Robert Kelly

(Brooklyn, New York)

Biography of Robert Kelly

Robert Kelly poet

Robert Kelly (born September 24, 1935) is an American poet associated with the deep image group.

Early life and education

Kelly was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Samuel Jason and Margaret Rose Kelly née Kane, in 1935. He did his undergraduate studies at the City College of the City University of New York, graduating in 1955. He then spent three years at Columbia University.

Teaching career

Kelly has worked as a translator and teacher, most notably at Bard College, where he has worked since 1961. Kelly's other teaching positions have included Wagner College (1960–61), the University at Buffalo (1964), and the Tufts University Visiting Professor of Modern Poetry (1966–67). In addition, he has served as Poet in Residence at the California Institute of Technology (1971–72), Yale University (Calhoun College), University of Kansas, Dickinson College, and the University of Southern California.

Writing career

Kelly, on his influences: ″I want to say the names of the great teachers from whom I learned what I could, and still am learning. Coleridge. Baudelaire. Pound. Apollinaire. Virgil. Aeschylus. Dante. Chaucer. Shakespeare. Dryden. Lorca. Rilke. Hölderlin. Stevens. Stein. Duncan. Olson. Williams. Blackburn. I mention only the dead, the dead are always different, and always changing. I mention them more or less in the order of when they came along in my life to teach me.″

Kelly has published more than fifty books of poetry and prose, including Red Actions: Selected Poems 1960-1993 (1995) and a collection of short fictions, A Transparent Tree (1985). Many were published by the Black Sparrow Press. He also edited the anthology A Controversy of Poets (1965). Kelly was of great help to the Hungryalist group of poets of India during the trial of Malay Roy Choudhury, with whom he had correspondence, now archived at Kolkata.

Kelly received the Los Angeles Times First Annual Book Award (1980) for Kill the Messenger Who Brings Bad News and the American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation (1991) for In Time. He also serves on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions. He is married to the translator Charlotte Mandell.

Robert Kelly's Works:

Books of poetry

Armed Descent, New York: Hawk's Well Press, 1961.
Her Body Against Time, Mexico City: Ediciones El Corno Emplumado, 1963.
Round Dances, New York: Trobar Press, 1964.
Enstasy, Annandale: Matter, 1964.
Lunes/Sightings, with Jerome Rothenberg, New York: Hawk's Well Press, 1964.
Words in Service, New Haven: Robert Lamberton, 1966.
Weeks, Mexico City: Ediciones El Corno Emplumado, 1966.
Song XXIV, Cambridge: Pym-Randall Press, 1966.
Devotions, Annandale: Salitter, 1967.
Twenty Poems, Annandale: Matter Books, 1967.
Axon Dendron Tree, Annandale: Salitter, 1967.
Crooked Bridge Love Society, Annandale: Salitter, 1967.
A Joining: A Sequence for H:D:, Los Angeles:Black Sparrow Press, 1967.
Alpha, Gambier, Ohio: The Pot Hanger Press, 1967.
Finding the Measure, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1968.
Sonnets, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1968.
Songs I-XXX, Cambridge: Pym-Randall Press, 1968.
The Common Shore, (Books 1 - 5) Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1969.
A California Journal, London: Big Venus Books, 1969.
Kali Yuga, London: Jonathan Cape, 1970. A Cape Goliard Book.
Flesh Dream Book, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1971.
In Time, West Newbury: Frontier Press,1971
Cities. West Newbury: Frontier Press, 1972.
Ralegh, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1972.
The Pastorals, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1972.
Reading Her Notes, Uniondale: privately printed at the Salisbury Press, 1972.
The Tears of Edmund Burke, Annandale, privately printed, 1973.
The Mill of Particulars, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1973.
The Loom, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1975.
Sixteen Odes, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1976.
The Lady Of, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1977.
The Convections, Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1977.
The Book of Persephone, New Paltz: Treacle Press, 1978.
Kill the Messenger, Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1979.
The Cruise of the Pnyx, Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 1979.
Sentence, Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 1980.
Spiritual Exercises, Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1981.
The Alchemist to Mercury: an alternate opus, Uncollected Poems 1960-1980, edited by Jed Rasula, Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1981.
Mulberry Women, with drypoints by Matt Phillips, Berkeley: Hiersoux, Powers, Thomas,1982.
Under Words, Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1983.
Thor's Thrush, Oakland: The Coincidence Press, 1984.
Not this Island Music, Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1987.
The Flowers of Unceasing Coincidence, Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 1988.
Oahu, Rhinebeck: St Lazaire Press, 1988.
Ariadne, Rhinebeck: St Lazaire Press, 1991.
Manifesto for the Next New York School, Buffalo: Leave Press, 1991.
A Strange Market, (Poems 1985-1988), Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1992.
Mont Blanc, a long poem inscribed within Shelleys, Ann Arbor, Otherwind Press, 1994.
Red Actions: Selected Poems 1960-1993, Santa Rosa, Black Sparrow Press,1995.
The Time of Voice, Poems 1994-1996. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press. 1998. ISBN 978-1-57423-079-6.
Runes, Ann Arbor, Otherwind Press, 1999.
The Garden of Distances, with Brigitte Mahlknecht, Vienna / Lana, Editions Procura, 1999.
Unquell the Dawn Now : a collaboration with Friedrich Holderlin Schuldt, McPherson, 1999.
Lapis. Black Sparrow Press. 2005. ISBN 978-1-57423-186-1.
Shame = Scham : a collaboration with Birgit Kempker, McPherson, 2005.
Samphire, Backwoods Broadsides Chaplet Series Nº 97, 2006.
Threads, First Intensity Press, 2006.
May Day, Parsifal Editions, 2006.
SAINTE–TERRE or The White Stone, Woodstock: Shivastan Publishing, 2006.
Fire Exit, Boston: Black Widow Press, 2009.
Uncertainties, Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 2011.
Winter Music, with Susan Quasha, Barrytown: 'T'Space with Station Hill Press, 2014.
The Color Mill, with Nathlie Provosty, New York: Spuyten Duyvil, 2014.
The Language of Eden, Metambesen, 2014.
Answer the Light, with Sherry Williams, Metambesen, 2014.
Claws, with Barbara Leon, Metambesen, 2014.
A Break in the Weather, Metambesen, 2014.


The Scorpions, Garden City: Doubleday, 1967.
A Transparent Tree, Kingston: McPherson & Company, 1985.
The Scorpions (new edition), Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 1985.
Doctor of Silence, Kingston: McPherson & Company, 1988.
Cat Scratch Fever, McPherson & Company, 1990.
Queen of Terrors, McPherson & Company, 1994.
The Book from the Sky, Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2008.
The Logic of the World, McPherson & Company, 2010.


Oedipus After Colonus, and other plays, New York: Dr. Cicero Books, 2014.

The play Oedipus After Colonus takes as its point of departure Oedipus at Colonus, by Sophocles: it was first performed in 2010 under the direction of Crichton Atkinson at the HERE Arts Center in New York City as a part of HEREstay Festival - September, 2010.


A Controversy of Poets: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Edited with Paris Leary, Garden City: Doubleday, 1965.
A Voice Full of Cities: The Collected Essays of Robert Kelly, Edited by Pierre Joris & Peter Cockelbergh, New York: Contra Mundum Press, 2014. Updates


Science explains nothing
but holds all together as
many things as it can count

science is a basket
not a religion he said
a cat as big as a cat

the moon the size of the moon
science is the same as poetry
only it uses the wrong words.

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