This book reflects a year or so of Robert Kelly’s “concentration on the poem as structure, poem as house. Stanza is the key; it means ‘room’ in Italian, each stanza different in shape and function, like the rooms in a house-every room in the house is, must be, different: The kitchen is not the bedroom. So, stanzas serve varied functions, welcome differing guests of meaning and music.
Robert Kelly was born in Brooklyn in 1935, father an accountant who sang, mother taught grammar school. Where else could he go but poetry? He went to a Jesuit school then CCNY and Columbia, classics, linguistics. Came to actual poetry through Coleridge, Pound, Yeats, Rilke, Duncan, New York in the 50s sustained him with joyous comrades, Blackburn, Antin, Rothenberg. After working as a translator (German, technical) for a few years, he was invited to teach for a year at Wagner College, then for the rest of his academic life, sixty-one years at Bard College, where he was blessed with incredibly creative students who allowed him to urge them towards poetry. If he could list their names, it might be a truer index of his work. In any case, he has written close to a hundred books of poetry, fiction, essays, even a play or two, and has started several little magazines (Chelsea Review, Trobar, Matter). In the past decade the main work was the five volumes of poetry he called The Island Cycle (Fire Exit, Uncertainties, The Hexagon, Heart Thread, Calls), and in this past year a long poem The Cup, and Shadow Talk, a score of fairy tales.
Kelly lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, Charlotte Mandell, translator of Proust, Enard, Littell, Nancy, Blanchot and so many more, and editor of Metambesen, a pioneering venture publishing books and chapbooks of poetry online.
Linden Word by Robert Kelly
Our most sacred rites from the turning of the year--the comings and goings of the light, the leaves (all leaves are tongues), the birds and clouds, our friends, the words. Robert Kelly's Linden Word is a Book of Days (every day a mystery, every prayer begs for information) in which it is always Now, in whose arms an ardent, faithful scribe is listening. Each day has its poem, each poem its sweet, ripe date, the soft explosion of being here. But where is Here? What's right in front of Kelly's eyes, local as can be, this little marshy pond by the Hudson metropolis. There is here and here is everywhere. But which comes first? But which comes first/it's hard to tell./And no one needs to know,/we are not scientists,/we are people singing naked in the woods.