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S. K. Kelen (1956 – )

Stephen Kelen, photo courtesy the author Stephen Kelen, photo courtesy the author

Stephen Kenneth Kelen was born in Sydney in 1956. His father Stephen Istvan Kelen was a writer, playwright and journalist, and his brother Christopher Kelen is also a poet. Kelen began writing poetry at a young age, and won a Poetry Australia prize for young poets in 1973; several of his poems appeared in that journal the same year. He studied Philosophy and Literature at the University of Sydney, and subsequently moved to Canberra, where he worked as a Commonwealth public servant, and later as a book reviewer for the Canberra Times. Kelen has also taught creative writing and has had various literary fellowships, including a visiting professorship at the University of South Dakota (1996), and a period as AsiaLink Writer in Residence in Vietnam (1998). In 2005 he completed a PhD in creative writing and English at the University of Adelaide.

Kelen’s first collection of poetry The Gods Ash Their Cigarettes was published in 1978. He has since published eleven further collections, including Dragon Rising, a chapbook published in Vietnam during his time there. His collection Earthly Delights was joint winner of the ACT’s Judith Wright Award for a published book of poetry in 2007. His poetry is noted for its wry humour, and for blending a wide knowledge of Eastern and Western history and mythology with an Australian experience.

Poetry Collections
  • The Gods Ash Their Cigarettes (St Lucia, Qld: Makar Press, 1978).
  • Zen Maniacs: Modern Life Studies ([Bowden, SA]: Modular Press, 1980).
  • To the Heart of the World’s Electricity (Broadway, NSW: Senor Press, 1980).
  • Atomic Ballet (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1991).
  • Dingo Sky (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1993).
  • West of Krakatoa: Poems (Ainslie, ACT: Limestone Press, 1994).
  • Trans-Sumatran Highway and other poems (Cook, ACT: Polonius Press, 1995).
  • Postcards from the Universe (Cambridge, UK: Folio/Salt, 1998).
  • Dragon Rising: poems (Hanoi: The Gioi Publishers, 1998).
  • Shimmerings: poems (Wollongong, NSW: Five Islands Press, 2000).
  • Goddess of Mercy: poems (Blackheath, NSW: Brandl and Schlesinger, 2002).
  • Earthly Delights (Canberra: Pandanus Books, 2006).
Suggested Further Reading
  • Adam Aitken, ‘Adam Aitken Interviews S. K. Kelen: on S. K. Kelen’s 1998 AsiaLink visit to Vietnam.’ 2004. [see linked file]
  • Margaret Bradstock, [untitled review], Five Bells 14.3 (2007), pp. 46–48.
  • Michael Brennan, ‘Unplugged Sensibilities,’ Australian Book Review no. 249 (2003), pp. 58–59. http://hdl.handle.net/2328/1375
  • Pam Brown, ‘Pam Brown Reviews Shimmerings by S. K. Kelen,’ Jacket no. 15 (2001). http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/10059/20061027-0000/jacketmagazine.com/15/brown-r-kelen.html
  • Marcelle Freiman, ‘Alive in an Imperfect World,’ Jacket no. 27 (2005). http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/10059/20061027-0000/jacketmagazine.com/27/frei-kelen.html
  • Hal Judge, ‘As Natural as Breathing,’ Muse no.216 (2002), p. 7.
  • S. K. Kelen, ‘Writing the Goddess,’ Five Bells 14.3 (2007), pp. 21–23.
  • Anthony Lawrence, ‘Communicative Arts,’ Australian Book Review no. 288 (2007), p. 49.
  • Geoff Page, ‘S. K. Kelen,’ A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1995), pp. 149–51.