I first discovered Collin Kelley through my wife, who loves his blog:
Modern Confessional. Over time, I’ve been lucky enough to meet him a
few times in person, but I still love reading his blog which has a lot
of personality. But Collin is more than just a blogger, he’s a great
poet and writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Plus, he’s a key poetry
advocate in the Atlanta, Georgia, area through his involvement with
Poetry Atlanta events.
Collin’s debut novel Conquering Venus has been garnering a lot of praise, and he’s currently working on another. He self-published his first collection of poetry Better to Travel,
which was nominated for the 2003 Georgia Author of the Year Award, Kate
Tufts Discovery Award and Lambda Literary Award. Collin has also had
two other chapbooks of poetry published: Slow to Burn (originally
released by MetroMania Press–and will be re-released in 2011 as part
of the ReBound Series from Seven Kitchens Press) and After the Poison
(Finishing Line Press).
Here is a sample poem from Collin originally published in Slow to Burn:
What Remains, by Collin Kelley
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 empty 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.
What are you currently up to?
I’m finishing my second novel, which will probably be out in early 2012. It’s a follow-up to Conquering Venus,
but also a stand-alone story. This one has a more mystery/thriller
vibe. I also have a full-length collection of poetry I plan to start
sending out to presses early in the year. It’s been sitting in my file
cabinet for nearly two years, so time to dust it off and get it out
What do you try to accomplish with your blog Modern Confessional?
It’s just me talking about what’s on my mind, really. I never set
out to give the blog an agenda or focus. I review books, I recap American Idol,
I get into heated debates over politics and poetry, I post music
videos. I post whatever I feel like posting. I don’t want to drone on
about poetry and literature every single day. I want people to get to
know me and, by extension, my writing.
Is there anything that you’d like to try with your blog that you’re currently not doing?
I want to start vlogging. I’ve never made a video blog before, but
I plan to in January. I think I’ve under-utilized video and YouTube, so
it’s time to explore. I just hate having to put on clothes and fix my
You’re very active on Twitter. Do you think other poets could benefit from being on Twitter?
I do. Twitter has been very good to me as a poet. I was asked to edit an issue of OCHO
magazine by Didi Menendez because of Twitter. I’ve found out about
contests and calls for submissions there, and I’ve found a community of
poets who are happy to share links and knowledge with others. Those who
say they don’t “get” Twitter just aren’t trying. It’s the easiest type
of social media to use and requires the least amount of effort. If you
can sit on Facebook playing Farmville for hours on end while trying to
come up with that next great line of poetry, you can send out a few
tweets each day.
You’re involved in the Atlanta poetry scene, especially through your
work with Poetry Atlanta. What are the various roles you play to help
promote poetry in the Atlanta area?
I’ve been hosting a reading series or open mic in Atlanta now for
seven years. The latest incarnation is the great partnership Poetry
Atlanta with Georgia Center for the Book. It’s a quarterly series and
we bring in two or three poets each time to read from their new work. I
try to get someone from out of town and pair them with a local
poet–poetry stew. Many poets are embarrassed to promote themselves or
their work, but since I’m a publicity whore, I have no qualms about it.
When there’s a book out by a poet I love or a great reading about to
happen, I promote it relentlessly. E-mails, Facebook, Twitter,
blogging–I try to put it everywhere. Calling myself a cheerleader for
poetry in Atlanta is cliche, but I guess I am.
I know your first collection of poetry was self-published. Could you
give your take on whether poets should consider self-publishing as an
option for their own poetry?
I think there’s no shame in self-publishing, although many
highfalutin poets make the sign of the cross at the mere suggestion.
There’s been a bit of revisionism in poetry. It was quite all right
when Whitman, Pound, Eliot and cummings were doing it, but they’re
“famous” poets now. Canon. It seems that the statute of limitations ran
out on self-publishing beign the norm and became useless “vanity”
poetry instead. That is, until the last 10 years or so when
self-publishing has made a big, big comeback. There are some fine
self-published poetry collections out there–Jilly Dybka and Reb
Livingston come instantly to mind.
If you want complete control of the book, do it yourself and be
prepared to promote the hell out of it. Shamelessly. Most small presses
are going to require you to do all your own publicity, send books out
for review and set up your own readings. If you’re going to have to do
all that, you might as well self-pub, put together a good marketing
campaign and keep all the profits. The biggest piece of advice I can
give is that you should make sure your poetry is ready to be published.
Let others read it, comment, critique and listen to them. Self-pubbing
gets a bad rap because people aren’t careful about editing their work.
Where are the craziest places you’ve done poetry readings? And how did you end up reading there?
I read at a beauty salon once, which was cool, but not the craziest
place. The craziest was at this junk shop over in Douglas County back
in the 90s. I mean, stuff stacked to the ceiling–soft-drink crates,
broken ovens, lamps from every era. But the owner had carved out this
“salon” of ratty old sofas and chairs in the middle of the shop and you
followed this maze of junk to get to it. I read there a couple times
and it was very womb-like.
What (or who) are you currently reading?
I am still buzzing over two collections–Jackie Sheeler’s Earthquake Came to Harlem, which just came out from NYC Quarterly Books, and Steven Reigns’ Inheritance
from Lethe Press. The two best books of poetry I’ve read all year. Both
books are deep and dark recollections of abuse, and they will leave you
scarred but hopeful, too. And I’m still telling everyone I know about
Karen Head’s Sassing from WordTech Editions. Karen and I are
very simpatico in our writing. We both draw on deep wells of family
history, pop culture, love of travel and a little bit of Southern snark
to make our poetry work.
Do you have any favorite poetry blogs that you regularly read?
I just checked my Google Reader, and I have 281 blogs listed there,
the majority of which are about poetry. I try to drop in on them a few
times a month when I can. The ones I simply cannot miss are C. Dale
Young’s Avoiding the Muse, Charles Jensen’s Kinemapoetics, January O’Neil’s Poet Mom and Kelli Russell Agodon’s Book of Kells.
If you could only share one piece of advice with fellow poets, what would it be?
Don’t let anyone tell you that your poetry has to appear in
“important” journals or your collections published by “reputable”
presses to be good poetry. Get the work out there by any means possible
and to the largest audience you can find. The truth is, poetry doesn’t
pay the rent, so let it enrich you artistically, emotionally and
Learn more about Collin Kelley at his blog: Modern Confessional
Or follow him on Twitter @CollinKelley
Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer
(And tweet poetic on Tuesdays at #poettues or all week at #poettalk hashtags.)
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