cover image Collected Poems

Collected Poems

Joseph Ceravolo, edited by Rosemary Ceravolo and Parker Smathers. Wesleyan Univ, $35 (586p) ISBN 978-0-8195-7341-4

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. A friend of the New York School poets whose work (especially that of Ted Berrigan) his early writings resemble, Ceravolo came into his own with Spring in This World of Poor Mutts (1969), where modernist dislocations receded in favor of childlike wonder at children, weather, buildings, and sex: “Daytime is not a brain,/ Living is not a cricket’s song./ Why does light diffuse/ As earth turns away from the sun?” Ceravolo’s many odes, prayers and exclamations seem very in tune with the late 1960s, yet also in touch with a timeless, excited mysticism: “Now I see that love/ is the only clarity I feared.” Ceravolo continued in these exalted modes through the exciting—and long obscure—Millenium Dust (1982) and into the massive, previously unpublished Mad Angels, where his impatience, and lack of an audience, can seem all too primitive, really naive: “Soothe me, O spirit!/ in the intestines of creation/ until I breathe right, sing right.” This big book will spark new interest; it might even attract fans of Rumi, or of the Beats. (Jan.)