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.
The wait is finally over and Collected Poems is now available in hardcover and as an ebook from major online book sellers. Get your copy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or directly from Wesleyan University Press.
Published in 1994, The Green Lake Is Awake is a compilation of selected poems by Joseph Ceravolo. Edited by Larry Fagin, Kenneth Koch, Charles North, Ron Padgett, David Shapiro, and Paul Violi, the 131 page book includes works which initially appeared in Fits of Dawn, Wild Flowers Out of Gas, Spring in This World of Poor Mutts, Transmigration Solo, Millennium Dust, An Anthology of New York Poets, Locus Solus magazine, Art and Literature magazine.
"I knew Joseph Ceravolo and his poems for twenty-five years. He would send me a poem like "How Weather Feels the Cotton Hotels," and, every time, I'd gasp. It was wonderful and I didn't know how he had done it. It faded like the mirage of a gorgeous building; then, as soon as I reread it, it was there again. What was Ceravolo doing? Whatever it was, somehow in four lines he brought me intense, clear feelings of wasps on earthenware, of nights, of feelings wasps must have, that clay pots must have. A new-or, rather, old but unlighted-part of my experience was given light. His poems were a sort of amazing perceptual archeology."
Published in 1979 by Swollen Magpie Press, INRI is dedicated to Joe Robinson, Joseph Ceravolo's brother-in-law, who died a tragic accidental death in 1978.
Robinson and Ceravolo developed a strong bond while raising their young children in close proximity to one another in Bloomfield, NJ. It would be safe to say these two men were a bit of an odd couple; Robinson was a tradesman and rough-around-the-edges hunter from Upstate New York, and Ceravolo was more of a buttoned-up academic whose coming-of-age was rooted between Queens and Manhattan. Despite these different backgrounds, the two men enjoyed each other's company immensely. They were drawn to one another at family events and holidays, and they each looked up to the other in complimentary ways. Their mutual fondness one another was obvious when they spoke of each other to anyone else.
The loss of Joe Robinson was a devastating event to Ceravolo. Joe Robinson represented something more free to Ceravolo than he had ever been. Robinson held a "can do" attitude that Ceravolo benefitted from hearing, and Ceravolo was often a grounding figure to Robinson's more adventerous personality. The two men shared a unique understanding and solid respect for each other. They were loving fathers and stable providers, and both were exceptional human beings.
INRI reflects a joyous and, unfortunately, tragic time in Joseph Ceravolo's life. The loss of his friend Joe Robinson during this time lends to the mood of INRI, and the structure and length to its poems.
Published in 1982, Millenium Dust is Joseph Ceravolo's sixth book. Some of the poems in Millenium Dust appeared in the following magazines: WORLD, BIG SKY, LIPS, and BROADWAY. They also appeared in the Anthology: THE POETS OF THE NEW YORK SCHOOL.
The book is 126 pages long and is dedicated to Joe's children: Paul, Anita, and James.
Fits of Dawn was published in 1965 by Ted Berrigan's legendary "C" Press. Joe and Ted were close friends, both entirely aware of the everyday plights of poets who chose to marry and bear the enormous responsibilities of love and fatherhood at close range. It is hardly coincidence, but perhaps fate or destiny, that Joe and Ted died within several years of each other as they approached middle-age in the 1980s.
The example of William Carlos Williams went a long way to get Ceravolo and Berrigan through the initial years of being poets/husbands/fathers, without losing their bearings in a publishing field composed largely of predictable, manneristic tastes and indifference to their unpretentious, reality-based sensibilities. When Ted formed "C" Press and published Fits of Dawn, Joe's poetry of authentic mysticism in the moment, no matter who you are, found its first audience of kindred spirits.
Fits of Dawn was influenced by disparities as varied as James Joyce and Vivaldi, Mexico and Astoria, NYC, and the sheer ecstasy of language as a tool, a weapon, and the most effective medium to communicate the passion at work in the heart, soul, and mind of a man totally immersed in life and poetry at once.
A Story From the Bushmen from Chapter III of Fits of Dawn.
Spring In This World of Poor Mutts is the first book to win the Frank O'Hara Award for Poetry in 1968. The award is named for the poet Frank O'Hara, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1966. The award is specifically intended to encourage the writing of good new experimental poetry and to aid in it's publication. The award, which consists of a prize of a thousand dollars and publication by the Columbia House Press, is to be given annually to a poet who has not yet had a book of his poems published by a commercial or university press.
"In the fall of 1960 I lived in the Colonia Ramos Millan, an outskirt of Mexico City. I had never felt as strong a connection between myself and a city. Nothing could move me from there. One day I saw Iztaccihuatl rising from luminous clouds more beautiful than light, and I wanted to climb it. I never did. Gradually I became homesick, smelling the leaves of the northeast, smelling an autumn that wasn't there. By that time I had written the Mexican poems that appear in the first section of this volume with the exception of "Pain Songs," which was written in December 1960, in New York City, forgotten, lost, and rediscovered ten years later.
A group of poems from 1965 completes this volume of TRANSMIGRATION SOLO. Whether I chose them for contrast or for similarity of mood, I don't know, but I felt a brewing of diverse particles in the whole."
-Joseph Ceravolo, 1978
"I almost didn't make it tonight...today. That's where I am. I ran out of gas, which, uh, is causing me a greater anxiety now, then when I actually ran out of gas so, I just figured out what really happened. A few years ago, only Jim Brody knows this, uh, I was preparing a book and I called it Wild Flowers and I wasn't satisfied with the title. I was working on it and Jim was over the house, and my brother in law had come, and he was late. He was supposed to be there at a certain time, and I said, "What happened?" No, I said "Gimme a title, quick, for my book." So he said, "Ran out of gas." So I said, "That's it, Wild Flowers Out of Gas." Jim was there at the time, I think everybody, uh, voiced their consent simultaneously that that was the title. But, uh, it just reminded me of that time and, uh, brought back the whole thing, just my running out of gas, so I didn't know if I was going to make it today...Okay."
--Joseph Ceravolo reading at the Ear Inn, New York, October 21, 1978