Fresno State Philip Levine Prize winner featured in upcoming FPA event

The Creative Writing Program will be hosting Steven Kleinman for a reading of his poetry book, "The Life Cycle of a Bear." (Vendila Yang/The Collegian)

Fresno State’s College of Arts and Humanities and Creative Writing Program will feature poet Steven Kleinman on a virtual reading for the Fresno Poets’ Association (FPA) on Feb. 17. 

Kleinman will be reading poems from his book, “Life Cycle of a Bear,” which won the 2019 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry.

Kleinman talked about what attendees can expect from him during the event. 

“That’s not enough time to read much of the book, but I will create a kind of story arc of the book,” Kleinman said.

Kleinman’s poems will feature subjects on violence, capitalism and issues of masculinity. 

He hopes that people who attend the event will not only become more familiar with his work but also with poetry in general.

“I think I write poems that give people access to liking poems,” Kleinman said. “I hope that people can hear a different version of what a poem can be than what they might think of a poem.”

According to the Fresno State English Department’s website, the FPA is “a decades-old reading series that features poetry and prose.” 

This series has been occurring in the Fresno area since the 1980s and features a variety of poets who share their works with the community. 

Brynn Saito, professor in the English department and faculty coordinator of the FPA said that in previous years, the FPA provided opportunities for local poets to meet up at the old Wild Blue Yonder night club in the Tower District.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, plans for the Fresno Poets’ Association changed from hosting events in-person to starting podcasts online.

“This year we started a podcast series, interviewing some of the original founders of the Fresno Poets’ Association and reflecting on this large Digital Archives of recordings that go back to the 80s and 90s,” Saito said. 

The reading will be held on Zoom from 6 to 7 p.m., and it is free to the public.

Kleinman, who grew up in Pennsylvania, received his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the University of Maryland.

Afterward, he started teaching at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he is currently the Interim Director of Creative Writing and an assistant professor.

For both Saito and Kleinman, taking part in this event means a lot to them.

“Philip Levine, who the prize was named for, and who was a longtime teacher at Fresno State University, was the first poet that gave me the sense that I could be a poet,” Kleinman said. 

“To get to take part in the community that Philip Levine created is just amazing.”

According to the English department’s website, the Philip Levine Prize is an annual book contest which is sponsored by the Creative Writing Department. 

The contest is open to all poets outside of Fresno State who write in English. 

The winner receives $2,000 and a publication by Anhinga Press, a Florida-based press that publishes poems across the U.S.

Saito also talked about her experiences with having conversations with poets.

“One of the best things about having conversations with poets is getting to know their process and getting to know the backstory of the poems and how they came to be, and what was going on in their lives that inspired these poems,” Saito said. “And so you get sort of a behind the scenes glimpse into a poet’s life and process.”

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