"Try to go beyond it."

Photograph by Mark Mawston

An Interview with Stephen John Kalinich

Stephen John Kalinich is a prolific poet and songwriter who wears eye catching hats and the color orange on an almost daily basis. He is warm and nurturing to almost everyone in his life, including people he meets in restaurants and on the street. He is also an amazing friend, and it so happens that his friends, Brian and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, were also his collaborators. It is not coincidental that two of the songs he wrote with Dennis, “LittleBird” and “Be Still”, are featured on The Beach Boys’ 1969 album, Friends. Kalinich has written for Paul McCartney, Randy Crawford, Mary Wilson, and is currently working with legendary Nashville musician/producer Jon Tiven (who’s worked previously with Alex Chilton, Frank Black, Don Covay) under the name Yo MaMa. They put out the gloriously primitive Stones-meets-Stooges opus Symptomology, which Andrew Loog Oldham lauded as one of the best albums of 2012. A practitioner of Transcendental Meditation for many years, Stevie has also contributed to David Lynch’s Transcendental Radio.  

Light in the Attic Records will be releasing Stevie’s 1968 collaboration with Brian Wilson, A World of Peace Must Comeon vinyl this April. There’s been much speculation on the genesis of this project, and for many years people wondered if it was real at all. Stevie and I sat down in my living room to talk about his beginnings and to sort out the mysteries of A World of Peace Must Come. 

—Tracy Landecker

I.  GANGSTER CHILD POET

STEVIE KALINICH: My mother, every Sunday, would take us for walks in nature in Binghamton, New York, in the hills above where we lived. There was a lot of wilderness, and we walked around creeks. There were bulls behind fences, and my mother would say, “Don’t go in there. “ We would find skeletons. Once we found what we thought was the skeleton of a dead baby in a creek. We loved all the different colors of the leaves. We used to go tobogganing on the hill that had trees, and one time I went head first into a tree and I don’t know if I ever recovered. [Laughs

I had this sense of walks in nature but I don’t think I felt it as anything other than how life was. But as I look back, that’s when my first poems started coming. I didn’t know what they were. I was five, six, seven years old. They weren’t very good, but I remember one of them and I’ve spoken it before.

At night I saw the stars above

A sign of hope and peace and love

The stars that shine above my eyes

That make me know

God is in the skies

THE BELIEVER: And these poems were the seeds that you tilled, as it were, for A World of Peace Must Come.

SK: Yes. But at that point as a child, whatever concept I had of God, which was very vague, was of something out there, outside of myself.  As I’ve grown, I don’t think I would change that poem, except I would say that what I thought was out there is within consciousness, rather than outside of it. But we all project our beliefs and our systems.

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Go Forth (Vol. 24)

Go Forth is a series curated by Nicolle Elizabeth that offers a look into the publishing industry and contemporary small-press literature. See more of the series.

Elizabeth Mikesch’s book of stories, Niceties, is out from Calamari Press. The stories in Niceties push the boundaries of language and dissonance in a way that’s uncommon and rarely seen in fiction, which is only one of the reasons this book is so great. Also, Niceties has received favorable words from Noy Holland, Gary Lutz, Peter Markus, and Blake Butler. Her other work has appeared in places such as Unsaid and The Literarian. I met Elizabeth in Seattle at AWP when we signed books together. The first night I met her, at Whiskey Bar on Second, I mentioned something about reading an article in Harper’s or the New Yorker or somewhere, and before I could finish she looked at me and said, “Fuck articles.” From there we hit it off.

—Brandon Hobson

Brandon Hobson: Can you tell me how your book came to be published by Derek White at Calamari?

Elizabeth Mikesch: Derek White is the best. He is his own dialect. I sent him saturated e-mails anxiously awaiting to hear if he’d be into reading what I had. I had eaten nothing but squid for five years. People would say “O, you’re showing.” When I found out he was going to publish the work, I had diner cheese fries, stayed up until 6am. I woke up late and blew an interview to be a barista.

BH: Niceties doesn’t seem to follow a traditional structure. I like the strangeness of Niceties.

EM: Niceties is hard to know, which I get. Plots are for dying in. The book took becoming a special type of sociopathy for sound to write it among many a home bug infestation, psychic pica, and the internet in general. Yet the heart still can swell.

BH: You’re like me, but more social. Interviews are weird, yeah?

EM: Interviews make me not talk like my life self. I go into the Niceties voice, but let’s stay with that. I wish that it were like 1978, and you had to talk to me on a beigeish phone with a curly fry cord and jot, and I had not to go out and wait for the call because otherwise the interview wouldn’t happen that night, and if I had to pee or something, I’d have to say, “Hold on. I’m going to have to put the phone down.”

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