Karen Malpede and GenPop Books author Jan Clausen are in conversation at the Kenyon Review.
Here’s the introduction to “Writing On: A Dialogue Between Jan Clausen and Karen Malpede“:
Although both had been feminist writers and peace activists living in Brooklyn, NY for many years, playwright Karen Malpede and poet/novelist Jan Clausen didn’t know each other very well until they spent a night in jail together following a civil disobedience arrest at the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003, after which they gradually became better acquainted with each other’s work. In the fall of 2014, Jan published Veiled/Spill: A Sequence, a lyrical hybrid text prompted by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and European laws against the niqab or full face veil worn by some Muslim women. At the same time, Malpede was directing her play Extreme Whether. As both are works of poetic fiction based on hard news, the two entered into a dialogic reflection on what it means to create works of art in the face of our unfolding planetary emergency. Responding to Jan’s question about style, Karen referenced her three most recent plays each of which is primarily concerned with the moral choice-making dilemmas of characters caught up in contemporary historical crises. “Prophecy” set in 2006 is the story of the ways the Iraq war impacts the marriage of Alan and Sarah Golden. “Another Life” beginning on September 11, 2001, is a meditation on the misuse of language as the events of that day lead to the creation of the U.S. torture program. “Extreme Whether,” whose title is a pun posing a question, is based upon the struggle of U.S. climate scientists to speak truth about climate change while they are sabotaged by the fossil fuel industry, but set as a family drama so that the national political conflict becomes a struggle between twins.