Monday, July 2, 2007

Poetry Monday: Collin Kelley

Yes, that's Collin Kelley--today's featured poet--with Pam Grier. Collin is one of those people who constantly surprises you. For instance: he knows Pam Grier?! He's the kind of guy you talk to who seems unassuming but then surprises constantly pop up--about people he's met, awards he has won, adventures he's had, and insights he offers about everything from the poetry of Anne Sexton (his poetry goddess) to American Idol (he predicted this year's winner months before it was obvious).

He's a talented, award-winning writer of poetry. And he's also a novelist, playwright and journalist.

His day job is writing for Altlanta Intown newspaper. Outside of that, he is a tireless ambassador for poetry. He participates in and spearheads a wide variety of public poetry events, and he hosts an Internet radio show, The Business of Words, on Leisure Talk Radio.

Collin says he writes "because I don't know how to do anything else, and I've really never wanted to do anything else. I started reading full novels at an early age and I knew then that writing would be my life's work. I flirted momentarily with being a helicopter pilot. There probably would have been more money in it."

His poetic influences include Sexton, Sharon Olds, Stan Rice, Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker. He considers his work in the realm of confessional poetry, as evidenced by the title of his blog: "Modern Confessional."

Today are featured two of his poems: "What Remains" and "The Virgin Mary Appears In A Highway Underpass."

About "What Remains," which appears in his lovely chapbook Slow to Burn (MetroMania Press), Collin says:

This poem began in a workshop and I recall the workshop leader and another poet getting into an argument – which I wasn’t involved in – about the last line of this poem. The workshop leader wanted me to cut it , the other poet said the last line was vital. I kept it…mainly because I like the word ephemeral, although many people don’t know what it means.

About "The Virgin Mary Appears In A Highway Underpass" (which originally was published in Poetz), Collin says:

This has become one of my most requested poems when I give readings. Some find it sacrilegious, others find it humorous, but I always love the silence that descends after the last three lines sink in. This poem was written in 2005 and inspired by a real event in Chicago. We haven’t had a Mary sighting lately, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next one.


* * *

What Remains

We arrived in Paris on a rainy Sunday,
I remember this now,
as I lift the veil you shrouded me in,
made me complicit in your indecision.

While the others walked under umbrellas,
we lay on opposite beds in the Marais,
our hands reaching across the chasm,
my fingertips tracing your open palm,
every line a dead-end.

We made love through a litany
of favorite things: films as foreplay,
music for kisses, books our orgasm,
a rush of words safe between hard covers.
We should have been covered in sweat,
sticky with the unspoken,
a tangle of limbs and lips.
We are those people in an alternate world,
where hallway voices hold no sway.

I remember this now, your eyes
before the door opened, broke the spell.
Your hand moving away, all the lines
suddenly on fire, a map gone to cinder.
This ephemeral day, even the afterglow.

* * *

The Virgin Mary Appears In A Highway Underpass

Mary pops up in the strangest places,
usually as a window stain or sandwich,
but yesterday she dripped down a wall
on a Chicago underpass, brought the faithful
running with candles and offerings, blocked traffic.
I saw the pictures, couldn't see her face,
saw a giant gaping vagina instead, just failed
my Rorschach Test, going to hell for sure.

If this is Mary, she sure gets around,
recasting herself as a Holly Golightly,
popping up where you least expect her,
causing trouble for the locals.
But why would she choose to appear
in condensation, burnt toast or ditch water runoff?
Some will say it’s proof that she still dwells here,
runs like an undercurrent, manifests in the mundane.

I say, cut the parlor tricks, Mary.
If you want a little respect, come flaming
out of the sky on a thunder cloud,
ride it like a magic carpet over middle America,
speak in a voice like Diana Rigg or Emma Thompson,
command attention, instead of this sleight of hand,
a stain to be cleaned with soap and water,
so easily erased.

* * *

More About Collin: Collin Kelley is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet from Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author of Slow To Burn (2006, Metro Mania Press) and Better To Travel (2003), which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and Georgia Author of the Year Award. Kelley’s poetry has appeared in In Posse Review, Blue Fifth Review, Terminus, New Delta Review, Chiron Review, poeticdiversity, The Pedestal, Lily, Welter, SubtleTea and many others. He is co-editor of the award-winning Java Monkey Speaks Anthology series (Poetry Atlanta Press) and hosts the Internet radio show The Business of Words at Leisure Talk Radio Network. For more information, visit his website by clicking here.
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