Vo l . 7 N o . 1
A Review of Sandra Kleven’s Defiance Street: Poems and Other Writing
(VP&D House, 2013)
Sandra Kleven is the current editor of the literary journal Cirque, and also organizes Poetry Parley, Venus Transit, and other literary and mixed media events in both Alaska and Outside, someone I do chat with when I see her from time to time around Anchorage, where we both live. I’ve even been to her house on Defiance Street once. Or maybe twice. Kleven has also authored Talk About Touch and Holy Land. Her bio in Amazon.com is impressive, and I’ve condensed it below. Kleven’s poetry has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Oklahoma Review, Praxilla, F-Magazine, Cirque, Stone Boat, and in the anthology, from University of Alaska Press, Cold Flashes.
Photo: Michael Kleven
Kleven brought the arts and the creative process into her work as a clinical social worker, developing a theatrical presentation and a troupe of actors that worked toward the prevention of child sexual abuse. This group, the SOAPBOX Players, served Northwest Washington with a presentation titled, “The Touching Problem.” Kleven won a Seattle Area Emmy Award (as writer) when KVOS TV produced the program as a docudrama.
Anchorage, I was put off by the muddy cover. It looked unappetizing. But knowing Kleven’s work, I expected to find some good stuff inside.
Out of this work came two books for children and families, to serve as guides in discussing sexual abuse with a child. The first was published as Touching, in 1985 and then, in 1999, it was reissued as The Right Touch.
As I began to go through Defiance Street, I found that Kleven has indeed laid her life out in verse and essay, and well.
The Right Touch has been a helping resource since 1999 when it received a Benjamin Franklin Award as best parenting book. It remains the best-selling prevention book in the country. Excellent track record! But as I approached Defiance Street, published by VP&D House, a newish small press in
And I did. I find it difficult to be put in the position of evaluating another poet’s work. It’s an intensely personal medium, often a short hand rather than an explication mode.
The images, the influences, began to build up a picture of her life, indeed, many landmarks of greater or lesser joy. Every poet has certain touchstones. Kleven is a Theodore Roethke raver, as I know from some events she has written and performed. I was happy to see mostly other subjects in these pages, as I was a tad surfeited with Kleven’s heropoet worship (of course preferring my own, because I am that sort of brat).