{ Banjo’s Inside Coyote – poems – Kelli Allen }

Banjo’s Inside Coyote
poems, Kelli Allen
C&R Press, 2018


Verbose, strange, and woozily humble, Kelli Allen’s Banjo’s Inside Coyote crafts the hand you don’t write with and teaches one to read anything but it. How bold and earthly a move it is to make of verse an anti-inheritance and to re-other the romancing of those meek designs our art so often has on detail. These are poems made of city and of country, of salted star and of the left-footed river. Whether embodied beast or distant dust mite, they find with oddity a clarity enough to bring joy to a past joy. And as Allen so gingerly resurrects suddenness from its foregone surprise, you’ll want to double back might amnesia forget what it knows.


reflection by Barton Smock


book is here:

Banjo’s Inside Coyote

person Kelli Allen, one poem

Kelli Allen has served as Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review and she directs River Styx’s Hungry Young Poets Series. Allen teaches in the MFA program at Lindenwood University. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally

Her chapbook, Some Animals, won the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016 Damfino Press award. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books (2012) and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest collection, Imagine Not Drowning, was released by C&R Press in January 2017.



Galloping toward the harbor, crown in our pocket

When roots are horses, nothing seeds to fruition.
It is this way with us, too. We pass tasting booths
in Madrid and on the way down, pocket notes
meant for after curtains blunt wide. We leave applesauce
under the bedroom window in exchange for crow
feathers small enough to pick teeth white on purpose.

A landscape boxed is still one doe curled into her buck
and no chorus or apology proves this wrong. Smuggle
the dead into the theatre, wait for the third ovation—
the full moon does not always mean wolf.

Maybe you’ve seen them—the two knots left
on the wrist. Once, we were convinced venom
could be drawn from muscle to tongue to ground. Maybe
you remember the surface red, weeping, your hand
a paw too large against the satin. This is not a story
about impotent death. We have habits and photographs,

sometimes scars, for such embarrassment. I might hum
the notes of how we arrived, in which old boat, backs stiff,
becoming pine, too. Every sail is an eager geometry near wind.
In this murmuration, starlings build parapets from rising jungle
mist and somewhere in the noise, an invitation will fall
into your lap. You will gesture, break every conversation,
tiny bones pillaring beneath first one elbow and then the next

until the throne is cast for you to fall back and fall soft. Look
at the just-closing mouth, the proof slated for a ledger dug-up
and dusted with beetle carcasses meant for next week’s rain.
What will we do with such a king and how will we welcome
you, robes so fresh, a pulse through the moss, into this body?

Imagine Not Drowning – poems – Kelli Allen

Imagine Not Drowning
poems by Kelli Allen
(C & R Press, 2016)


Kelli Allen rescues nothing in her book ~Imagine Not Drowning~. Instead, she makes an acolyte of stillness. There is lightning, here, and there are glyph-obsessed waters. Allen says ‘we keep vigil for signifiers’ (from Ghosting), and it feels final, feels already saved. Why follow? What does a named creature understand? I can tell you Allen makes one feel a name is still being said somewhere in a book signed by its readers. The language in this collection goes where it’s called, some borderless upward, some nest made for mouth. This poet can on one hand etch ‘direction only makes us brave the first time’ (from Bravery, you said, is not what it used to be) while on the other tattooing ‘every night is a lifelong sentence about home’ (from Reformation). These are good hands to be in. As a poet, Allen knows the body as a map without a country. She outlines, yes, but knows one need not be dust and is a lover of those stomachs full of eaten chalk. Her disorientations are precise.

In the poem (We name the totems with every morning), Allen writes ‘…If I dive deep into the ocean / and find a camel, everything I know / will cease to matter’. I was wrong. She rescues that camel.


review by Barton Smock


available here: