Throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, ARTS ATL will be introducing you to a few of Georgia’s most talented poets and spoken word artists.
This week, we present Collin Kelley.
Kelley is the author of several collections of poetry, including his latest, Midnight in a Perfect World (2018, Sibling Rivalry Press), and 2013’s Render (Sibling Rivalry Press), chosen by the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow Book List. He is also the author of The Venus Trilogy novels and the short-story collection Kiss Shot. Kelley is a recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year Award, Deep South Festival of Writers Award and Goodreads Poetry Award, and his work has been published globally in magazines, anthologies and journals.
Name: Collin Kelley
Social media handle/website information:
Instagram and Twitter: @collinkelley
ARTS ATL: How would you describe the type of poetry you write or perform?
Collin Kelley: Unapologetically confessional.
ARTS ATL: Where can we go to find your work or see you perform?
Kelley: You can find my poetry collections – Midnight in a Perfect World, Render, Slow To Burn and Better To Travel – at local bookshops and online retailers. I have many poems in online journals, and you can find a directory of them at my website. My next Atlanta gig is at the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend, where I’ll be doing a reading and [speaking] on a panel.
ARTS ATL: Favorite spots in Atlanta to go for poetry readings, open mics or spoken word events?
Kelley: Java Speaks, which began at Java Monkey Coffee House and is now based at The Pinewood in Decatur, is not only the best open mic in Atlanta, but one of the best in the country. I enjoy the reading series at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center and Poetry at Tech. And I have to toot my own horn since I curate and host the quarterly Poetry Atlanta Presents reading series with Georgia Center for the Book at the Decatur Library.
ARTS ATL: What are some of the recurring themes you explore in your poetry/verses?
Kelley: Pop culture has been a throughline in my poetry since I began writing in the 1980s. Often, pop culture is the lens I use to explore sexuality, travel and politics.
ARTS ATL: What is it about poetry that’s most appealing to you as a creative form?
Kelley: I love the challenge of distilling an emotion, moment or situation and making it accessible and impactful to readers and listeners. Discovering imagery, metaphor and unexpected turns of phrase keep me writing poetry.
ARTS ATL: Who or what most inspires your work?
Kelley: I discovered Anne Sexton’s poetry in the 1980s, and her body of work continues to inspire and offer guidance. She taught me the most valuable of lessons: Write without regret.
ARTS ATL: Whose poetry do you most enjoy?
Kelley: So many, but the contemporary poets I adore are Cecilia Woloch, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Patricia Smith, Margaret Atwood, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Karen Head and Ilya Kaminsky – to name a few.
ARTS ATL: Share with us your favorite line of poetry.
Kelley: “My friend, my friend I was born / doing reference work in sin, and born / confessing it.” – Anne Sexton, “With Mercy for the Greedy”