Kelly Grovier

Image by Caroline Forbes

Kelly Grovier

b. 1968

This is a poet of both truth and beauty - Rory Waterman, Times Literary Supplement

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About Kelly Grovier

Kelly Grovier (b. 1968) grew up in America and was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles. He came to study at Oxford University after winning a British Marshall scholarship, and now teaches English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University in Wales. His first collection of poetry, A Lens in the Palm, was published by Carcanet in 2008, and his literary biography of Newgate Prison, The Gaol, followed in the same year; it was later serialised as Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4.

Grovier's work is fascinated with philosophy and painting -- with the way physical details and metaphysical ideas interact in the world. This blurring of boundaries can be felt in poems which take us from well-known works of art or philosophical propositions to more deeply personal canvases and intimate theories. In 'The Consolation of Philosophy', observers of snow become part of that interconnectedness by seeing "the snow in the context of the mind / in the context of the mountain / which imagines a distant blossoming / of eyes". The philosophical movements of the poems in this reading are always grounded in precise observation, which was described by Planet magazine as "thrilling precision in the language and description"; the "Tiny abseiler" of 'A spider in Trinity College chapel', for example, becomes a point of meditation through which a stained glass window grows an uncanny closeness to a spiderweb, and time a closeness to silk.

This is not work grasping after certainties, but rather one that embraces a state in which questions can be welcomed, rooms can be lost and what is thought fixed can be re-examined. In 'Rain, Steam, and Speed', Turner's famous painting becomes a measure of the mind's hazy acclimatization in the world; 'were those angels scumbling / in the water?' he asks, 'was that water?' 'The stars' presents an audience with lovers under a starred sky, and admits this to be an image of "the unknown / knowing the unknowable"; 'Tens and eight' draws power from the attempt to re-shape a memory of a fatal accident, so as to be able to say "I saw it coming", and from the emotional weight of the fact that, while that re-shaping can be considered, it is ultimately impossible to achieve.

Reviewing A Lens in the Palm, the Times Literary Supplement drew attention to Grovier's use of tercets, describing it as "a form particularly suited to the deft enjambment, witty shifts in meaning and ironic highlighting" in his work; similarly, the poet's performance in this reading is attuned to these characteristics, bringing them to life for an audience. It is a reading that shows the aptness of Grovier's own description, in 'Table Saw', of "the way a poet separates from prose, / / syllable and sound, emptiness / from ink".

His recording was made for the Poetry Archive on 21 January 2008 at The Audio Workshop, London, and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Kelly Grovier's Favourite Poetry Saying:

"The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully" - Wallace Stevens

Selected bibliography

The Lantern Cage, Carcanet, 2014


The Sleepwalker at Sea, Carcanet, 2011


The Gaol: The Story of Newgate - London's Most...

A Lens in the Palm, Carcanet 2008



Kelly Grovier

Kelly Grovier Reading from his Poems

1The shed

2The stars

3The easel of Mantegna

4The ancient of days

5Rodin's Balzac

6Camping Out

7Rain, Steam and Speed

9The lens

10The needle



13The lost room

14The recipe

15Table Saw



18St Augustine's Abbey


20The astrologers

21The Book of Clues



24A spider in Trinity College Chapel

25Fra Angelico

26Les Parapluies

27The triple tree

28Of thought - the train

29Mincing Words


31'Nor even yet quite relinquish'

32The Consolation of Philosophy

33The frequency




37The night is like a dinosaur

38Via negativa

39April Morning

40The meadow


42Wan Hu's flying chair



45Hurricane Alley

46The Ruined Statue of a Saint

47Pancho Villa

A tour of the Archive with Catherine Olver

I think it's defensible to say that there's something about any poem worth the title that asks to be read aloud....

Featured Guided Tours

Books by Kelly Grovier