Robert Kelly was born in Brooklyn on September 24, 1935. He attended CUNY and Columbia University, and since 1961 has taught at Bard College. He has authored more than 60 published volumes of fiction, poetry, and prose-poems. His 1967 debut novel The Scorpions first brought him a cult readership, and in 1980 his book Kill The Messenger won the Los Angeles Times Book Award; and in 1985, A Transparent Tree received the prestigious Academy-Institute Award from the American Institute of Arts and Letters. When speaking about his influences, Kelly said “I want to say the names of the great teachers from whom I learned what I could, and still am learning. Coleridge. Baudelaire. Pound. Apollinaire. Virgil. Aeschylus. Dante. Chaucer. Shakespeare. Dryden. Lorca. Rilke. Hölderlin. Stevens. Stein. Duncan. Olson. Williams. Blackburn. I mention only the dead; the dead are always different, and always changing. I mention them more or less in the order of when they came along in my life to teach me.”
He has served as the poet-in-residence at many notable universities, including the California Institute of Technology (1971–72), Yale University (Calhoun College), University of Kansas, Dickinson College, and the University of Southern California. His fiction has been translated variously into Italian, German, and French.
Armed Descent. New York: Hawk's Well Press, 1961.
Her Body Against Time. Mexico City: Ediciones El Corno Emplumado, 1963.
Round Dances. New York: Trobar Press, 1964.
Enstasy. Annandale: Matter, 1964.
Lunes Sightings (with Jerome Rothenberg) New York: Hawk Well's Press, 1964.
Words in Service. New Haven: Robert Lamberton, 1966.
Weeks. Mexico City: Ediciones El Corno Emplumado, 1966.
Song XXIX. Cambridge: Pym-Randall Press, 1966.
Devotions. Annandale: Salitter, 1967.
Twenty Poems. Annandale: Salitter, 1967.
Axon Dendron Tree. Annandale: Salitter, 1967.
Crooked Bridge Love Society. Annandale: Salitter, 1967.
A Joining: A Sequence for H.D. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1967.
Alpha. Gambier, Ohio: The Pot Hanger Press, 1967.
Finding the Measure. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1968
Sonnets. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1968.
Songs-I-XXX. Cambridge: Pym-Randall Press, 1968.
The Common Shore. (Books 1-5) Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1969.
A California Journal. London: Big Venus Books, 1969.
Kali Yuga. London: Jonathan Cape, 1970. A Cape Goliard Book.
Flesh Dream Book. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1971.
Ralegh. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1972.
The Pastorals. Los Angeles: black Sparrow Press, 1972.
Reading Her Notes. Uniondale: [privately printed at the Salisbury Press), 1972.
The Tears of Edmund Burke. Annandale, privately printed, 1973.
The Mill of Particulars. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1973.
The Loom. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1975.
Sixteen Odes. Los Angeles: black Sparrow Press, 1976.
The Lady of. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press,1977.
The Convections. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1977.
The Book of Persophone. New Paltz: Treacle Press, 1978.
Kill the Messenger. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow press, 1979.
Sentence. Barrytown: Sation Hill Press, 1980.
Spiritual Exercises. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press.
The Alchemist to Mercury: an alternate opus [Uncollected Poems 1960-1980) edited byJed Rasula] Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1981.
Mulberry Women. [with drypoints by Matt Phillips] Berkeley: Hiersoux, Powers, Thomas, 1982.
Under Words. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1983.
Thor's Thrush. Oakland: The Coincidence Press, 1984.
Not This Island Music. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1987.
The Flowers of Unceasing Coincidence. Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 1988.
Oahu. Rhinebeck: St. Lazaire Press, 1988.
Ariadne. Rhineback: St. Lazaire Press, 1991.
Manifesto for the Next New York School. Buffalo: Leave Press, 1991.
A Strange Market (Poems 1985-1988). Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1992.
Mont Blanc (a long poem inscribed within Shelley's). Ann Arbor: Otherwind Press, 1994.
Red Actions: Selected Poems 1960-1993. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1995.
The Garden of Distances. (with drawings by Brigitte Mahlknecht) Kingston: McPherson & Company, 2000.
The Scorpians. New York: Doubleday, 1967, London: Calder and Boyars, 1968. (2nd. Ed.with a new afterword, Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 1986.)
Cities. West Newbury, MA.: Frontier Press, 1972.
A Line of Sight. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1974.
Wheres. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1974.
The Cruise of the Pnyx. Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 1979.
"Russian Tales" in Unlikely Stories, ed. Bruce McPherson. New Paltz: Treacle Press, 1981.
A Transparent Tree. Kingston: McPherson & Co.1985.
Doctor of Silence. Kingston: McPherson & Co. 1988.
Cat Scratch Fever. Kingston: McPherson & Co. 1990.
Queen of Terrors. Kingston: McPherson & Co. 1994.
In Time.[Essays and Manifestoes] West Newbury, MA.: Frontier Press, 1972.
A Controversy of Poets.(with Paris Leary)New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1965.
Abziehbilder Heimgeholt.(with Jacques Roubaud and Schuldt) Graz and Vienna, Droschl, 1995.
Unquell the Dawn Now.(with Schuldt) Kingston: McPherson & Company (Documentext)