Beard - Available now at Lit Pot Press 
   US: $7.00  Overseas: $9.00 http://www.litpotpress.com/index1.html

   In the Wee Hours: The author's web site: http://pages.ivillage.com/pat305

Will Roby
Review of Donna Kuhn's <I>Up Bluen</I> (Baltimore, furniture press, $10)

In reviewing Donna Kuhn's latest release, Up Bluen on Baltimore's Furniture Press, I feel it would be impossible to speak the complete truth. That is, after reading her near-epic 45-poem cycle, I feel as though I have to be more clear in my own language than I have before, more precise. To say I love the cycle would be fairly accurate, but just saying "love" isn't complete, obviously. Perhaps I'm so twisted up because of how precise Kuhn is. Even what I consider the negative points of the book are interesting.

And where Kuhn is weak is where I'll start, mostly because I want to get it out of the way. Where the poetry is weak, and in Up Bluen it is not often weak, is where Kuhn refuses to fully extend an image, or to fully soak a line in the new (old) grammar she depends on. A quick example would be from the opening poem "at a certain time:"

i dont think i tell u
yr supposed to be somewhere
The tendency might be to "trim the fat" off some lines when poems go through the editing process. However, with this book I get the feeling that every second counts. Even the places where (as in the example above) I don't think the language is as much Poetry as in the rest of the book, I feel as though the poet is singing a song in which every note is necessary, if not just to get to the next note.

It cannot go without being stated at least three times--Kuhn is not writing in any common sense of grammar. That is to say, the book can only be called a cycle in imagery and content, not in form. Having said that, as a whole it relates, I believe, to a single image in the book: "picassos horses are birds only." In this one line is the beginning of every other poem--the idea behind the book, or maybe behind Kuhn's push to create in general. A brilliant notion -- at once speaking of the deceptive nature of art as a whole, a specific piece of classic art in particular, and ending the line blank so as to reference the entire work at once. A stunning climax to the book, found in the poem "picassos horses."

Where I love Kuhn's free use of language are those places where her words have taken on new meanings. This is not your English. As I said before, this is a new (old) grammar, ever mindful of the future, but with a fist in the pocket of Modernism. Her free hand with language can thrive inside poems that are best eaten whole, skin and all. From "chinese traffic:"

this earring was chinese traffic
yr word skin god husband
yr bird skin and yr face
and theres alot of raisins
I don't think these words would work together in any other order. She could be accused here of writing a poem by math, inserting previous lines into new equations, seemingly iterating a common and single truth throughout the book; unfortunately, I can't tell you what that truth is. I've only read the book ten times. It is that all-encompassing of a read.

Throughout the book are flung a series of almost-Fantastic images--mountains, pterodactyls, food (especially breakfast foods), ocarinas, Asia and Africa, coffee . . . in fact it almost reads as a new kind of fantasy, a sort of Eastern fairy-tale from a Western perspective. Here is a journal of things that did not occur but are beautiful. And I'm fine with that feeling. At time she is stunningly clear ("i felt an ocarina in yr mouth") and at times Dada ("red mistake dragon traffic") but always she is pointing backwards, to some poems fifteen pages ago. She is asking if you remember that.

An easy mistake would be to label her postmodern--the quick and tidy bursts of multi-culti influence, the pop-culture quick-edit of language, the uneasy author ("poetry is words i dont know"), but I feel Kuhn owes a great debt to Gertrude Stein, and shouldn't be lumped in with uneasy po-mos--Kuhn is like Stein, who wanted to grow words and eat them. Kuhn knows that words can be manipulated into fragments of lines that build together to create a poem--something so very difficult to know. When Kuhn writes, in the title track "up bluen", "yr animated colorado splits open omelette butterflies" she knows as well as anyone what she is doing. I am working along with her to come to a sense of . . . something. Words are individual units, rather than bricks in a wall called Line, though at the same time she is ever-conscious of the line as a whole.

i wonder if a human is cleaner than a dream i think i dont see not
like animals into my window i squint for i crawl around
Here, Kuhn is obviously taking advantage of an old-fashioned trick we sometimes call meter. Scan "i WONder if a HUMan is CLEANer than a DREAM". Play around with it. It is absolutely delicious.

I have read this entire book as a single unit of poetry more than I have done so for any other book. It is as if the book is a poem, and every title a line, and every line a footnote, a whisper, a toe in the door. Those who love poetry, those who love to read a book of poems with a pencil in one hand, those who want to plant a book in the ground and wait for it to come up living--buy and love this book.

Donna Kuhn's, When Your Eyes Snow — a review by AVQ Poetry Reviewer, Patricia Gomes:
My first thought upon cracking open Donna Kuhn's When Your Eyes Snow (Foothills Publishing © 2004) was, "Hey — here's a gal that knows her Black
Mountain School poets." Fans of BMS' Robert Creeley will embrace the poems between these covers and thank the gods for giving Donna Kuhn a
voice for the new millennium.
This is Kuhn's first print chapbook. Her electronic chapbooks are no bird on yr arm, published by Tamaphyr Mountain Press and red plastic mystic fish
ladle by Xpressed.

Kuhn's publication credits are extensive, and you have only to immerse yourself in her writing to know why. Reading Kuhn's work is akin to watching a
high-speed computer zip through complex equations. Her poetry is mind-boggling. These are not simple reads—easy to slough off and just as easily
forgettable. This is poetry for the thinking reader, lovers of poetry with discriminating palates.
Kuhn's poetry challenges you to look deeper into your psyche while examining hers as evidenced in the poem no moon in the window:
" … i am tongues
cars, ghosts, perfume on a crisis 
red pantsuit, red stars
red ocean moon understands
the mountain bald with no moon raining
i'm only following orders, understand …"
I understood—though I'll admit to it taking me a few reflective moments. I will also admit to studying crumbs of my blue for so long that I have the poem
committed to memory. Kuhn has the ability to pick out nuances that we'd like to think are hidden from public view:
" … she wants to be his face
painted primitive
silver hair like winter
just drink in the black dress
yr gone and she wants to be
the black eyes"
Once again: this is not a simple book. Nothing worthwhile is supposed to be simple. Feel the desperation, the raw passion in the closing stanza of the
moon burns quail:
"… i wish the moon falls like a mountain
to be faces, in yr driftwood
like its day or nite"
I've said time and time again that a reader will walk away from a poem with only as much as he or she needs to take; When Your Eyes Snow will have
you walking away with your pockets full. And, if that's not enough for you, to quote Ms. Kuhn: "go sharpen some clouds …"

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