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Kell Robertson collection

Identifier: MSS-924-BC

Scope and Content

This collection of Kell Robertson consists of personal correspondence, journals, musings, audio, and video recordings, photographs, and publicity. The audio recordings 1989-2011 consist of conversations, poetry, and songs recorded at home and live at performing venues. There are original songs as well as covers performed by Kell Robertson on his guitar. Most of the conversations are between Robertson and Kendall McCook. The recordings point out Robertson’s musical and literary influences, including his Beat generation poetry friends. Conversations range in subjects from historical events to reminiscing about their youth. The video recordings 1996-2011 consist of poetry readings, live performances, and informal interviews. The correspondence 1992-2011 consists of personal letters that reference Robertson’s daily life as an artist sometimes struggling with a lack of finances. Friends of Robertson often offer emotional and monetary support with their correspondence. The journals 1982-2011 consist of comments on daily activities, news, weather, and Robertson’s feelings. There is a small amount of publicity materials and newspaper clippings as well as photographs of Robertson and friends 1998-2010. The collection is comprised of materials from Robertson’s home on Saltbush Road in Santa Fe, NM , as well as materials collected by his friends Kendall McCook and Jerry Kamstra.


  • 1967-2021
  • Majority of material found within 1990-2011


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biography / History

Kell Robertson was born in Codell, Kansas in 1930. He enjoyed learning and books; he started getting into poetry in eighth-grade. He was never able to finish high school because his step-father kicked him out of the house at age 13. He then started working as a movie theater usher in New Orleans. He went on to work as a fruit picker, dishwasher, and a ranch laborer while he traveled around the US for three years before joining the military. After serving in the Korean War he spent time in Arizona and Mexico. After returning to the U.S., he went to San Francisco where he became part of the Beat scene and became friends with Jerry Kamstra. North Beach became his home off and on, until he moved to Fort Worth, TX in 1988, and then “settled" in New Mexico in 1991.

Robertson was well known in poetry circles in the North Beach scene and published a poetry magazine in the 1960s called Desperado. Robertson became interested in music when his mother took him to a Hank Williams concert. He started playing the guitar as an adolescent and continued his entire life. Robertson died in Santa Fe, NM in 2011. Although he claimed to never make a living off of his poetry and music, he managed to create a name for himself as a poet and musician in the Southwest and has a base of fans who still promote his work.

Longtime friend, Kendall McCook, gives the following biographical insight into Kell Robertson:

“I first met Kell in 1988, when he came to a poetry reading I put together in an old Baptist tabernacle for a storytelling-poetry night. He came with Paul Foreman, a publisher for whom Kell and his wife Betsy worked at the time. Though I had heard of Kell, we had never met. I taught Kell's work in my freshman English class at the University of New Mexico-- it was in a text called Focus Media, published in San Francisco. This was 1971."

“Seventeen years later, we were reading poetry at our "Save the Paluxy " fundraiser. We were part of a successful effort to save the Paluxy from being dammed. It remains the last undammed river in Texas, just a few miles from our farm-- 1988. One month later, I drove down to Kell's place out on Lake Austin , packed his gear into my truck and moved him to my office in a rebuilt trailer and office, where he took up residence for a couple of months. At the time, May 1988, I was a part of an arts and music scene in downtown Fort Worth, where millionaire oil man, Ed Bass was rebuilding a deserted inner city, including the Caravan of Dreams complex, which included a magical jazz club on the bottom floor, as well as a theater on the second, where we held forth from time to time, usually at benefits for a group I was involved with, formed to stop Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant from opening just 3 miles from our farm."

“It was built for a group of actors who held forth in the solid oak and brass theater. Calling themselves the Theater of All Possibilities, they were a wonderous band. I drove in from my farm 'most every week for their performances. I performed on stage for the first time in Dec 1984 at the Caravan theater. I introduced Kell to that world and those actors in 1988. For three years, from 1988 to 1991,Kell lived with his wife, Betsy in a duplex south of downtown. Then, the Caravan of Dreams ended its ride, and we moved back to New Mexico. I bought Kell and Betsy a good-running 1972 Dodge pickup truck, and they moved from Fort Worth to Raton, New Mexico, where Kell and I had enjoyed a very successful night at the Shuler Theater September 14, !991. My friend and fellow poet, Ralph Solano, welcomed Kell and Betsy who stayed at his place until they found good accommodations and jobs. Kell worked part-time at the library. Betsy was a bookkeeper. From 1991 until 1995, Kell lived with Betsy in Raton. We read poetry in Taos, Santa Fe, in Raton, and all around."

“Then in 1995, he found himself at St. Elizabeth Homeless shelter, where he was living 2 days before Christmas. A gift from his publisher, Rod Scott, a box of fine books- copies of A Horse Called Desperation, Dec 1995. Finally,he became a respected poet despite his proclivity for self -destruction. Argos MacCallum built Kell a place in the summer of 1997. He never lived anywhere else."


7 boxes (6.2 cu. ft.)

Language of Materials



This collection contains papers and recordings of poet, singer, and song writer, Kell Robertson.

Separated Material

Published books and CDs transferred to UNMUL general collections for cataloging. Search "Kell Robertson collection" in the online catalogue.

Archival cds/dvds stored in B3 and master .wav files for some of the audio/video are on the library file server.

Contents of Kell Robertson's Library:
  1. Alexander, Simon, Simon Song, 1990
  2. Blue, Janice, Footprints in the Empty, 2006
  3. Brooks. Pauline, Speaking of , 1999
  4. Brower, Gary, Book of Knots, 2007
  5. Brower, Gary, For the Wild Horses of Placitas…, 2009
  6. Brower, Gary, Planting Trees in Terra Incognita, 2006
  7. Buffaloe-Yoder, Julie, Price Reduced Again, 2009
  8. Buyerm Laurie Wagner, Blue Heron, 1994
  9. Cirillo, Todd, Roxy, 2003
  10. Crocker, Daniel, Long Live the 2 of Spades, 1999
  11. Dofflemyer, John F., Black Mercedes,
  12. Dorsey, John , From the Mouth of an Outlaw, 2005
  13. Dorsey, John , Harvey Keitel, Harvey Keitel, Harvey Keitel, 2005
  14. Dorsey, John , John Dorsey 2, 2005
  15. Dorsey, John , Teaching the Dead to Sing the Outlaw's Prayer, 2006
  16. Dorsey, John , Virginerotica, 2006
  17. Elliot, Neil, Terror of Towns, 1995
  18. Foreman, Paul, Feather River, 2003
  19. Foreman, Paul, Redwing Blackbird, 1973
  20. Foreman, Paul, Unknown Law, 1982
  21. Galing, Ed, Burlesque, 2005
  22. Galing, Ed, Buying a Suit on Essex Street, 2006
  23. Galing, Ed, Confessions of a White Hat, 2008
  24. Galing, Ed, Senior Center, 2001
  25. Garcia, Jesse F., Rock 'N' Roll Dreams, 1998
  26. Gilb, Dagoberto, Woodcuts of Women, 2002
  27. Gill, Lisa, Red as a Lotus, 2002
  28. Gill, Lisa, Small Girl, Big Landscape, 1999
  29. Goodell, Larry, Firecracker Soup, 1990
  30. Gordon, Roxy, Breeds, 1984
  31. Gordon, Roxy, Revolution in the Air, 1994
  32. Gordon, Roxy, Smaller Circles, 1990
  33. Gordon, Roxy, Townes Asked Did Hank Williams Ever Write Anything as Good as Nothing, 2001
  34. Gordon, Roxy, Unfinished Business, 1985
  35. Greenley, Ken, Temporary Guaranteed Shelter, 2004
  36. Greenley, Ken, Uncle Sam's Portrait, 2006
  37. Greyhawk, Gregory, Shadow of the Hawk, 1989
  38. Hiatt, Ben L., Rooting for the Rooster, 2005
  39. Jechem, James and Menebroker, Ann, Slices, 1988
  40. Kerschbaum, Joseph, Dead Stars Have No Graves, 2006
  41. Kryss, Tom, Sketch Book, 2009
  42. MacCallum, Ian, She Loved Gravity…, 1987
  43. Masarik, Al, Late October Cheyenne River Country, 1995
  44. Masarik, Al, Mission Wind, 1990
  45. Masarik, Al, Sometimes a Blue Song, 1989
  46. McCook, Kendall, En Placitas, 1996
  47. McCook, Kendall, White Settlement, 1996
  48. Menebroker, Ann, Biting through the Spine, 1985
  49. Menebroker, Ann, Blue Fish, 1985
  50. Menebroker, Ann, Routines that will Kill You, 1990
  51. Menebroker, Ann, Small Crimes, 2008
  52. Menebroker, Ann, Tiny Teeth, 2004
  53. Menebroker, Ann, Trying for the Ten Rind, 2000
  54. Menebroker, Ann, Walking the Dog, 2003
  55. Menebroker, Ann, Watching from the Sky, 1988
  56. Mier, M. V., Death of Mr. Love, 2009
  57. Moffeit, Tony, Boogie Alley, 1989
  58. Moffeit, Tony, Ghost Moon Over Pueblo, 1991
  59. Moffeit, Tony, Hank Williams Blues, 1985
  60. Moffeit, Tony, Luminous Animal, 1989
  61. Moffeit, Tony, Spider Who Walked Underground,
  62. Moore, Todd, Armed & Dangerous, 1993
  63. Moore, Todd, Dillinger's Thompson, 2002
  64. Moore, Todd, Machine Gun, 1994
  65. Moore, Todd, Weather in Hell, 2004
  66. Moore, Todd, Working on My Duende, 1999
  67. Preston, Scott, Letters from Elko, 1994
  68. Renee Gregorio, Storm that Tames Us, 1999
  69. Romo, Socorro, Tiliches, 1996
  70. Roskos, David, Fall & All, 1999
  71. Savitt, Lynne, Deployment of Love in Pineapple Twilight, 2005
  72. Savitt, Lynne, Digging Dinosaur Dignity in Ardortown, 2008
  73. Savitt, Lynne, Greatest Hits, 2004
  74. Savitt, Lynne, Transport of Grandma's Yearning Vibrator, 2002
  75. Spicer, Jack, Holy Grail, 1970
  76. Strand, Thomas, Questions to Brecht, 1975
  77. Ward, Ed, Citysight, 1981
  78. Weber, Mark, Dr. Simon I Presume, 1991
  79. Weber, Mark, Drunk City, 1992
  80. Wilson, Keith, Sketches for a New Mexico Hill Town, 1966
  81. Wilson, Keith, Way of the Dove, 1994
  82. Bathtub Gin, 2003-2006
  83. Big Hammer, 2005, 2007
  84. Blue Light Review, Winter/Spring 1991
  85. Brevities, 2008
  86. Dry Crik Review, 1991- 1993
  87. Fish Drum, 1989
  88. From the Mouths of Angels, 2003
  89. Mas Tequila Review, 2010
  90. New Letters, 1981
  91. Oboe, 1978
  92. Okie Faces and Irish Eyes, 1979
  93. Santa Fe Literary Review, 2006
  94. September Caprice, 1989
  95. Sequoia, 1988
  96. Swamp Root, 1990
  97. Thieves' Press, 1990
  98. White Clouds Review, 1988
  99. Wormwood Review, 1993

Processing Information

Kell Robertson-Kendall McCook correspondence added to collection, 07/2021.
Finding aid of the Kell Robertson collection, 1967-2012
Kristen Ferris
©2014, ©2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131