Robert Kelly (poet)

Robert Kelly (poet)

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Robert Kelly is an American poet
Poetry of the United States
American poetry, the poetry of the United States, arose first as efforts by colonists to add their voices to English poetry in the 17th century, well before the constitutional unification of the thirteen colonies...

 associated with the deep image
Deep image
Deep image is a term coined by U.S. poets Jerome Rothenberg and Robert Kelly in the second issue of Trobar in 1961. They used it to describe poetry written by them and by Diane Wakoski and Clayton Eshleman....


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
City University of New York
The City University of New York is the public university system of New York City, with its administrative offices in Yorkville in Manhattan. It is the largest urban university in the United States, consisting of 23 institutions: 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E...

, graduating in 1955. He then spent three years at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...


Teaching career

Kelly has worked as a translator and teacher, most notably at Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

, where he has worked since 1961. Kelly's other teaching positions have included Wagner College
Wagner College
Wagner College is a private, co-educational, national liberal arts college with an enrollment of approximately 2,400 total students located atop Grymes Hill in New York City's borough of Staten Island...

 (1960–61), the University at Buffalo
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, also commonly known as the University at Buffalo or UB, is a public research university and a "University Center" in the State University of New York system. The university was founded by Millard Fillmore in 1846. UB has multiple campuses...

 (1964), and the Tufts University
Tufts University
Tufts University is a private research university located in Medford/Somerville, near Boston, Massachusetts. It is organized into ten schools, including two undergraduate programs and eight graduate divisions, on four campuses in Massachusetts and on the eastern border of France...

 Visiting Professor of Modern Poetry (1966–67). In addition, he has served as Poet in Residence at the California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering...

 (1971–72), Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 (Calhoun College), University of Kansas
University of Kansas
The University of Kansas is a public research university and the largest university in the state of Kansas. KU campuses are located in Lawrence, Wichita, Overland Park, and Kansas City, Kansas with the main campus being located in Lawrence on Mount Oread, the highest point in Lawrence. The...

, Dickinson College
Dickinson College
Dickinson College is a private, residential liberal arts college in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Originally established as a Grammar School in 1773, Dickinson was chartered September 9, 1783, five days after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, making it the first college to be founded in the newly...

, and the University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...


Writing career

The Black Mountain poetics
Black Mountain poets
The Black Mountain poets, sometimes called projectivist poets, were a group of mid 20th century American avant-garde or postmodern poets centered on Black Mountain College.-Background:...

 of Robert Duncan
Robert Duncan
-Arts:*Robert Duncan , American music critic*Robert Duncan , British TV actor*Robert Duncan , U.S. composer*Robert Duncan , U.S. poet-Politics:...

 and Charles Olson
Charles Olson
Charles Olson , was a second generation American modernist poet who was a link between earlier figures such as Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams and the New American poets, which includes the New York School, the Black Mountain School, the Beat poets, and the San Francisco Renaissance...

 had a decisive influence on his writing.

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
Hungry generation
The Hungry Generation was a literary movement in the Bengali language launched by what is known today as the Hungryalist quartet i.e. Shakti Chattopadhyay, Malay Roy Choudhury, Samir Roychoudhury and Debi Roy alias Haradhon Dhara, during the 1960s in Kolkata, India...

 group of poets of India during the trial of Malay Roy Choudhury
Malay Roy Choudhury
Malay Roy Choudhury is a Bengali poet and novelist who founded the "Hungryalist Movement" in the 1960s. His literary works have been reviewed by sixty critics in HAOWA 49, a quarterly magazine which devoted its January 2001 special issue to Roy Choudhury's life and works...

, with whom he had correspondence, now archived at Kolkata.

Kelly received the Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

First Annual Book Award (1980) for Kill the Messenger Who Brings Bad News and the American Book Award
American Book Award
The American Book Award was established in 1978 by the Before Columbus Foundation. It seeks to recognize outstanding literary achievement by contemporary American authors, without restriction to race, sex, ethnic background, or genre...

, Before Columbus Foundation
Before Columbus Foundation
The Before Columbus Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976 by Ishmael Reed, Victor Hernández Cruz, Shawn Wong and Rudolfo Anaya to be "a multi-ethnic organizing dedicated to promoting a pan-cultural view of America," especially through the promotion of multicultural writers.One of...

 (1991) for In Time. He also serves on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions
Conjunctions, is a biannual American literary journal based at Bard College. It was founded in 1981 and is currently edited by Bradford Morrow....


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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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


  • Oedipus After Colonus, 2008

The play Oedipus After Colonus takes as its point of departure Oedipus at Colonus, by Sophocles. Robert Kelly's only play (2008), 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.

In popular culture

The fictional character Senator Robert Kelly
Robert Kelly (comics)
Robert Edward Kelly is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics universe. He most often appears in Marvel's X-Men and X-Men-related comic books. He is a prominent United States Senator who began his career on an anti-mutant platform, and as the X-Men team is made up entirely of mutants, his role...

, featured in the X-Men
The X-Men are a superhero team in the . They were created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, and first appeared in The X-Men #1...

comic books and movies, is named after him. X-Men writer Chris Claremont
Chris Claremont
Chris Claremont is an award-winning American comic book writer and novelist, known for his 17-year stint on Uncanny X-Men, far longer than any other writer, during which he is credited with developing strong female characters, and with introducing complex literary themes into superhero...

chose the name in honour of his Bard College professor.

External links