I met Stephan Clark for the first time in a Russian restaurant in St. Paul, for a conversation he said would be “deeply preliminary.” He is a slender man, with a receding hairline — “since the third grade,” he says — and eyes that move between green and blue in color, depending on his surroundings. This chameleon-like nature is fitting, considering the peripatetic nature of his life. As I discovered while interviewing him over the course of several days—driving to a Russian store in Plymouth for German bread and Jewish salami, a visit some months later to the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis to see an Oleg Vassiliev installation, and then a night of pickles and vodka at his Longfellow bungalow—he has lived in five countries and three times as many cities. These stays have included one year in Russia, where his wife is from, and another in Ukraine, to which he went on a Fulbright Fellowship to study the mail-order bride phenomenon. Clark now resides in Minneapolis and teaches creative writing at Augsburg College.
This interview began in the fall of 2011 as a series of digitally recorded conversations. Transcripts were made from more than seven hours of taped material. Clark returned the final, edited manuscript along with a note that begins, “Now to see if anyone cares enough to read it.”