Fire Exit Robert Kelly.

Written over the last three years this long poetic meditation will be viewed by many as one of his major works. Black Widow Press is pleased to bring out this new book in the late October of 2009. 200 pages


Fire Exit is all about participatory observation. The reader is taken on a trip, but not an ordinary journey—it is a dérive, in the true sense of the word: a detour, a drifting, an ambling. We are not sure where the nameless narrator is taking us, but we are caught up in the narrative, and soon we forget all about ourselves and learn to see things anew: our eyes have been opened. This is not a passive exercise; the reader is required to take part in the journey, to notice the world around her, to take note. A boy sits in the movie theater gazing at the fire exit sign, realizing that the Real Story is not in this dark stuffy overcrowded room but Out There, just outside his reach, glowing red. Walter Benjamin writes in The Arcades, “To walk out of your front door as if you’ve just arrived from a foreign country; to discover the world in which you already live; to begin the day as if you’ve just gotten off the boat from Singapore and have never seen your own doormat or the people on the landing … it is this that reveals the humanity before you, unknown until now.” These three-line stanzas look unassuming on the page but they are capable of amazing leaps and bounds: in the course of one section they might take us from France to Mascagni to Byron and back, in an astonishing syntactic waltz. Pay attention, like Dante in the underworld, and you will be transformed. Speaking of this long poem, the author says, “Towards the notion of ‘fire exit’ three things led me, and might lead the reader. The first is the Buddha’s parable in the Lotus Sutra—existence is a house on fire, and a desperate father tries to get his children out, using any language he can to coax them from the flames. Talking our way out. The second is the sign I used to see in the movie houses when I was a kid—in flaming red letters FIRE over EXIT—it marked the sudden door that led from the world of the spectacle to the world of the actual. The third is the exit of the gods of Valhalla when the world goes up in fire: The end of the divine age and the beginnings of the human age, the age where we can actually do something in the world.”

"Kelly is heir to both Pound and Zukofsky in his vision of the poet as a 'scientist of the whom all data whatsoever are of use.'" Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris

from Vol. two of the anthology Poems for the Millennium.

"In more than 35 collections of poetry, Kelly has utterly failed at one thing: to pigeonhole himself into predictability...his work is never merely academic, inspired as it is by a passionate intellect reminiscent of Wallace Stevens." Patricia Monagham reviewing Red Action: Selected Poems.

Renowned poet, essayist, fiction writer, author of more than 60 books, Kelly is a director of the Writing Program in poetry at Bard College.

On Robert Kelly's NEW homepage, you can find (among other things) links to MP3's of Robert Kelly reading from Fire Exit.

Video of Robert Kelly reading at The Poetry Project, St. Mark's Church, NYC on March 18, 2009






ISBN: 978-0-9818088-9-5