It is no exaggeration to suggest that Robert Kelly may well be America’s most prolific poet, and certainly one of the most singular and ceaselessly innovative poets the country produced in the 2nd part of the past century. To date, he has written more than 70 books of poetry and fiction — books that reveal a breathtaking range, from freshly minted trobar clus and contemporized sonnet forms, to epic-length narratives and non-narratives — such as Axon Dendron Tree, The Common Shore, The Loom, or the first two installments of a recent trilogy, Fire Exit & Uncertainties.
Just as compelling are the volumes of shorter lyric forms, such as Finding the Measure, Songs I–XXX, Not this Island Music, and Lapis, or his even more experimental work, such as Sentence, The Flowers of Unceasing Coincidence, or his writing-through of Shelley’s poem, Mont Blanc.
The deeper unity of the work is unavoidably present in the voice that underlies the multiplicity of forms. As Guy Davenport wrote: “A Kelly poem is a Kelly poem. It dances in his way, sings in his intonations, insisting on its style.