Kevin Kiely

1953- ; b. 2 June, Warrenpoint, Co. Down; grandson of Irish Olympic gold-medallist John J. Flanagan; son of J. F. Kiely, a bank-official at Munster & Leinster bank; lived with an aunt in Wimbledon, (London) aged 7; suffered the death of his father, 1963, and ed. under charge of his uncle Edward Vaughan-Neil at Mount St. Joseph ’s Abbey, Roscrea, 1966-69; attended Blackrock College, Co. Dublin, 1969-71; worked as technician for Smedley HP, Cambridgeshire, 1973-75; travelled in Europe; ed. NUI Galway; joined Arts Council’s National Writers Workshop, 1976; ed., with Maurice Scully, The Belle, 1978-79; lived taught at Colegio Xaloc, Spain, 1980; his story “Pieta” appeared in the Co-op Books Anthology, ed. Leland Bardwell (1982);

Kiely received an Arts Council Literature Bursary Awards in 1980 (afterwards in 1989, 1990, 1998, 1999, and 2004); issued Quintesse, with Writers ’ Co-op, Dublin 1982, afterwards reprinted by Marek in New York (1985); awarded Hon. Fellowship on the International Writing Program at Iowa University in 1983, working on Paul Engel, Gary Syder, Marvin Bell and Jorie Graham; reviewed for Hibernia, Dublin 1989; issued Mere Mortals (1989), a modernist novel set in Paris and Bundoran and concerned a secret wartime visit of Charles de Gaulle to Ireland; also a poetry collection, Breakfast with Sylvia (2005), winner of Patrick Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry, 2006; served as literary editor of “New Writing” section in Books Ireland from May 1996; grad. MA in Literature, TCD 2005;

Kiely completed a PhD on John L. Sweeney [of Harvard’s Poetry Room], UCD 2009; received Fulbright Fellowship and taught at Boise State University, (Moscow) Idaho [Professor of Irish Literature], 2008-09; also studied at Harvard; issued a novel for children, A Horse Called El Dorado (2006), winner of the CBI Bisto Award; issued an authorised biography of Francis Stuart (2008); issued The Welkinn Complex (2011), a novel dealing with psychiatric malpractice and the manipulative role of the pharmaceutical industry; challenged the merit of poetry by President Michael D. Higgins, 2012; called for a reassessment of Seamus Heaney’s reputation in a review of his New Selected Poems, in The Irish Times (22.11.2014) - and later more extensively in book-form as Seamus Heaney and the Great Poetry Hoax (2018); contrib. ‘The IT Gang’, an article berating the literary cabal centred on The Irish Times, to Village (13 Feb. 2015); he has written plays for children with Pamela Brown (Princess Finvola of the Roe Valley and The Taking of Christ, 2014); addresses in Dublin and Derry.

[ There is a Kevin Kiely page on Wikipedia - online. ]

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  • Quintesse (Dublin: Writers ’ Co-op 1982), and Do. [rep.] (NY: St. Martin ’s/Marek 1985), 174pp.
  • Mere Mortals (Dublin: Poolbeg Press [assoc. with Odell & Adair] 1989), v, 216pp.
  • A Horse Called El Dorado (Dublin: O’Brien Press 2005), 141pp. [children].
  • SOS Lusitania (Dublin: O’Brien Press 2013), 208pp..
  • The Welkinn Complex (Florida: Number One Son Publ. 2011), 168pp. [see note].
  • Cromwell Milton Collins Carson (2020), 89pp. [Epic of Yrland regained; see note].
  • Plainchant for a Sundering (Belfast: Lapwing Press 2001), 36pp.
  • Breakfast with Sylvia (Belfast: Lagan Press 2005), 62pp.

Poetry venues: his poetry has appeared in The Edinburgh Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Adrift (NY), Foolscap (London), Oasis (London), Acumen (UK), Other Poetry (UK), Cyphers, The Literary Review (New Jersey), Chapman (Scotland), Southword, Cork Literary Review, The Black Mountain Review, The Shop, Fortnight, Storm (Scotland), Touchstone (UK), Stony Thursday Book; Idaho Arts Quarterly; The Journal: Cumbria (UK); Decanto (UK); The Poetry Bus; Sunday Independent, Revival Literary Journal.

Anthologised in: Something Sensational To Read in the Train, foreword by Brendan Kennelly (Dublin: ) Lemon Soap Press 2005); Catullus: One Man of Verona, ed. Ronan Sheehan (Dublin: Farmar & Farmar Ltd. 2010); Ends & Beginnings, ed. John Gery & William Pratt (NY: AMS Press 2011); Windows 20,  ed. Heather Brett & Noel Monahan (Cavan: Windows Publ. 2012); In Place of Love and Country, ed. Richard Parker & John Gery (London: Crater Press 2013), Liberty, Come Galloping! Salvation, Flower: Poets Worldwide, ed. Kamran Mir Hazar (Kabul Press 2013); Still, ed., Chelley McLear (Belfast: CAP 2014).

  • Multiple Indiscretions (RTÉ 1997).
  • Children of No Importance (RTÉ 2000).
  • with Pamela Brown, Princess Finvola of the Roe Valley (2014).
  • with Pamela Brown, The Taking of Christ (2014).
Journalism & Miscellaneous
  • ed., with Maurice Scully, The Belle: A Quarterly Journal of Belles-lettres (Dublin: Foxrock 1978-79) [published from 68 Foxrock Park, Dublin 18].
  • UCD Belfield Metaphysical: A Retrospective Paperback (2017) [q. details].
  • Seamus Heaney and the Great Poetry Hoax: A critical exposé of Faber and Faber’s verse-man (Areopagitica Publ. 2018), 318pp. [see Amazon extracts - online; accessed 16.09.2020].
  • Arts Council Immortals (CreateSpace Ind. Publ. Platform 2020), 514pp. [see note].
  • Francis Stuart: Artist and Outcast (Dublin: Liffey 2008), 376pp.

See also num. review-articles in Books Ireland incl. reviews of Flann O’Brien and Irish Modernism (Feb. 1996, pp.19-20), Words Alone, by R. F. [Roy] Foster, critical studies of Northern poetry, and fiction-works of Colm McCann (Oct. 2011).

See also

—review of Seamus Heaney, New Selected Poems, in The Irish Times (22 Nov. 2014) [under Heaney - as supra];
—‘Aos Dána [sic]: Where Self-selection Meets Self-praise, in a Faux Gaelic, Haugheyesque Arts Beano’, in  Village Magazine (Feb.-March 2014) [q.p.].
—‘The IT Gang’, in Village (13 Feb. 2015) [see extracts].

Criticism Venues: Hibernia, Irish Examiner, The Democrat Arts Page, Irish Studies Review, Honest Ulsterman, Fortnight, Books Ireland, The London Magazine, The Irish Book Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Irish Times, Irish Arts Review, Irish Literary Review, and Idaho Arts Quarterly.

Autograph YouTube videos
“Belfield Metaphysical” online
“House of Figs” online

An The Irish Press interview published to coincide with the publication of The Welkinn Complex (Echopunks, Aug. 2012)

 The Welkinn Complex has big themes and insights into the world of psychology but these are a mere vehicle for a dissection of the twisted psyche of Dr Welkinn. Author Kevin Kiely, who was born in Co Down and now lives in Derry, says he wrote his new novel while lecturing in the US.
 “The idea for it came to me after talking to people in the US who had gone to clinics and told me about this practice,” he said.
 “People are being used to test drugs at clinics and the doctors who are administering them see this simply as part of their job and are ignoring the ethics.
 “And clearly the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in making sure that their products continue to be used - there could be as many as 2.5 million people addicted to prescription tranquilisers in the UK alone.”
 Written in jerky, almost note-like form, The Welkinn Complex reflects the style in which Dr [Darren] Welkinn might write up the case notes on one of his patients.
 However, the real subject being analysed is Welkinn himself - his unethical medical behaviour, his self-obsession and his philandering.
 He desperately scrambles for self-preservation after the police launch an investigation into the death by suicide of his lover, who Welkinn knew was psychologically unbalanced and vulnerable.
 “Welkin is an icy person inside and was drawn from my experience of some types of Americans that I met,” says Kiely.
 “There are many Americans who have never gone to Europe, Republican Americans - Wasps - who see us as a museum, going back in time, and Welkinn is one of those.
 “I ’m not anti-American but they do tend to live much more in the present than we do here in Europe.
 “Welkinn is surrounded by people who are cracking up and yet he functions with a cold detachment.”

—Available at Echopunks - online.

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‘Books: Digging for the real worth of Seamus Heaney: Kevin Kiely offers a possibly controversial view of the ­Nobel Prize-winning poet’, in Irish Independent (9 Nov. 2014), Weekend Review:

It is this reviewer’s opinion that it is high time for a new assessment of Heaney, not least because his work has also influenced Irish poetry. For better or worse, is the question. And there are many questions about the poet, the poetry and the reputation that need objective assessment.

Above all, Heaney was a poet of nostalgia for home and hearth, the turf-fire, the hen house and the bicycle. With the farmyard as subject matter, his poems are like exhibit notes in an agricultural museum. One of the results of this was to give his work an accessibility that compared well to Maeve Binchy, although her popular fiction was slightly more modern in content.


As far as the writing itself is concerned, his poetic method isn’t great. He was fond of anecdotes chopped into lines. But is it poetry? His great flaw is “a nostalgia I didn’t know I suffered until I experienced its fulfilment”. He stated this in the introduction to the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf which is extracted among the New Selected Poems.

—See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews” - via index or attached.

Kevin Kiely - Home Page ...

 Kiely’s criticism, of especially contemporary poetry, has placed him as subversively counter-cultural in questioning the pervasively State funded poetry scene amidst the arts in general amidst cliques and cabals. Kiely’s criticism reached national and international news when he reviewed President Michael D. Higgins Selected Poems in 2012.  Kiely’s poetry such as the collection, Breakfast with Sylvia published in 2005 was highly praised in America and Ireland by leading poets [...] His presence on the Irish poetry scene is despised in some quarters due to vociferous and persistent criticism of institutions such as Aosdána which he feels are anathema to the identity and autonomy of the serious artist. Kiely wishes to make public the lack of accountability of many arts institutions.  

Available online; accessed 17.02.2015.

The IT Gang’, in Village (13 Feb. 2015) - a scathing attack on the literary cabal supposedly centred on The Irish Times and said to include Fintan O’Toole, Colm Tóibín, Roy Foster, Diarmaid Ferriter, and Joseph O’Connor: ‘[...] The Irish Times is the arch facilitator of an unsavoury epochal orgy of niceness and respect for and among these personages. / O’Toole as Literary Editor at the Irish Times is the brain of the great revisionist octopus- in succession to John Banville whose role was indistinguishable. Outliers good for some fraternal (funny that) laudation are Roddy Doyle, Colum McCann, Frank McCourt, Joe Lee and Terry Eagleton. The last four are gratifyingly offshore and open easy ‘entrées’ for international pick-up. / The Irish Times will adulate as marvellous, wonderful and masterful (masterful, ideally) the literary fruits of these historico-literal buddies, even if they turn out books on travel, cookery or gardening. The prose in the reviews rarely scintillates or elevates.’

Cont.: ‘None of the gang looks into the unreconstructed Irish soul with much sympathy. Tóibín has written sympathetically of Banville’s 1973 novel Birchwood: “Here, Irish history was an enormous joke, a baroque narrative full of crack-pot landlords and roaming peasants and an abiding sense of menace and decay”. Tóibín (who co-wrote The Irish Famine with Ferriter) shares Foster’s magnificently patronising revisionism on the Famine and the 1916 revolutionary tradition. For example, as Foster sees it, during the Famine, landlordism was “seen as to blame for the catastrophe by many - illogically, but understandably”. [...] The pulsing heart of the pack is Tóibín and O’Toole who manage to spend regular sabatticals in the States and who recently did an ‘in conversation’ love-in in up-state New York (Tóibín’s also done one with Foster, in Manchester). Both are backgrounded in current-affairs journalism - they both edited Magill, and there is no recorded instance of them disagreeing on anything. Of course it is officially impolite to disagree with Tóibín on anything anyway. / O’Connor is often afforded a political pass (because of his literariness?). So much of last year Drivetime with Mary Wilson on RTÉ’s Radio 1 was laden with the monologous - never less than fashionably liberal - thoughts of the oleaginously smug history author.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, as attached - or go online.)

Irish Independent (19 Feb. 2012) reports: ‘Professor Kevin Kiely, the poetry critic who savaged the latest collection of poems by President Michael D Higgins, has responded to two of Ireland's leading poets for taking him to task last week over his criticism.Kiely rebukes criticism of his essay on Higgins's book, in Irish Independent (19 Feb. 2012): / Kiely says: “I have received supportive and condemnatory comments concerning my critical essay in Books Ireland on President Michael D Higgins's New and Selected Poems in the Irish media and abroad such as The New York Daily News.”

[Irish Independent - cont., quoting Kiely]: ‘“However, the comments of Theo Dorgan and Paul Durcan quoted in the Sunday Independent (February 12) by Eamon Delaney are defamatory in attempting to ‘rubbish’ me as poet, novelist, critic and official biographer of Francis Stuart. (‘He has no competence to talk or write about poetry at any level, and all of us in the poetic community know that. Since the Eighties he has been writing rubbish about poetry.’) This reveals Durcan as self-proclaimed dictator for ‘the poetic community’. If he can call my work rubbish, I return the call. His work is rubbish./ Dorgan’s remarks are similarly and savagely ad hominem, mentioning my health and implying that I am suffering from mental ill health, which calls my sanity into question (‘I am beginning to fear for his health’). Durcan and Dorgan hide behind the consensus of Aosdana which gives them their collective image such as it is. In supporting the poetry of President Higgins this gang of two prove that their own critical faculty and writing is of the same standard,” he said.’ (See Irish Independent - online; accessed 14.10.2014.)

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John [“Jack”] L[incoln] Sweeney (1930-86) - the subject of Kiely’s doctoral dissertation: b. Brooklyn, NY; ed. Georgetown and Cambridge; studied under I.A. Richards; studied law at Columbia; appt. Curator of Harvard Library’s Poetry Room (est. 1931) in 1942; wrote an introduction to the Poems of Dylan Thomas in 1946; aapt. curator of the Farnsworth Room, 1945; Subject Specialist in English Literature, 1947; also lectured in General Education and English at Harvard. Jack Sweeney married the folklorist Máire MacNeill d.1987), dg. of Eoin MacNeill and Agnes Moore, who was associated with the Irish Folklore Commission. A brother, James Johnson Sweeney, was a director of such galleries as the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (NY), and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. In 1967 the Sweeneys retired to their home on Inchiquin Lake nr. Corofin, Co. Clare. Their papers are now held at UCD while their paintings, bequeathed by Mrs Sweeney, form the Máire Sweeney Collection of the National Gallery of Ireland which incls. works by Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, Gerard Dillon and Barrie Cooke. Irish writers and scholars included in their correspondence are Austin Clarke, Padraic Colum, Thomas MacGreevey, Thomas Kinsella, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, and Robert Tracy - as well the painter Barrie Cooke, and other American authors of note such as T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, Edwin and Willa Muir, Robert Fitzgerald, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Harry Levin, Leon Edel, Richard Eberhart, Richard Wilbur, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin, Peter Orr and Hugh Whitney. (See UCD Archives - online.)

The Welkinn Complex (2011): Darren Welkinn,  American pychologist, fantasises about seducing female patients to whom he administers trial drugs knowing about their dangerous side affects. He take up a post in an exclusive Guernsey clinic whose owner is testing XcellN, a new drug with psychedelic properties that brings up suppressed memories and unleashes strong unconscious forces. Welkinn is unfaithful to his wife ... 

Arts Council Immortals (2020) foregrounds obvious solutions for an institution which is unquantifiable, non-measurable, out of control in psychopathology, and has become a Khmer Rouge Kulchur Cult. Council reports from 1951-2020 are presented in excerpts with photographs and cash flow statements, as well as personal testimonies from ‘insiders’ commenting on the corruption. (Website blurp; includes review: ‘[...] making Finnegans Wake look like a Ladybird book’ - John Burns, The Sunday Times [q.d.])

Amazon notice (07.10.2023): Arts Council Immortals is a satire in the blockbuster genre using real names and events. During four decades - 1980-2020 the arts council in 70 Merrion Square, Dublin received government grants totalling over 1.6 billion. Their worst kept secrets are the hierarchy, careerism, imposition of ‘arts policy’ and fear in controlling the national arts-scene by absolute power. A Haughey-esque group with the bogus name ‘aosdána’ infiltrated the council in the 1980s. This ‘ace gang’ were self-elected to siphon euro-millions for themselves while being nowhere enshrined in any law or statutory instrument. The admin-staff, board and insiders absorb excessive percentages of the annual grants in salaries, expenses, and perks according to the council’s politburo structures devoid of democratic principles. The council ‘declares’ financial data annually in reports, including artspeak and brochure rhetoric. The financial data relates to the cash flow in denominations from millions to thousands disguised in elementary accountancy. The arts council mechanism of ‘Declared Interest’ is executed by dictatorial illuminati dispensing grant monies through covert networking within their loyal cliques. Arts Council Immortals foregrounds obvious solutions for an institution which is unquantifiable, non-measurable, out of control in psychopathology, and has become a Khmer Rouge Kulchur Cult. Council reports from 1951-2020 are presented in excerpts with photographs and cash flow statements, as well as personal testimonies from ‘insiders’ commenting on the corruption.’ ‘Complete disclosure in one book - Síle Ní Síthigh’ [?review] (Available online at Amazon Books - online.)

Cromwell - Milton - Collins - Carson - Cantos CLIII-CLXIV and CLXXXII-CX (2020) - is from the epic poem Yrland Regained: Central Cantos ‘structured’ within American modernist poetry techniques in the direction of H. D., Marianne Moore, Charles Olson, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams to Louis Zukofsky, predominantly the long poem, including Ed Dorn’s Gunslinger and Ferlinghetti’s Americus. The war strategies of the Tower, Whitehall, and Westminster (London) are reflected through the central protagonists Oliver Cromwell, John Milton author of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, Edward Carson and Michael Collins. / Carson with the patronage of Winston Churchill annexed Six Counties in the North of Ireland (1920) by an act of parliament at Westminster. The ‘Six Counties’ as landmass is slightly larger than Cyprus and much smaller then Sicily. / Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained are subtexts explored as politically censored poetry covertly in homage to Cromwell. The Collins Carson Cantos presents the War of Independence that led to the Irish Republic and the Six Counties Partition. Linear chronology and timelines are avoided in keeping with modernism and juxtaposed genres: classical to modern, elegy, parody, pastiche, journalese, tabloid, graffiti, headlines, visuals, rap, songs, expletives, mock-irony, naïve rhyming, musical lines, and explicit conflict-humour. (Author’s notice.)