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New Poet-Teacher Highlight: Kelly Gray (Sonoma County)

Kelly Gray (she/her/hers) lives in Northern California on unceded Coast Miwok and Kashaya Pomo land with her beloved family of artists. She writes about what she knows or is trying to know; parenting, eco-resiliency, mental health, dead things, monsters, prophetic animals, relationships to self and others, rural life and reclaiming the body and sense of worth from the fangs of capitalism and colonial narratives. Kelly is the author of Instructions for an Animal Body (MoonTide Press, 2021), Tiger Paw, Tiger Paw, Knife, Knife (Quarter Press, 2022), MUD~ Fieldnotes from a Juvenile Psychiatric Institution (BottleCap Press). Her chapbook Quag Daughter is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Kelly's audio chapbook My Fingers are Whales and Other Stories of Cetology was created in collaboration with sound magician Meredith Johnson and is available to listen to here.

Kelly has a longtime background in union organizing, reproductive justice, & is a certified UC California Naturalist and trained raptor handler, all of which informs her writing and teaching. She does not come from an academic background, rather her lineage comes from reading books, essays, manifestos and poems by writers she deeply admires), as well as folklore, art, film, photography and music. In 2022, Kelly was the recipient of the Neutrino Prize for her story "A Note on Sex and Death on the Beach" from Passages North and the Creative Sonoma ArtSurround Cohort Prize which was granted in partnership with Pepperwood Preserve. She's been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes and was a finalist for Best of the Net, as well the runner up for the Witness Literary Award. Her writing has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in Southern Humanities Review, Northwest Review, Passages North, Rust & Moth, BULL, Atticus Review, Heavy Feather Review, Barren Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Maudlin House, Cleaver Magazine, Superstition Review, Newfound, Permafrost and other incredible journals & anthologies.

Kelly comes to teaching as a way to uplift youth voices who would not be otherwise heard. She has an interest in working with incarcerated or recently incarcerated youth, institutionalized youth, and rural youth affected by poverty and weather related disasters. She believes that the act of sharing your story through poetry is one the strongest tools for validating your own worth. Kelly is excited to leave students feeling heard, honored and excited about literature. Occasionally, she teaches workshops for adults who want write with a fever for all that is unsayable within a well crafted sentence. She's thrilled to have been selected to teach with California Poets in the Schools, and is hard at work creating a curriculum based on monsters, edges, and lore.

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