Friday, April 08, 2005

Another poet takes flight - RIP KEN HUNT

So, I was too excited and blissed out to sleep. I decided to put on some music, relax, and check my email.

What do I find? Information about a scheduled MEMORIAL and TRIBUTE for a friend, my friend Ken Hunt. He died?, I ask myself incredulously. I am disbelieving and my emotional Richter scale registers high numbers. One email sent me scouring the web for more substantiating information. As I am in Urbana-Champaign, it is particularly ironic that Ken died in Chicago, where I am heading in less than 48 hours.

So I get the news and, indeed, it is very disquieting. How can such joy be followed by tremendous quakes of quivering despair and humility? I had just been feeling so great, and then, by merely reading words on a monitor screen, my life seems to forever be transformed. A world without Ken Hunt. My fellow poet and comrade in experimental performance art. A sometime associate on stages at the Electric Lounge, Ruta Maya, and Movements Gallery in Austin. I had recalled, a few months ago, that Ken had videotaped my first-ever performance of butoh dance--with a group at Movements Gallery on Sixth Street. We had witnessed so many of one another's pioneering moments of individual expression.

Y'know, it's interesting too, that I had recently become reenamored of Ken's writing. I had pulled his chapbook AERODROME off the bookshelf, earlier in March, and had been re-reading it, in new light with new eyes. We were living in different states and doing different things, but I have always considered him a close comrade-in-letters and activism. And so, it struck me, reading about Ken's death (due to a seizure he had on the streets of Chicago), that my renewed interest in his work was perhaps a way of spiritually preparing for more reasons to honor and acclaim him and his work.

I will continue to do that. Check out more information on my dear friend and ally, the one and only KEN HUNT.

This is what our mutual poet-friend, Phil West, wrote back in the 1990s about Ken:

“The ex-Austinite, in his three years here, not only delivered some of the most immaculate poetry on the scene, but was also one of the most daring and memorable performers in the Performance Art Church, a group which certainly has no lack of over-the-top characters. Now based in snowy Madison, WI, Hunt's return promises work that is edgy, often political, and always smart.”

His Seattle buddy, Jason Webley, offers links to audio files of both bands that he was in with Ken (Self-Help Seminar and Toast) and a link to some poetry by Ken, in his own voice. Wow. Check out "Architecture of Distance" and "I Drew the Body". I downloaded the files of these poems, weeping as I heard his familiar voice. Will the internet keep it alive for me forever? Ken did incredible work, and I trusted his motivation for it, and I definitely felt the love behind his anger, the compassion behind the sometime darkness of his writings.

In lieu of flowers, monetary donations may be made in hir (Ken West's) name to Midwest Books to Prisoners Project, c/o Quimby's Bookstore, 1573 N. Milwaukee PMB 460, Chicago, IL 60622. Checks/Money orders should be made to the order of Sarah McHugh.

According to Morris Stegosaurus' blog, Ken had a tattoo of every place he'd ever lived. I guess they're inking him up in heaven tonight.

Rest in peace, beautiful poet.

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