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Banjo's Inside Coyote

From C&R Press

Published March 2019




The old gods only ask for forgiveness when watching from too far a distance. They guess and risk and let their furred ankles meet a finger’s shaky tip. In our looking up and inward, we, too, construct a primeval forest populated by winding rows of tiger lilies imagined in a lover’s nautical ear where shipwrecks line beaches made of nickel and iron. Here, hunger comprises both soil and canopy, and little escapes the hourglass’s rough rim. The poems in this collection are meant for such appetites. Images do not just leap from line to line, they duck and burrow between pages, careful to reveal their earnestness only to those with mouths open wide. Banjo’s Inside Coyote is a book of questions—those meant to remind us to stay longer in the mossy Inn and listen close to stories we should not soon forget. In every port, one barstool will host a long wagging tail. If we follow its swing to spine to throat to snout, we will notice teeth spread broad in a smile, in a welcome and warning. Answers are risky. They are propelled by lust and hope for beauty, by something like a winged raft too quick down a trickster’s river. The poems in Kelli Allen’s third full length collection ask us to curl our tongues past the lips we lick for salt, the ones we part when asking for longer here, in this place of pirate flags and slick bellies still hot under busy palms. These are poems for what we offer inside-out, for whomever might be waiting on the shore.



With untethered imagination and phantasmagorical juxtapositions of imagery, Kelli Allen’s Banjo’s Inside Coyote arrives into the world masterfully crafted.  Allen’s poems

are artfully tuned to the voices, human and otherwise, in the worlds we think we

know—and those, most assuredly, we do not. Unexpectedness is the watchword herein.

Ms. Allen works in long, seamless lines and I can’t think of anyone more astute in the art of the line break. “Ladies, lovers, washbasin architects. / Termites are the keepers of slow fires.  Nothing wants to be the monster.”  Every line in this volume is an adventure for the senses.

                   --Robert Nazarene, founding editor, The American Journal of Poetry 

The rare wildness in Kelli Allen’s poems is often both disorienting and meditative, visceral and intelligent, commanding and tender. Deer, wolverine, coyote, bee—animals, creatures, and humans co-exist in these mesmerizing poems that often feel like surrealist paintings, where the poet explores fate, sensuality, and the heart. This fearless book is full of magic, desire, inquiry, and hunger—like no other book I’ve read in many years.

       --Lee Herrick, author of This Many Miles from Desire, and Scar and Flower


I sat up all night with these remarkable creations and this morning my world is full of magical new things. Kelli Allen is a witch queen of the sharp, insightful word. Her poems possess a piercing wit and a playfulness that meshes intimately with tenderness, sadness and sometimes a faint echo of regret.

There is an ancient soul singing quietly through these lines, one often amused by the vagaries and contradictions of this life but never less than fully engaged with her subject and her subject is life, how it is lived, how it is sometimes endured, how it is celebrated. The lines pour like expensive oils or rich, sweetened cream, like an eldritch spell and I am ensorcelled.

Be greedy with this book, keep it close to you at all times, treat it like a rare, fragile thing, find the quiet places in this rushing world where you can for a brief moment, open the pages and inhale beauty.

--Mick Corrigan, author of Deep Fried Unicorn and Life Coaching for Gargoyles

--Celbridge, Ireland 2018.



Ashbery is dead.  And yet that voice which meant so much to me as it hovered like a divine breath over the surfaces of the known world, endlessly troubling what we thought we knew into new and miraculous meanings, lives on in the poems of Kelli Allen.  These poems remind me of Yeats’s remark that “what can be explained is not poetry.” There are two ways of approaching the ineffable: prayer, and poetry. And Kelli Allen somehow finds a way of giving voice to the great mystery—the mystery of being human-- that ordinary language can’t express.

                      --George Bilgere, author of The White Museum and The good Kiss

Kelli Allen does it again! Each poem of this incredible book is a dazzling showcase of Allen’s singular talents for crafting poems that usher the reader into rooms of heartfelt cogency, pithy resonance, and unparalleled humanity with steady, skilled hands. From the speaker who notes, “Misfortune isn’t theft or forgetfulness”, to another who observes, “what spills into me washes your fingers in the morning”, Allen’s poems are wake-up calls, informing and reminding us that our vulnerability; our humanness is to be championed and celebrated, instead of suppressed or ignored. Kelli Allen is a spectacular poet, and Banjo’s Inside Coyote is required reading.
                --Joey Nicoletti, author of Thundersnow, Reverse Graffiti, and Cannoli Gangster 


Kelli Allen, Banjo’s Inside Coyote Listen, these poems are songs sung into the clavicle of a lover’s ear. Listen, these poems are born from the earth, rich and dense and at times a little dirty. Listen, these poems are biblical, without the religion, and contained in them are the breaths of the saints not in heaven but the natural world. Listen, the Coyote is real, is not metaphor, is the life of these poems, the propulsion, the song reverberating in all of us. Listen, read, then close your eyes.

          --Ira Sukrungruang, author of Buddha’s Dog & other Meditations, and The Melting Season

Kelli Allen, Banjo’s Inside Coyote:

This three part collection is an introspect of tenderness, hope, and a dark metamorphosis. Allen’s presence in the natural world fills this collection with striking language, a perfectly balanced voice, and shimmering imagery.

We are asked: Which of us remember tender ruin…?  There is a rhythm here that builds on an essential need to remain expectant in our world.

We are forgiven and burning, she writes; with an intimate quiet resonating of wonder, welcoming you in.

              --Helen Vitoria

                 Poet, Editor


There is a muscular, physical sensuality to Kelli Allen’s poetry which belies its numinous core. The poems are rich as marrow; golden as sunlight, filtered through bone. The lines leap with delicious wordplay and images replete with scotch eggs, forgotten gods and Jungian intimations. From county fairs, falling stars, and hot lover’s kisses to international flights and discourses on the works of Paul Cézanne, Banjo’s Inside Coyote never stultifies, never stales; living fire cannot be still.

                                                    --Bethany W. Pope, Poet, Novelist, Space Pirate


How many stories/does a culture audition/before coal weds the wall?" Kelli Allen examines this in Banjo's Inside Coyote. This collection is written from a mythic understanding of space, separation, distance and the power that resides in pauses. "Sometimes the break is the seduction." After all, "All gods require renewal." This is a book of both auditions and renewals. These poems speak to stoppages, waiting and the ability to continue. About how one can be both apart from and yet a part of.

                                                                      --Kenning JP García, poet and diarist


Kelli Allen’s images are like ancient things long tied inside a sack, waiting for the magician-poet to charm loose the string. Free, they reclaim their wildness, their passion, and in appreciation, they knit themselves into brand new songs, surreal and sensual. Read these poems twice, three times, and for God’s sake out loud—eventually they begin to wedge open a sort of third eye in the unconscious. Afterward it is difficult to think of anything—animals, bodies of water, seashells, blizzards, fingers—as ordinary.

                    --Justin Hamm, author of American Ephemeral and Lessons in Ruin


I dived unprepared in the poetic ocean of Kelli Allen’s new book Banjo’s Inside Coyote. Soon enough I realized that her words can drag you in too deep but at the same time they are saturated with lots of oxygen. Kelli Allen is a poet who can make you feel real hunger for her lines while you read them, she can tell you that “Bitterness is the marrow left too long on the bone…” and “No bull knows the thickness of its own rough horn” and the poems will stay with you long after you have read them. These beautiful poems are full of joy, sadness, regret, bittersweet memories, love and a lot of lust. Kelli Allen is a magnificent flame. And if you want to get burned, try the fire of these poems.

                                        --Peycho Kanev, author of Bone Silence, and Raw Meat

In her new collection, Kelli Allen explores the body and everything around the body: birds, horses, ponds, rivers, hammerheads, wolves – as well as our envies, personal histories, loves, murders and scars. Dead and alive entities rich in texture and detail permeate the work, providing a tightly woven mosaic that amounts to a personal, busy ontology – the world creating, created, undergoing a magnificent unraveling, in which anything loved is going to drown. An elegant, finely crafted and thoughtful book.

                        --Anatoly Molotkov, writer, composer, filmmaker and visual artist

Kelli Allen writes poetry the way scholars study ancient manuscripts, noting not only overt meanings but also the look of the script, the iconography of the marginalia, and of course, the often-darker subtext. Her poems are vivid with flourish, yet intensely cerebral. In Banjo’s Inside Coyote, again and again she finds the sweet spot between complexity and accessibility, much like Jennifer L. Knox at the top of her game. ‘We can only teach each other a simple dance,’ she writes, and we as readers feel the rhythm building. Allen touches often on the natural world—she has a special affinity for birds. At the same time, she never strays far from human nature, showing its beautiful and awful sides. ‘A tongue- / tip remembers salt in all five directions,’ she writes, expressing passion in one poem, while in another she copes with hurt, describing its feeling: ‘every window in this house rolls down as shades / suddenly liquid glass and each snort and breath / is a relief.’ It’s that interplay between light and dark, sacred and profane, kindness and spite, that makes Banjo’s Inside Coyote such a compelling book—one that demands a second reading right away.

                           --Ace Boggess, author of The Prisoners and I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So


In her latest collection, Allen explores themes such as loss, seduction, and redemption through work that is alternately angel and animal—poems that feel like sublime love letters to our highest intentions, while others are raw and revealing; the shedded skins of that which we feel so deeply yet often cannot express in words. Overall, Allen's poetry resembles Joseph Cornell boxes. She takes the materials of our lives and transforms them into extraordinary universes. Each poem is a world in which one could spend the rest of their days discovering and rediscovering so many aspects of the sacred and profane .

 --Rich Ferguson, L.A. poet/novelist, author of New Jersey Me and 8th & Agony


The poems of Kelli Allen’s Banjo’s Inside Coyote are relentless, gorgeous furies. These poems reckon love’s disaster and mercy, and we are captive to the cycle’s infusing power of resurrection. Animals are signifiers that appear throughout and effect a deep magic and mythology. Words echo and trance into a surreal scape that vibrates with intimacy. Allen’s fearless, lush poems channel through the body with the urgency of a beautifully curious and bare heart.  

                               --Clare Martin, Editor-in-Chief of MockingHeart Review and author of Eating the Heart First (Press 53), Seek the Holy Dark(Yellow Flag Press), and Crone, (Nixes Mate Books). 

Kelli Allen is, in the words of Carl Sandberg (which she quotes), "a wild girl keeping a hold / On a dream," and her poems captivate with that wild grasp on the desired even as it slips like silt. In the opening poem of Banjo's Inside Coyote, the forest becomes ash becomes a bowl that welcomes a future of both accumulation and loss, where the poems that follow teeter and wave. Allen's poems make sense of the natural world and of the world as natural, and this "is not about reconciliation" even as the human is reconciled. The poems here burrow even as they breathe.

                                      --Anna Leahy, editor TAB: Journal of Poetry and Poetics


Banjo’s Inside Coyote tantalizes with mythology and the unforgiving needs of the body. We read into the sensual and exotic, where “there are coffins for goats” and “clumsy harbors waving the last ship down.” Allen possesses her world lyrically, but refuses to rest within it. As she writes, “Every cell in the asylum has a bed / too soft for us.”

                         --Lauren Camp, author of Turquoise Door: Finding Mabel Dodge Luhan in New Mexico and One Hundred Hungers 



These poems shimmer with energy—full, fun, richly wrought.  Kelli Allen is an ambitious talent, and her poems are prodigious, headlong, muscular, and intoxicating. They embrace wildness, the unbridled, and the unsettled.  The poems, as good poems do, wrench us from the ordinary.

                          --Eric Pankey, poet and educator

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