Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Donald Revell & Claudia Keelan - Las Vegas, NV

Donald Revell and I stand under a brilliant blue sky laced with Las Vegas's ever-present jet contrails. We're in the backyard of the house that Revell shares with his wife, the poet Claudia Keelan, and their son, Ben. We're south and west of Vegas near a tiny settlement called Blue Diamond.

Like most people who live here, Revell lives nowhere near The Strip, where the casinos pulse with gigantic and gaudy lights, and where the flood of tourists gamble on cards, dice, and love. (Oh, c'mon, let me wax a little poetic.) But the point is, Vegas is a city like most cities. You've got your downtown, your suburbs. There's industry (here it's roulette, showgirls, and magicians). And it's populated by a wide variety of folks: friendly, happy, creepy, noisy, kind, etc. People from all over the world come here, but the citizens shop, drive, work, just like it was a regular place.

Revell and Keelan both teach poetry; she runs the MFA program at UNLV, and he commutes to be a part of the excellent program at the University of Utah. (Revell flies to Salt Lake City once a week - 2 hours door to door.)

We talk for a few minutes, and when Keelan gets home from turning her grades in at semester-end, the three of us sit in patio chairs near their newly installed lap pool. They point out the spare desert landscaping. Everything out here was planted by them, including a lovely acacia, and - surprisingly - 6 full size Christmas trees, one for each year (minus one) that they've lived here.

Keelan is originally from California, and Revell comes from the Bronx. But they both are at home in the desert. Their work, too, is heavily influence by the empty spaces of their adopted home, especially in Keelan's Utopic and Revell's My Mojave.

After we finish talking we shoot some photos. Their son Ben peers at me through the blinds of a back window, and I give him a wave one time when I see him. As I'm finishing up with his parents, Ben emerges - taking a break, I think from some Tony Hawk game or likewise on Playstation2.

He stands between Revell and Keelan against the stucco wall of their home, and I shoot the family.