Robert Kelly is one of the major and most prolific American poets of our time. Between 1961 when his first collection, Armed Descent, was published by Hawk's Well Press, and Seaspel, brought out in 2019 by Lunar Chandelier Collective, Kelly has published some 66+ books of poetry as well as 14 volumes of prose, including novels, short stories, & essays. A City Full of Voices is the companion volume to the 2014 A Voice Full of Cities, the Collected Essays of Robert Kelly, also published by Contra Mundum Press.
This book gathers a wide range of commentaries -- from single-phrase response to full-blown essay, personal meditation & various forms of book reviews -- on Kelly's monumental oeuvre. It covers early reception by a previous generation of poets -- such as Charles Olson and Robert Creeley -- welcoming Kelly among their company, mid-career assessments via an array of compañeros & compañeras for whom Kelly's work has been sustenance and inspiration over many decades, and goes all the way to critical investigations by those younger readers & students of the work coming to Robert Kelly's poetry today. Eminent voices among the contributors include Guy Davenport & Stan Brakhage, Paul Blackburn & Diane Wakoski, Jerome Rothenberg & Clayton Eshleman, George Quasha & Charles Stein, P. Adams Sitney & Sharon Mesmer, John Yau & Jennifer Moxley, Jed Rasula & Mary Caponegro, among many others.
Robert Kelly's own voice can also be heard in a series of "Threads" (in which various interview excerpts directly, or indirectly, speak to the sections or "books" they precede or follow) that link both in form & content back to the previous volume, and in three landmark interviews with Kelly in full, that also mark three different moments in time: 1963, 1974, & 2007. Both volumes together thus offer the reader not only a "collected" & "critical" essays, but also a "Selected Interviews."
It may seem surprising -- & in fact it is -- that an oeuvre of such distinction, complexity, and depth has had to wait until the poet's 84 year to be fêted with a volume of essays. But here it is: A City Full of Voices, the first substantive multi-voiced gathering of writings about one of the absolutely opulent, lavish, generous & bountiful life-works by one of the great contemporary American poets.
About the Author
Poet, editor, and translator Pierre Joris was born in Strasbourg, France and raised in the town of Ettelbruck, Luxembourg. He has lived throughout the United States, Europe, and North Africa. From 1992 to 2013, Joris taught at SUNY, Albany. Joris is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Poasis: Selected Poems 1986-1999 (Wesleyan University Press, 2001), Aljibar (Editions PHI, 2007), Aljibar II (Editions PHI, 2008), Meditations on the Stations of Mansur Al-Hallaj (Chax Press, 2013), Barzakh: Poems 2000-2012 (Black Widow Press, 2014) and An American Suite (2016). He is also author of two volumes of essays, A Nomad Poetics (Wesleyan University Press, 2003) and Justifying the Margins: Essays 1990-2006 (Salt Publishing, 2009). Joris lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the performance artist Nicole Peyrafitte.
Joel Newberger writes and teaches in New York City. He is an editor of Oread Press. His work has been published in Galatea Resurrects and The Doris. He is the author of Four, a pamphlet published by The Doris/Books in 2016 and A CAW (Oread Press, 2017).