"He hasn't had much of an influence. That era has had an incredible influence for me, though, because I never wanted to be a hippie. I wanted to be a beatnik. The angst."
"And the black tights."
"In some ways my ideal life would be wearing all black and reading poetry in a coffeehouse. And in some ways I've fulfilled it, because I do.
"Kevin [with Lewis Ellingham] wrote Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and The San Francisco Renaissance, a biography of Spicer [1925--1965]. [Spicer, together with Robert Duncan and Robin Blaser, were sometimes known as the Berkeley Renaissance group.] Spicer, Duncan, and Blaser were the 'intellectual queers' of the post--World War II period. Spicer actually kind of hated the Beats, and the Beats kind of hated him. I know a lot about that period through Kevin, and I've met a lot of the survivors. I see my writing as coming out of the San Francisco history from the late 1940s. I like the sense of being a San Francisco writer.
"I really, really wanted Mina to be published by City Lights, which it wasn't. I wanted it to feel grounded as a San Francisco book. That's one of the appeals of Suspect Thoughts, that it is a San Francisco press.
"I think there's a lot of admiration for Allen Ginsberg, among writers that I know. He and Kerouac opened things up. They were important. Maybe not like a direct influence, but certainly they created an atmosphere where this type of writing that we do is possible."
"And," I suggested, "they created an atmosphere in which writing was more public."
"Totally, totally. Yeah, the big open readings. They always say that the reading [in 1955] at 'Six Gallery' [on Fillmore Street in San Francisco] is what started the many open readings in the '60s."
"If you were going to explain the sort of the history of San Francisco's writing, where would you go after the Beats?"
"Well, hmmm. I moved here in the '70s, so all these San Francisco street poets, that whole lineage, was in place. And there's always been a fair number of academic writers because of all the schools here. And the language poets sort of came to prominence in the '70s."
"From where did the language poets come?"
"A lot of them went to Harvard and Berkeley. They were kind of Ivy League -- there were some working class. But I think Berkeley and Harvard would be the origins. So then there's a lot of writing that either was following that or reacting to that."
"And there's Gary Snyder..."
"Oh yeah, the nature. I don't think of him so much as San Francisco. It's kind of definitely a California thing. Robert Duncan was at New College when I moved here, and that created an enormous impact, and that was a great loss.
"I know more about poetry or know more poets than I knew fiction writers. Fiction writers have this whole other layer of success. I did know Dorothy Allison [Bastard Out of Carolina] before she was Dorothy Allison, hanging out in the Mission."
"Now," I said, "Dave Eggers [A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius] seems to have taken over the San Francisco literary world."
"Yeah, he totally has, I think. But even though he's affected it -- I guess because of McSweeney's, I think of it all as in New York -- it feels like an implant or something."
"Do the McSweeney's people ever get together with your people?"
"No. There's no crossover."
"Is there much crossover with the East Bay?"
"Well, yeah, because there's lots of poets in the East Bay. I know almost more writers living in Oakland than in San Francisco now because of the rents. There are interesting reading series in the East Bay. Like 21 Grand in Oakland."
"You write in Pink Steam that the writer is the top, and the reader is the bottom."
"Some people probably would argue about that. Because once the reader gets hold of the book, they kind of re-create it."
"But the writer is directive, is 'topping' the reader."
"Yes, that's one of the great pleasures. When I read at night to go to sleep, and I'm tired from the day, I love giving my world over to somebody else and having them create this world for me."
"Can you cook?"
"Yeah. I don't cook as much as I used to because I've gotten caught up in finding time. I'm actually a good cook. I was raised in an atmosphere where a woman who couldn't cook was freakish.
"I used to crochet with my grandmother and embroider, and I've been thinking about taking up crocheting again. I was looking on the Web at instructions for making granny squares the other day."
"I was thinking it would be fun to read you on the subject of clothes and sexuality -- the tiny buttons and the tight seams."
"It's certainly something that I'm into. I like clothes a lot."
"Yes, you do. You write about them as if they were another skin."