Poetry News

Jacket2 Feature on Joseph Ceravolo

By Harriet Staff


Vincent Katz and many others have collaborated on a Joseph Ceravolo feature for Jacket2. "We were interested in amassing a number of voices to attempt to illuminate this famously elusive poet’s various senses of musicality, nonsense, and also a strict refusal to fit into accustomed patterns of writing poetry," he writes in the introduction. "That his work is difficult to categorize is as true today as when Ceravolo was writing."

Contributions include a variety of critical and experimental texts, poems, reviews, essays and even a panel discussion. This gathering of materials includes some wonderful surprises, like Ron Padgett's brief take on "Wild Flowers Out Of Gas," which originally appeared in Kulchur 5. We also enjoyed the excerpts from Poetry as Music: A Different Way of Thinking, a panel discussion with Kimberly Lyons and Anselm Berrigan:

<blockquoteKimberly Lyons: ...in Ceravolo’s wildest, most abstract poems, the shifts are very instantaneous; they happen within the line. It’s almost pointillist. Yet he does have these sequential poems that have some sense of a narrative. With Guest, the lines are usually more sensibly intact, but then the meaning seems to shift from line to line. But there are exceptions to that, and as her work progressed […] she became very spatialized, and you start to see the radicalism that you see in Ceravolo also. It’s just a different process and a very different effect. The music is very different in those two poets.

Berrigan: Ceravolo’s music I think of as jangly, or jittery, almost like there’s a tree following him.

Katz: At first Ceravolo’s music is a little bit jarring and disturbing for some of the reasons Tim was mentioning, two words that don’t ordinarily go together, but I find that after reading a lot of it, it starts to have a very deep tone, and I’m wondering if any of you would consider that lyric. I mean, to me it has something that’s very eternal, it’s “about the eternal issues,” although it’s totally nonlinear and not literal, but I’m wondering if we could bring the term lyric into this conversation at all.

I would say I think Ceravolo and Guest’s particular dictions are fairly different […] They both have this kind of mad word-love […] although one change with Ceravolo I think is that his vocabulary gets a little more spare towards the end of his life, which wasn’t meant necessarily to be an end. But in the early poems, especially “Fits of Dawn,” the vocabulary and diction are wide-ranging. Guest and Ceravolo’s [uses of] syntax […] are really different, but you can hear the consonants, the full use of the alphabet just ringing across the poems. That’s part of how you get those funky word combinations you get in Ceravolo.

You'll find the rest of this piece and many others in the feature at Jacket2.