Robert BlyTo read Stephen Kessler's critical appreciation of the poet, teacher, and provocateur Robert Bly in the Los Angeles Review of Books, click here.

Robert O, MooreFor Stephen Kessler's homage to the late Jack Hirschman in LA Review of Books, click here.

Robert O, MooreTo read Stephen Kessler's memoir "The Architecture of Memory: How Los Angeles Made Me a Poet," in the Los Angeles Review of Books, click here.

Robert O, MooreTo read Stephen Kessler's appreciation of the poet Richard O. Moore in Poetry Flash, click here.

Tolstoy of the Zulus Need I Say More?
Portraits, Confessions, Reflections

El León Literary Arts, April 2015
Available from the author, at bookstores via Small Press Distribution, or from

One of the most versatile writers of his generation, Stephen Kessler has distinguished himself over the last forty years as a poet, critic (“certainly the best poetry critic in sight,” according to Lawrence Ferlinghetti), translator, novelist, and a wide-ranging journalist. As editor he founded the international journal Alcatraz (1979-1985) and the Santa Cruz newsweekly The Sun (1986-1989) as well as The Redwood Coast Review (1999-2014).  Following his first two books of essays, organized around themes of poetry and cultural criticism, in this third collection he gets more personal and political.  Kessler’s keen eye, sharp wit and readable style—whether reflecting on Viagra, multilingualism, Miss America, fatherhood, Gertrude Stein, cooking, anarchism, education, Robinson Jeffers, Vivian Maier, the pleasures of gossip, a trip to Cuba, Steve Jobs, Charles Bukowski, shopping for a used car, or getting mugged in New York—keep his writings vividly alive.  The eclectic essays in Need I Say More? have both the immediacy of the present moment and the lasting value of literature.

For sample essays, click here.

Tolstoy of the Zulus The Tolstoy of the Zulus:
On Culture, Arts & Letters

El León Literary Arts, August 2011
Available from the author, at bookstores via Small Press Distribution, or from

This book, a selection of cultural journalism from 1977 through 2010 and a companion volume to Moving Targets, addresses itself to a range of phenomena, artists, filmmakers, musicians and writers including the creative repercussions of September 11, Google’s Universal Library, the Watts Towers, Bob Dylan, Luis Buñuel, J. D. Salinger, Philip Roth, Harry Belafonte, Edward Hopper, Thelonious Monk, Charles Bukowski, Saul Bellow, Romare Bearden, Sonny Rollins, Henry Miller, and many others, famous and obscure.  Its unifying theme is the central role of the creative imagination in provoking and enriching our apprehension of reality.  (Sample essays can be found below.)

To read part one of an interview with Stephen Kessler by Zara Raab for the San Francisco Book Review , click here.

To read part two of an interview with Stephen Kessler by Zara Raab for the San Francisco Book Review , click here.

To read Roberto Ontiveros's review in the San Francisco Chronicle, click here.

For a report on Stephen Kessler's August 25 book launch at Bookshop Santa Cruz , click here.

The Santa Cruz angle: click here to read Wallace Baine's article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

For Richard von Busack's review in Santa Cruz Weekly, click here.

Moving Targets Moving Targets: On Poets,
Poetry & Translation

El León Literary Arts, November 2008
Available from the author (contact for postal info),
Amazon or booksellers
These personal and critical essays explore the lives and works of twenty-four key poets of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Examining his subjects in their social, historical and biographical contexts, Stephen Kessler reveals with unusual clarity and insight the essence of their accomplishment. For those familiar with these writers, Kessler's informed perspective will refresh and expand their understanding; for the uninitiated, he provides an illuminating introduction to a range of the most vital voices in the literature of our times.

The book includes portraits and appreciations of Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, William Everson, Bob Kaufman, Gary Snyder, Jack Hirschman, Charles Bukowski, James Laughlin, Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, W. S. Merwin, Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka, Wendell Berry, Billy Collins, Vicente Aleixandre, Fernando Alegría, Ernesto Cardenal, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Yehuda Amichai, Guy Davenport, and Czeslaw Milosz, as well as provocative essays on the art of translation, “antiwarism,” poetry and radio, and “seducing the muse.”

“I finally got around to reading your Moving Targets, and I must tell you it’s the best survey of West Coast poets I’ve come across, and you are certainly the best poetry critic in sight....I learned a lot from it!”—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in a letter to the author

“There’s never a dull moment here, and Kessler’s concern with the precision of language, which derives largely from his work as a translator, leads him to create really memorable phrasing....Moving Targets offers the rich harvest of Kessler’s intellectual labors, and proof, if one wanted it, that the art of cultural criticism is alive and vital today.”—Jonah Raskin, Rain Taxi

Juan Felipe HerreraTo listen to a conversation between Stephen Kessler and California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, on The Poetry Show, hosted by Dennis Morton, on KUSP radio, Santa Cruz, April 18, 2014, click here.

Wanda ColemanFor Stephen Kessler's remembrance of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013) in Poetry Flash, click here.

Stephen Kessler’s personal, critical and journalistic essays, reviews, columns, features and interviews have appeared since the mid-1970s in such Greater Bay Area periodicals as the Santa Cruz Express, San Francisco Review of Books, The Sun (Santa Cruz), Monterey County Weekly, Metro Silicon Valley, Metro Santa Cruz, East Bay Express, North Bay Bohemian, and Poetry Flash, of which he is a contributing editor, as well as in The Redwood Coast Review, which he edits.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Marilyn Monroe
Luis Buñuel
Excerpts from personal letters to Stephen Kessler on his essays:

“Thanks very much for the clipping. I thought it was great.” —Henry Miller

“You are an Ace.” —Charles Bukowski

“I know that writers are supposed to ignore what is written about them. I am practicing, and can ignore praise and blame fairly well. But I can’t ignore intelligent understanding that doesn’t oversimplify. Jack [Shoemaker] sent me your article…and I would be ashamed not to tell you how deeply grateful I am for it.” —Wendell Berry

“It’s a wonderful feeling for an author—and a rare one—to know that he has been completely understood by a reviewer. Thanks for a most lucid and intelligent reading” [of When Nietzsche Wept]. —Irvin Yalom

“I just got around to reading the essay [‘How Marijuana Ruined My Life’], which was thoroughly delightful….Louis Armstrong smoked several joints a day throughout his adult life, which suggests that weed is not necessarily incompatible with success, hard work, or creativity.” —Hendrik Hertzberg

“Thanks for sending your fine article on Bellow. I thought your critical assessments were just right, and you gave a very good account of the success of Herzog. Nice work!” —James Atlas

“What a wonderful piece of writing [‘The Integrated Man: Harry Belafonte’s Cultural Politics’]! You do justice to the man. Obviously we have both experienced the innumerable ways in which Belafonte is an excellent subject for contemplating race, music, and American life and culture.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“I’m directing this to you via Poetry Flash so that the editors will also be complimented for publishing what is probably the most acute and wonderful critique of James Laughlin’s life and work that he will ever receive. Bravo!” —Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“I am honored by your writing, its range and care, its considered perception and the concern that has gone into the background of it. It clearly comes from years of reading and thinking about the poems and I am honored by your attention….it is a summary that bespeaks the kind of reader we all hope exists, and I am grateful to you.” —W. S. Merwin

Catamaran, The Redwood Coast Review, Poetry Flash, North Bay Bohemian, East Bay Express, Metro Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz Weekly, Monterey County Weekly, San Francisco Review of Books, Bloomsbury Review, Review of Contemporary Fiction, Exquisite Corpse, kayak, The Sun (Santa Cruz), Santa Cruz Express, and others.
info@stephenkessler.comCopyright © 2007-2021 Stephen Kessler