Poetry News

David Lehman on Joe Ceravolo's Forthcoming Collected Poems

By Harriet Staff

The Best American Poetry blog is totally excited over the new Joseph Ceravolo "comeback" (we are too--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, née Mad Angels)! David Lehman writes:

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; it has captured the enthusiasm of poets as various as, say, Charles North, Jordan Davis, Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman, Ron Silliman, Terence Winch, David Shapiro, and the late Paul Violi.

Lehman points to Tom Clark's recent posting of the Ceravolo poem, "Lighthouse," "from Spring in the World of Poor Mutts, the 1968 volume that won the first Frank O'Hara Award":

The judges were FOH's close allies, John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch. (Subsequent winners of the award were Michael Brownstein, Tony Towle, Kenward Elmslie, and John Koethe, a formidable quartet.) A "civil engineer and regular family guy" (in Clark's words), Ceravolo was born in Queens in 1934, went to City College, began writing poetry when serving in the US Army, and took a class with Kenneth Koch that proved decisive in his development as a poet. Many of us got our first exposure to Ceravolo's poems in the Paris Review when Tom Clark edited its poetry pages. Before dying of cancer in 1988, Ceravolo wrote and published several other books with small presses, but what many readers, including ardent fans of Ceravolo's work, don't realize is that the man produced hundreds of pages of poetry in the last twelve years of his life. The poems -- some of which have dates in lieu of titles -- stand on their own and also figure as part of one long project: a chronicle of the poet's sensibility. Gathered together with his previous books, these "new" poems will wow the literary public when they are released, and that will be soon: Wesleyan University Press will be publishing Ceravolo's Collected Poems, edited by Rosemary Ceravolo (the poet's widow) and Parker Smathers. The announced publication date is December 2012.

Originally Published: September 17th, 2012