Christopher (Kit) Kelen (客遠文) is a well-known Australian poet, scholar and visual artist, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Creative Writing and Literature for many years.
Kit Kelen’s poetry has been published and broadcast widely since the seventies, and he has won a number of prestigious awards over the years, including an ABA/ABC Bicentennial Prize in 1988; and in 1992 an Anne Elder award for his first volume of poems The Naming of the Harbour and the Trees. He has also won Westerly‘s Patricia Hackett Prize and placed second in Island’s Gwen Harwood Prize. In 2012, his poem ‘Time with the Sky’ was runner up in the Newcastle Poetry Prize, an award for which he has been frequently shortlisted. In 2017, Kit was shortlisted twice for the Montreal Poetry Prize and, for the second time, won the Local Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize.
Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino. The most recent of Kelen’s dozen English language poetry books are China Years – New and Selected Poems (2012, ASM/Flying Islands) and Scavenger’s Season (2014, Puncher and Wattmann). He also has a mini-selected poems in the form of A Pocket Kit. His next collection of poetry, Poor Man’s Coat – Hardanger Poems is being published by University of Western Australia Press in 2018.
The most recent of Kelen’s ten solo painting exhibitions were Next Stop is the Stars (Rui Cunha Foundation Gallery, Macao) in 2015; in 2016, Dotze Pinturas (Estudio Nomada, Barcelona); and in 2017, Kelen’s exhibition up through branches – por árvores acima – held at the SNBA (National Society of Fine Arts) Gallery in Lisbon.
For the last decade Kelen has been facilitating the translation of Chinese poetry into English and of Australian poets into Chinese, projects which have so far produced a dozen large scale bilingual anthologies. These projects involved bringing poets and translators to Australia (notably to Bundanon, the University of Western Australia, and Kelen’s Australian home) to workshop with poets being translated. They have likewise involved hosting poets for workshops and meetings in Macao, and elsewhere in China. Apart from parallel-text anthologies Kelen has notably co-translated two volumes with the late Hong Kong poet Leung Ping Kwan (Ya Si), and four with Macao poet Yao Jing Ming (Yao Feng).
Kit Kelen has also worked with poets and translators to co-translate and publish volumes of poetry from French, Norwegian and Indonesian. A 2012 volume, Notes for the Translators, collected the work of 142 Australian and New Zealand poets, together with advice from authors on how their particular works might be translated into any language.
As an editor and anthologist more generally, Kit Kelen has published the work of hundreds of poets from around the world, but especially from China and Australia.
In 2008, he co-edited with Agnes Vong the first English-language anthology of Macao poetry, containing the work of more than 120 Macao poets, some writing in English, many translated from Chinese and Portuguese. In 2009, his critical volume City of Poets – Exploring Macao Poetry Today appeared to accompany the 2008 anthology.
In Australia, A Slow Combusting Hymn (co-edited with Jean Kent, in 2014) collected the work of more than sixty Newcastle/Hunter-region associated poets. Writing to the Wire (co-edited with Dan Disney and published by UWAP in 2016) brought Australians poets and poets in Australian immigration detention together in a sustained meditation on the question of ethos and the meaning of nation in the case of Australia.
Nation and nationalism have been an abiding interest in Kit Kelen’s own poetry and in his literary research. With Björn Sundmark, Kelen has edited two major international collections on Children’s Literature – The Nation in Children’s Literature and Where Children Rule (both with Routledge). He is currently working on a monograph (under contract with Routledge) about poetry, children and anthropomorphism.
Kelen’s published research into national anthems dates back to the 1990s and he has written many articles on this subject. This work has culminated in the publication of two monographs – Anthem Quality – National Songs: A Theoretical Survey (2014, Intellect/University of Chicago Press) and (with A. Pavkovik) Anthems and the Making of Nation States – Identity and Nationalism in the Balkans (2016, I.B.Tauris).
Kit Kelen has also published a more general monograph on poetics: Poetry, Consciousness and Community (2009, Rodopi)
Kit Kelen is Series Editor for ASM/Flying Islands books and, in this role, has cultivated a pocket poets series, publishing writers in various languages from around the world, but especially from Australia and China. Kelen is also Literary Editor for Postcolonial Text.
Since 2016, Kelen has co-ordinated Project 366 – an international on-line community of practice, involving poets and visual artists in daily postings of draft work. As a participant in this project (originally intended to run only for the duration 2016) Kit has now posted a new draft poem to the blog every day for more than 800 days.
A new on-line collaboration among poets and artists A Conversation in Poetry has recently commenced (in 2018). Participants in this project – including many of Australia’s best-known poets) respond in kind to each others’ work, without any time limits.
Kit Kelen lives and works on a five-acre block, in a valley between forests, in the Myall Lakes district of New South Wales. He writes and paints every day.
In 2017, Professor Kelen was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Malmö, in Sweden.
Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications
Wake to Play: Poems in First Philosophy
trans Papa Osmubal (in National Library of Australia)
A Pocket Kit 2
In National Library of Australia
A Pocket Kit
In National Library of Australia