Critical Commentary

On What It Was Like (Small Poetry Press Select Poets Series, 2003)

In What It Was Like, Robert King writes with a clarity and depth and a regard for our frail humanity that is refreshing--"pressing a crisp attention to the words." He offers us poems that make us laugh and reflect and remember "This time. That. And the dancing in between." This book is a treasure.
     (Lisa Zimmerman)

On Old Man Laughing (Ghost Road Press, 2007):

If there is a bearable lightness of being, it informs and leavens the poems in Robert King’s Old Man Laughing. The poems are serious, exuberant, occasionally formal, and full of delight. They can combine the quiet spareness of ancient Chinese poetry with a wild extravagance and from the two birth a deep humanity. When you read the opening lines of “From the Book of Rope”—“First, there is love. Secondly, / the square knot”—you know a linguistic and human adventure is unfolding. The whole book is that adventure, as the flashlight of precise observation and the transformation of insight into poetry illuminates first this, then that—love, rope, music, maps, sorrow, aunts, fireflies, the accidental. From the child’s view in “What It Was Like Those Days”— “Even the dead, I thought then, / grinning as I biked around town, / were happy in their own way”—to the final lines of “Loss”—“Especially old, especially alone, / I laugh as, walking, I falter”—reading these poems will make you feel buoyant, human, and lucky.
     (Veronica Patterson)

On Naming Names (Palanquin Press, 2001; 2nd edition 2006)

These poems burst their boundaries up and down and margin outwards towards the still untamed infinity of words, work their coordinates through restless references and indexes always towards a greater shifting irony that bends and warps like bodies in a fun house mirror. No discipline measured in either language or numbers escapes his testing, no starting point so commonplace its mystery and strangeness does not taunt him and tease us. What results is the naming of Naming Names, part Adam's assertion of the world, part necessary price of admission to the numinous carnival of plenitude which is our lives. Always somehow, through it all, Bob retains his fresh-faced enthusiasm and his wry good humor.” (Greg Kuzma)