Writers Institute

Karla Kelsey, Ph.D.


 Karla Kelsey

Karla Kelsey is author of three books of poetry: Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary and Iteration Nets, both published by Boise State University’s Ahsahta Press, and A Conjoined Book forthcoming from Omnidawn Press. She edits and contributes to Fence Books' Constant Critic poetry book review website and has had essays on poetics published in literary journals and anthologies. With Aaron McCollough she co-edits SplitLevel Texts, a small press that publishes books of contemporary innovative poetry and prose.

Karla graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA with degrees in literature and philosophy, was a teaching-writing fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop (MFA) and earned a PhD at the University of Denver. A recipient of a Fulbright lectureship, she has taught creative writing and American literature at the Eötvös Loránd University and at the Eötvös Collegium, both in Budapest. She specializes in poetry at Susquehanna.

A native of Southern California, Karla grew up studying ballet and performed with the Los Angeles Classical Ballet until going to college. Her years studying dance have influenced her teaching style: Karla fosters a close community of writers that help each other engage in meaningful composition, revision and finished drafts of writing. She places value on thoughtful critique, creativity and openness to a variety of aesthetics, traditions and styles.

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Iteration Nets

Karla Kelsey begins with the sonnet—14 lines (usually) that she’s appropriated from a variety of sources, homophonically echoed, and playfully assembled. She then explodes each sonnet into a voluptuous prose poem, later erasing that into a sinuous, open, lyric line. The aim of the book is not to execute a plan or fulfill a form, but to generate new modes of inhabiting a poem. The result is a work of lyrical constraint and romantic conceptualism.

“Kelsey demonstrates remarkable formal mastery as she follows the path of the sonnet through contraction, expansion, and disruption. Yet this poetry shows that all such articulation is finally the result of ‘an undecided formula whose negation isn’t provable.’ Her intelligence and humanity work a new trust through the ‘secret inarticulate missions’ by which words can be both bereft and found. Using form to relinquish form, Kelsey risks all, taking us to ‘the crux of/presence/sundered.’” —Elizabeth Robinson

 Book by Karla Kelsey

 Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary

This book of poetry takes flight from Plato's Theaetetus, in which Socrates tells us that the mind works as an aviary—particles of knowledge fly around like birds, and the thinker plucks them down to use when he or she sees fit. The bird becomes a metaphor for the action of the mind folding and unfolding into explosions and navigational patterns of flight. Lyrical and thought-provoking, it is a masterful debut.

"Kelsey writes what it is to know, of what we become/ when the universe is seen in lights of its generation.... What Kelsey has given us in lyric form: another world, wherein the reader may enter and become awake."
--Carolyn Forché

 Book by Karla Kelsey

 Little Dividing Doors in the Mind

"When Karla Kelsey refers to 'curio cabinets,' she, and the poem, are fully aware of the originary Latin 'curiosus,' 'full of care or pains,' which applies fully to this book, exquisite with detail and implication both: it is a collection of threatening energies controlled by a single voice, a voice both pained and pains taking."
--Bin Ramke

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