Poet in the Mirror: Charles Kell

We’re so proud to share some insight into the lives and hearts of today’s poets with our Poet In The Mirror series. This week, Charles Kell—author of the debut Cage of Lit Glass from Autumn House Press—graciously reveals his favorite and most meaningful rejection, his life-long love of poetry, and the specific, singular, surprising joy of talking poetry with poets.


On Rejection

Charles Kell: Plenty of rejection…but rejection does not bother me so much. I had been sending out my MS for about two years (which is not too long, actually), sending it before it was ready. The book had gone through many iterations. I had sent it to well over a hundred places. Luckily, it received a number of finalist and semi-finalist mentions, which buoyed me throughout. Gerald Costanzo, from Carnegie Mellon University Press, sent me a personal note (I am holding it now), that Cage almost made it to publication, and that he liked it. I was so grateful just to have this note, and I would take it out, look at it, hold it in my hands. The note—and all of the notes—meant so much to me.


On Becoming Poet

I have loved poetry all of my life and have been a serious poetry reader since my teens. I have always played around here and there, scribbling poems on envelopes and note cards, writing love poems, silly stuff. In 2009 I worked on a project in Dr. Christina Fitzgerald’s graduate research class at the University of Toledo, where we got to engage with Etheridge Knight’s archives and work with a bunch of poems he had written on napkins, paper plates—it was wonderful. I have loved Etheridge Knight since Dr. Fitz’s class.

I seriously started to devote most of my free time to poetry in 2013, after taking a class with my professor, Peter Covino. From 2013 until this moment, most of my time is devoted to thinking about poetry. I always thought I would write a novel first; the novel, especially the novels of Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Christa Wolf, Laszlo Krasznahorkai, these are some of my favorite texts…. Poetry happened all of a sudden, all by accident. I am lucky that I get to teach for a living; I am lucky that I get to work with such wonderful students and colleagues at the Community College of Rhode Island, who are so kind, who support me unconditionally.


On The Surprising Moments of Cage of Lit Glass

Holding the book in my hands. Selecting the cover. Working with the great people at Autumn House Press—Christine Stroud, Mike Good, Shelby Newsom—who are thoughtful and amazing. Giving the book to friends, family, strangers. The feeling of surprise and joy that these moments are happening.


On Finding the Energy

Read novels, poetry; read everything I can get my hands on. I cannot wait to jump into Laszlo’s new one, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming; I have Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport on the coffee table as well. I have a stack of nonfiction I need to get to. Like Bernhard, I am a horrible consumer of newspapers. I have newspapers, magazines, books piled all over the couch. I have to have the physical, the print; I love feeling the paper in my hands. The apartment is quickly filling with books, print materials, I cannot help it, I apologize, Carrie.


On Bright Poet-Moments

Meeting people. I try to travel as much as possible; I try to meet as many new people as I can. I was recently at Nick’s Bar in Worcester, MA, giving a small reading (thank you Heather and David Macpherson!), and the people there were tremendous, so friendly, so kind, real poetry fanatics. I spent two hours after the reading sitting around, talking poetry, talking art.


Charles Kell is the author of Cage of Lit Glass, chosen by Kimiko Hahn for the 2018 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. His poetry and fiction have appeared in the New Orleans Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, Kestrel, Columbia Journal, The Pinch, and elsewhere. He is Assistant Professor of English at the Community College of Rhode Island and associate editor of The Ocean State Review. He recently completed a PhD at the University of Rhode Island with a dissertation on experimental writing, criminality and transgression in the work of James Baldwin, Rosmarie Waldrop, Joanna Scott and C.D. Wright.


Cage of Lit Glass is available here.

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