Poet Michael Klein, who is coming to Gallery Ehva in Provincetown on Saturday to read his poetry, is used to trekking around the country. If he isn’t in his home in New York or at his place in Provincetown or out in Port Townsend, Wash., then he’s most likely either at his desk or in the car.
“I’m used to being in the car,” he says. “We go up to the Cape on weekends and it’s about four-and-a-half to five hours each way. We leave about 5 and get there around midnight. I get to wake up there,” he says over the phone from New York City. But during the summer Klein wakes up here more often than just weekends. He teaches poetry and memoir writing at the Fine Arts Work Center in the summer program.
“I was a fellow there in 1990,” he says. “It’s great to be up there. About four years ago I bought a cottage outside of town.”
When not teaching in Provincetown Klein teaches in a low-residency program for a satellite branch of Goddard College out in Washington state.
“I believe it was the site where ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ was filmed,” he says. “It’s an old fort, the school rents out space, it’s a state park now and an arts center. They even have a football camp. I go out twice a year and stay on campus.”
With seven students to his charge, Klein says he is very busy.
“It’s a lot of work, very time-consuming,” he says. “I do a lot of e-mailing. I’ve been teaching at Goddard for 15 years. I’ve also taught at Sarah Lawrence and Binghamton College.” But it’s the writing that is his real passion.
“I wrote as a kid,” he says. “I always wanted to be a writer. I used to read poetry and plays because they are short and you can read a lot of them. Novels take too long,” he says and laughs. “I never really read novels ‘til I was an adult. I don’t like most of them, they’re not my favorite. I started writing when I was 12, I’m 55 now.” And, incidentally, he’s proud of being a triple fire Leo sign.
True to his short theme, Klein has two books of poetry out, “1990” and his most recent, “Then, We Were Still Living,” as well as two other books, one a collection of short essays, “The End of Being Known,” now available in digital form on Kindle, and the other a memoir, “Track Conditions.”
“The Kindle book didn’t sell very well as a book book,” says Klein. “I knew early on I wasn’t going to make much money. I knew my prose was not commercial prose. I write exactly what I want. If it’s published, fine. I’ve never done it for money. My approach to writing is something different.”
When Klein comes to town this weekend he will do a reading and book signing at Gallery Ehva, 74 Shank Painter Road, from 4 to 6 p.m. He may also share some of his writing secrets, such as this tip he gave us: “Write with a sense of urgency, make it interesting and strange, spare, to the bone. Try to make a book really, really spare. Write as if there is no language. Use only the most essential words. Waste not.” Enough said.
Michael Klein also will be reading at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, at Blacksmith House with Peter Balakian, 56 Battle St. in Cambridge.