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ROB by Robert Kiely

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Moving across poem, play, essay – chipping away at their distinctions – Robert Kiely’s ROB explores song, grading, vaccines, change, sound, and natural history. What do you remember, and why? How much of your life is determined by biology? Acknowledgments are terminally incomplete, they always must be. So, what can words hold? What if there is not distinction between inside and outside? Who do you love, who do you write to, who do you collaborate with? Kiely’s answers are only ROB’s. When you read this you’ll have to write your own.





‘Algebra’ is from the Arabic ‘al-jabr’, to set bones; in this lag between quantity and quality, we find ROB’s neighbourhood. Pitching up in the noise where first and second nature blur, this is a work of intensive study, animated by resistant fervour and an extraordinary pedagogical kindness. Kiely slices through the tent-impositions in which we huddle and helps us to bivouac in the rags left behind. The categories, value-measures, networks, clade branch-offs and logics ROB takes as its objects are beset, in vengeance, by the lives they mutilate and carry. But, carefully tended to by Kiely the bonesetter - this is gonna smart a bit – unfractured relief will nonetheless have to wait; we’re still on the move, and there’s no reconciliatory snapshot, no snatched consolation. Fretting its ‘sounds yet to come’ against a rolling terror of abstractions and regimes of categorisation, ROB, with sustained commitment, confronts the scars in the ‘scar archive’, across essay, script and poem, and never lets go. But ROB is also a work of collaboration and friendship: never have the hard-won lessons of self-regard and the inscrutably local, psychological compulsions of individual learning felt so defiantly presented for us.

   — Tom Betteridge, Mudchute

Broken Sleep Books



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