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Collected Poems

Like an underground river, the astonishing poems of Joseph Ceravolo have nurtured American poetry for fifty years, a presence deeply felt but largely invisible. Collected Poems offers the first full portrait of Ceravolo's aesthetic trajectory, bringing to light the highly original voice that was operating at an increasing remove from the currents of the time. From a poetics associated with Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery to an ever more contemplative, deeply visionary poetics similar in sensibility to Zen and Dante, William Blake and St. John of the Cross, this collection shows how Ceravolo's poetry takes on a direct, quiet lyricism: intensely dedicated to the natural and spiritual life of the individual. As Ron Silliman notes, Ceravolo's later work reveals him to be "one of the most emotionally open, vulnerable and self-knowing poets of his generation." Many new pieces, including the masterful long poem "The Hellgate," are published here for the first time. This volume is a landmark edition for American poetry, and includes an introduction by David Lehman.

About the Authors

JOSEPH CERAVOLO (1934–;1988) was a poet and civil engineer who was born in Astoria, Queens, and lived in New Jersey. He was the author of six books of poetry and won the first Frank O'Hara Award. ROSEMARY CERAVOLO is an artist, novelist, and art critic. She lives in Bloomfield, New Jersey. PARKER SMATHERS is a poet and editor at Wesleyan University Press. DAVID LEHMAN is a poet and the series editor for The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School.

Reviews

"Collected Poems proves James Wright to be a truly rare and beautiful poet . . . [It] has the authority that only the best books have; it forces on us the recognition that Wright is among the masters of our day."—Peter S. Stitt, New York Times Book Review

"Joseph Ceravolo's poetry, like the very best poetry, is at once timeless and contemporary, magical and truthful, visionary and real. One never ceases to be moved and astonished by his highly original poetics. His work is always revelatory. Always."—Peter Gizzi

"In much of his work, he seems to be on an almost religious pilgrimage, moving away from the center of his life and family, then back again. As readers, we want him to enjoy the pleasures of his life, but we realize that if he had, we would be denied the complexity of his poetry. One can only wish that he had lived longer to express more of what his incredible talent had promised."—Douglas Messerli, HYPERALLERGIC

"The editors of the Collected Poems, Rosemary Ceravolo and Parker Smathers, have made a wise choice here to arrange the poet's books chronologically rather than by publication date. This decision allows readers to develop a more sophisticated view of Ceravolo's evolution as a poet. Work such as Ceravolo's bucked the Eastern spirituality trend in the 1960s and 70s, exemplified by poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman, and the founding of the Naropa Institute in 1974. From Transmigration Solo to Mad Angels Ceravolo kept returning to life and spirit. He married, had a family, engineered roads, and wrote poems, all these more or less the concerns of his life. These concerns cause Ceravolo to stand a bit apart from New York School compatriots such as Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett. As word of Cervolo's work spreads, thanks to the publication of the Collected Poems, it will be interesting to see how much the poet's spiritual concerns matter to his readers when so much of what has drawn readers in over the years is his playful disregard for typical syntax and the feeling that Ceravolo could say anything and it would sound wonderful. For this reader, the poet cannot be broken into parts. Without spirit one cannot have the concerns of life."—Zoland Poetry

"Possibly the New York School's biggest secret—because the publicity-shy poet died young—is Joseph Ceravolo. His poetry is wonderful, it is distinctive, in some ways it seems anomalous in the New York context."—David Lehman, Best American Poetry Blog

"To read the poems of Joseph Ceravolo is to stride in radiance and through a coronal of colors, all of them tender. And yet his tenderness and the purity of his vision are not fragile, not ephemeral. Ceravolo is the strongest of American poets, the Villon of our apocalypse. His color is words, but his shape is the shape of action."—Donald Revell, author of Pennyweight Windows: New & Selected Poems

"Ceravolo transcends the canon(his) verse is at once classical and fresh, tender and profound, succinct and expansive, tantalizingly parseable yet divinely ineffable. It would take a lifetime of expert reading to fully appreciate this lifetime of superlative writing; with the long-awaited publication of a collected Ceravolo, America's contemporary poetry readers now have the opportunity to do their part."—Seth Abramson, Huffington Post

"Fascinating, unwieldy, and sometimes sublime, this first collected for the New Jersey–based Ceravolo (1934-88) reveals a poet wilder—and potentially far more popular—than the one all but a few strong admirers know.This big book will spark new interest; it might even attract fans of Rumi, or of the Beats."—Publishers Weekly

"We're getting nervous and shaky just thinking about it–unless that's the overcoffee–no, no, it's all due to the forthcoming Collected Poems"—Harriet, the Poetry Foundation Blog

"'The overlooked genius of American poetry,' as David Lethem states in the introduction, Ceravolo (1934–88) emerges from the opening poems of his first book, Fits of Dawn (1965), as speech churns sound and meaning goes 'round and 'round—'Mounting!/ O dive! song song restay fairness of/ dawn. That cry of/ booze that sparrow/ of soul 'miradel'/ unique justly lotus/ nothingless char of sunday./ Vicious of moon for the actual./ Live digress.' His first-ever collected; essential."—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Wesleyan University Press
Wesleyan Poetry Series

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