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Keri Overall

ROBINSON, KIT (1949- ) Known for his participation in the Bay Area language school scene of the 1970s and 1980s, Kit Robinson shares with his peers a focus on the ways in which language frames our thoughts and perceptions. Building on the traditions of his modernist and postmodernist predecessors (Gertrude stein, William Carlos WILLIAMS, and other poets of modernism, as well as the poets of the new york school), Robinson employs strategies, including the non sequitur, which deliberately confuse the unsuspecting reader. "In the Orpheum Building" (1982), for example, opens with the following sentence: "Single story two bedroom dwelling across from / Parts unknown and won't be back and hesitates / To hand over that strongbox." Composed of a series of seemingly unrelated textual fragments, the poem imitates yet subverts the


syllogistic logic of conventional discourse. While we come to recognize in its various fragments the language of classified advertisements, scraps of passing conversation, and technical jargon, the text's overall meaning is left open and unresolved. The poem, in refusing to use language as a transparent window through which the world is made both visible and knowable, highlights the ways in which our perception is ordered by the linear structure of the sentence.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Robinson received a B.A. from Yale University in 1971. He taught in the California Poets in the Schools program from 1977-83, and then he worked as an executive in the information technology industry in and around San Francisco. Robinson's first book, Chinatown of Cheyenne, was published in 1974. He has received a number of grants, including one from the National Endowment for the Arts (1979).

Like the double careers of Williams and Wallace stevens before him, Robinson's career as an executive in California's high-tech industry has had an important impact on his poetry. In his poem "The Wig" (1991), he reveals his practice of writing on the job, "of doing a bit of one's private work on company time, of thereby 'personalizing' one's corporate labor." Robinson argues elsewhere that writing on the job grounds poetry in common experience. His sampling of corporate language seeks to "drain specialized language of its isolating productive assurance and exploit it in the expression of human desires" ("Time and Materials" 27). Employing a variety of invented forms, Robinson's poetry is grounded in the poetics of the everyday, from the language of the corporate workplace to domestic meditations to the visual and aural traffic of the commute in between. As he puts it in his afterword to The Crave (2002), his poems "skirt the fringes of love and business, form and emptiness, the spaces between things, home and a restless movement from place to place" (119).

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