Poet of the Week: Collin Kelley


Collin Kelley is the author of the novel Conquering Venus and the forthcoming Remain in Light. His poetry collections include After the Poison, Slow To Burn and Better To Travel. He is a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee and a recipient of the 2007 Georgia Author of the Year/Taran Memorial Award. His poetry, essays and interviews have appeared in magazines, journals and anthologies around the world. He lives in Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit You can also follow him on Facebook ( and Twitter (@collinkelley).

Poet on Poetry's Questions for Collin Kelley

1.        What inspires you as a poet? I started reading poetry back in middle school and discovered Sara Teasdale, Walt Whitman and Edna St. Vincent Millay. But the poets who really inspired me – and still do – are Anne Sexton, Alice Walker, Stan Rice, Margaret Atwood and Sharon Olds. Music, films and art have always inspired me and I think that continues to be the case. I’ve been working on ekphrastic poems based on the work of photographer Sally Mann and I think some of my better poems have been based on the films of David Lynch and the French New Wave directors. I love that off-kilter noir sensibility of the films and I think it translates well into my poems.

2.        What advice do you have for other poets? Read other poets’ work. There are so many young poets who don’t read poetry, so they don’t have the groundwork and history of the art form. I also encourage poets to read at open mics. It introduces you to the community and can offer insight into what other people are writing these days. There are plenty of online groups where poets can interact with one another and find information about submissions, contests, etc. Become part of the poetry community at large.

3.       What prompted you to start writing poetry? I learned to read and write at a very early age, so I was always reading ahead of my grade level. I started seriously writing poetry in high school to work out my angst and teen love affairs gone wrong. I liked the immediacy of poetry and the challenge of saying so much in as few words as possible. Singer Peter Gabriel led me to Anne Sexton with his song “Mercy Street” from the album So in 1986 and after I read her, I knew I was going to write poetry for the rest of my life. I still hope I can be as good as her someday.

4.       Where do you see yourself going in the future as a poet? I’ve finished a new collection, but it’s been gathering dust for a year while I’ve worked on a second novel. I got it out of the drawer recently, polished it up and I’m going to start submitting it again later this year. I don’t submit me to journals and magazines as much as I used to, but am more interested in submitting work to anthology projects. While I’ve written plays and novels, poetry remains my first love, so I’ll be writing it until I die.

5.        What are your favorite poetry journals? It’s a mix of print and online journals: Atlanta Review, Assaracus, Blue Fifth Review, Hobble Creek Review, Locuspoint, Cortland Review and Tears in the Fence come immediately to mind.


Slow To Burn
I am slow to burn, waiting for a match strike,
the long drag against me, catching sparks.
See the way my toes curl, surrounded by faggots
like Saint Joan on her worst day.
Retardant long enough for roll call, the names
who slapped heresy into me.
This is for the poets who have lost touch
with the microphone, suck life out of classrooms,
assassinate wild voices, close doors.
Take your little birds and give me vultures.
I want to see what made you hungry,
when words were a jugular spray unstaunched
by tenure and jockeying for invisible position,
before you were warned that exposing a soft
underbelly was career suicide.
Let’s get this blaze roaring. Kindle me up, boys.
Throw on your booze, three pack a day habit, incest,
Oedipal complexes, failed marriages, homosexuality,
war, peace, cancer. Really stoke me.
Even when love has carved you more expertly
than a serial killer, those words don’t fit your pages.
Turn back to prosaic flowers and landscapes
while I immolate myself.
I am the flame laid bare by desire. Put fire in my hands.
From Kelley's chapbook "Slow To Burn," which is being reissued in July by Seven Kitchens Press as part of its ReBound Series.

Here are three links to some of Kelley's other poems online:

"Why I Want to Be Pam Grier"

"Victoria Gate" and "Saint Death"

"Jean Arthur at the Lincoln Memorial"
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