Books by Robert Kelly

QUEEN OF TERRORS by Robert Kelly
Released: June 17, 1994

Kelly (Cat Scratch Fever, 1991, etc.), long a poetic innovator, continues to prove himself equally prolific and adept at ``fictions.'' Incorporating neither character nor plot, these 24 cerebral pieces meditate on the lofty and the mundane. From the opening story, ``Rimbaud Back from Abyssinia,'' Kelly makes it clear to whom he speaks: an informed, literary reader who is familiar not only with Rimbaud's poetry but with his life. Many pieces show Kelly involved in a struggle to take the courtly concepts he's handled so well in his poetry and merge them with a thoroughly modern sensuality that incorporates schlock culture, the mystical, and the primitive. ``They call death the King of Terrors, and I'm telling you who his queen is. Sex is the Queen,'' he says in the work which gives the volume its title. Time and again, the writer/philosopher seeks to bond with nature: The adult crosses the wind's fence, last barrier between himself and the sea; the child leans out a window, desperate to learn how birds fly. Sex elicits nature metaphors as well; in ``Red Crow'' the narrator's tongue massages a loved one ``like a little wet animal looking for a nest.'' Kelly's erudite playfulness is easiest to see in ``The Red King,'' simply because this novella- length work permits each element more room to vie for attention. But far more interesting (i.e., accessible) is the volume's other long piece, ``In Irish America,'' which traces his ancestry and places Celtic symbology beside flaccid contemporary references, mercilessly contrasting the legendary warriors who thought they would soon ``die, drip of our wounds... and go to America'' with his own birth in the United States. An excellent sampling of Kelly's diversity and a must-read for his coterie of followers, this volume will win him few, if any, converts. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 21, 1990

Less striking than Kelly's work in A Transparent Tree (1985) and Doctor of Silence (1988), but further confirmation of the prolific poet and essayist's mastery of ambiguity and brief enigma. Rather than traditional plot, the jumping-off points for Kelly's prose poems and meditations—sometimes ironically expressed in language appropriated from logic or philosophy—often tend to be the manifestation of nature (vultures, a rose) or abstract ideas of language and writing. The imaginative, folkloric-style fragments (Kelly calls them "researches") that make up the extended piece, "Russian Tales," were inspired by a chart of Russian word-roots and English glosses. Previous collections were perhaps more accessible to general readers, in part because of the rich eroticism (which appears here, in fairly uninspired form, in the title story—an account of youthful sexuality and vampirism) and because they included more nods to traditional storytelling. The current collection has its share of quotable aphorisms, is most accessible in its allegorical tales ("Prison," about a man whose interminable escape attempt breeds nostalgia for the lost joys of simple imprisonment), and delights in nature mysticism, as in "Eucalyptus Tree," which moves from ordinary (if quirky) life to the cosmos. The paralogic of the Every clarity is falling asleep section of "The Annandale Ideology" is a marvelous five-sentence proof of the wakening power of ambiguity. Thirty-one very short fictions that often—to paraphrase the author—go nowhere and give nothing but light. Read full book review >