Fire Exit

Robert Kelly, Author . Black Widow $19.95 (231p) ISBN 978-0-9818088-9-5

Ambitious and vivid, if disorganized, the latest work from the prolific Kelly (Red Actions ) comprises 132 lyrical units—all one or two pages long in unrhymed three-line stanzas—that fall together into an all-encompassing book-length work. Kelly comes back again and again to the joys of the body and to the needs of the spirit, siding with what he imagines as ancient pagan ways over the logic of modern civilization. Quotable phrases evoke the numinous with brio: “pilgrimage is easy/ it's staying put that's hard”; “we're at the stage where only kindness helps.” Praise for sex, sexuality and lust accompanies attacks on Enlightenment reason: in his crushing epitome of Western adulthood, “we go down into the salt meadow to make priests/ out of girls and slingshot astronomers/ knock the stars out one by one.” In segment nine, “a girl you've just that minute met/ explains tenderly that she and only she/ is your final descendant/ come from the farthest future... and you don't even have a now to give her.” Such moments recall Robert Duncan and W.S. Merwin. Yet the book, and the poems in it, can also frustrate, or repeat themselves; seen as a whole, it feels a bit like a diary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/19/2009
Release date: 12/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
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