Return of the Killer Poets

Tai Carmen and Alexandra Kostoulas Come to UCSB in October

Two of UCSB’s most promising student poets return to town after a decade to celebrate their work. Tai Carmen, author of the prize-winning chapbook Pollen from Finishing Line Press, reads at the College of Creative Studies’ Literature Symposium this Wednesday while Alexandra Kostoulas, who currently teaches at Berkeley Community College, performs on Wednesday, October 12. I call these two “killer poets” as a nod to their creative power. For a taste, here’s an excerpt from the conclusion of a Tai Carmen’s “Son of the Psychic Violinist,” in which a violinist friend evokes the “souls” of those at a party.

We barely breathed and then it came, / a doleful lowing, weeping / of the lowest note, almost not a violin sound, / but a cello, melancholy as the Volga river; / fog horn calling though the lonely mist….

Years later I think of that night, which I’m sure you’ve long forgotten, / when you knew before me that I too had things to mourn.

Tai Carmen is also a songstress. Skyfort Records released her debut album with indie rock band Sugar in Wartime in 2007. Additionally, she curates The Pine Grove Literary Review, an online literary journal and writes a popular philosophy blog.

Alexandra Kostoulas’s poetry has been published in numerous magazines and she’s read at the Santa Barbara Book and Author Festival, the L.A. Festival of Books, and Berkeley’s Morrison Library. Her first collection of poems and a novel are in the works.

Here’s an excerpt of Kostoulas’s “Iridescent Blues”:

A short, Latino guy in an Hawaiian shirt cut the prime rib and smiled at me. / “The best piece,” he said, “is for the bride.” / I watched him as he cut off a slice. / My life — the next chapter lay on my plate. / What if I couldn’t eat it all?

For poetry lovers, these two unique and accomplished voices offer their alma mater and Santa Barbara works of daring and great promise. See Carmen on Wednesday, October 5 and Kostoulas on Wednesday, October 12, both at UCSB’s Old Little Theater, from 4 to 5 p.m. Visit

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