Books

In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen

Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017

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Praise:

“Kelly’s poems find a sense of spiritual wonder, both ecstasy and austerity, in nature and mortality. There’s a constant awareness of life’s simple gifts, and a fear that we may lose them at any time.” – Chicago Review of Books

“Kelly’s collection is that long road, full of family, love, hurt, holiness. He explores the external forces that act upon us, that are built into our hard wiring. He does so with a gentleness, with a vulnerability that risks in order to transcend, and in many of these poems, becomes holy.” – Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“In In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen, Kelly’s poems are crafting the next new reality, because what-ever duende would have had to offer, in terms of wisdom, has passed.  This isn’t about getting so close to death we become new.  This collection is about what happens after death, after absence, and how one lives on without merely having to move forward.  Kelly writes ‘inside every man / who lies still at night waiting for change / is a man who can’t stand the thought of it.’ Each poem is a breakup with nostalgia. Each poem is an invitation to the reader to accompany him in his search, to be conflicted with him and to come to terms with the burden of creating new normals and new moral codes.  It’s about the transfiguration of ideas because the change that these poems seek in flesh conclude that no flesh is left available.  This is what most haunts Kelly.  When he writes, ‘Yes, we are each machine. / It shouldn’t have to be this way,’ we are called upon to continue living, despite nature, uniformity, dependability, and growing older.  These poems were designed to haunt you, the lyric and cadence casting spells, keeping the reader in their trance long enough to finish their storytelling.  The voice will fill you and will feel familiar, as if an outstretched arm is saying ‘I’ve got to tell you something over a beer.’  These poems in their want and in their searching and in their fear will capture you because each one is a piece of you, too.  Kelly writes: ‘When no one is awake, it sometimes seems / you have been given a second chance.’ This is true, insightful and heart-wrenching work that asks the reader to do the heavy lifting, to make transformations with me.”

–Keegan Lester, author of this shouldn’t be beautiful but it was & it was all i had so i drew it

“Devin Kelly’s visceral poems thrust us into the rich journey of growing up, confronting the ​cause and effect of the ordinary violences​ we inherit and internalize. They accuse with the kindest finger, locating what makes and breaks a family, the turbulence of masculinity, the tender ache of loss, memories that scar and shape into a searching conscience. The question that surfaced over and over while reading: in myself, in others–what can and should be forgiven? Within Devin’s quiet church, his poems whisper that perhaps the answer is everything, to which I am relieved and I am grateful and I say again and again: amen.”

–Caits Meissner, author of Let It Die Hungry

“Devin Kelly’s new book, In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen, is astounding for its grace in language, its meditative rhythms and the story of love he tells in poem after poem where ‘beauty must follow beauty.’ Kelly has an exquisite ear and in these pages we find the rhythm of being here that is music. Fathers, brothers, friends, rivers and birds fly by ‘all so close to being illuminated, so close to being gone.’ Loss haunts every word of this book and makes the poems crackle with gratitude and wonder. His faith in the imagination is praise for the world he inhabits and his poems insist we are all here together. I don’t know a book I love more.”

–Steve Scafidi, author of Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, For Love of Common Words, The Cabinetmaker’s Window, and To the Bramble and the Briar  

“In her interview with The Paris Review, Joan Didion offered this credo: ‘The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.’ To read Devin Kelly’s poetry collection, In This Quiet Church of Night I Say Amen is to privilege the dream. This book is an elegy for the living, the simple difficulty within and behind departure: ‘Who we let go & how—I want to tell you this means more than who we stay beside.’ The hard geographic lines in this collection, as we move through the industrial landscape of Appalachia to the coffee-studded sidewalks of Brooklyn, draw parcels of memories and non-memories. Such proximities ask us who we are when we are here and not here. Kelly is a poet of infinite feeling, a poet who is not afraid to bewilder his capacity to love. This book hurts the way life hurts, and Kelly promises us thus: ‘Life will have, I think, its punishment for all of us.’ If you grow dizzy as you read this book, it’s because you haven’t been breathing. These are gorgeous poems.”

–Natalie Eilbert, author of Indictus and Swan Feast


Blood on Blood

Unknown Press, 2016

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“A striking vision of Springsteen’s iconic Nebraska, Devin Kelly’s Blood on Blood is a great example of the potential of the ekphrastic form: communicating so deeply with another work of art that a whole new work and world springs forth. Stretching beyond the songs, the poems spread wide their lyric virtuosity, exploring the beautiful, tragic and tender American condition.”

—Bianca Stone, author of Someone Else’s Wedding Vows, I Want To Open The Mouth God Gave You, Beautiful Mutant, and I Saw The Devil With His Needlework

“The poems in Blood on Blood are both fan fiction & testament. Devin Kelly vividly sketches out the lives of characters from Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album. A serial killer is decked out in “a suit all paisley / & pink” & a girl “dips a French fry / in her coke.” Kelly’s images are bewitching & luminous. His phrasing captures the swerves & pauses of spoken speech. The poems also testify to the eternal-but-fleeting bonds between father & son & between brothers. In one poem, a speaker, remembering a car ride with his deceased father, says, “You are so much his you cannot contain / your love.” Confession: I cried when I read those lines. Kelly’s poems are full of small mercies & blood-warm insights. I highly recommend this book.”

– Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning

“Devin Kelly is a master storyteller. He weaves together mysterious lyricism with narrative so naturally and effectively, I feel like I know the narrator like myself, but am excitedly intrigued by the ghostly presence of all the characters. Each poem makes me want to know more, makes me hungry for details and more lines. Kelly takes surprising turns and twists while telling it like it is, such as in this line: “God’s a good lie. & even God knows.” He’s definitely a poet to watch.”

– Joanna C. Valente, author of Sirs & MadamsThe Gods Are Dead, and Marys of the Sea

“This is poetry to live with. Devin Kelly is an American writer who’s spun life and song into a traveling tale of petty crime, of a blue kind of violence, of love at dusk and dawn, and of God (whoever she is). Kelly’s is a world of meaning and unmasking, an astonishing poetry of loss and becoming.”

– A.M. Davenport, editor of Full Stop and The Scofield

“Kelly goes between the songs, between the words, the notes. He keeps going until he hits marrow. This isn’t tribute. It’s the work we knew was inside Springsteen’s masterpiece all along.”

– William Lessard, author of Rembrandt with Cellphone 

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