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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Joseph Ceravolo: Lighthouse


File:Cabines de bain Berck.jpg
 Beach huts, Berck, Pas de Calais, France: photo by Gzzz, 13 July 2012

  All this summer fun.
The big waves, and waiting
(the moon is broken)
for the moon to come out
and revive the water.  You look
and you want to watch as
men feel the beer breaking
on their lips, and women seem like
the sun on your little back.
Where are you closer to everything?
in the plants?  on the photograph or
the little heart that's not 

used to beating like the waves' foam?
          A wasp is
looking for a hole in the screen.
No.  There's no man in the lighthouse.
There's no woman there, but there is
a light there; it's a bulb.
And I think how complete you are 
in its light.  Flash......... Flash.....
And I think of how our own room 
will smell; You lying on one bed
and we in the other,
facing the... flash.....

File:Eublepharis macularius 2009 G6.jpg

Leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius): photo by George Chernilevsky, 9 August 2009

File:Plebejus pylaon nichollae copulation 1.jpg

Plebejus pylaon nichollae copulating (female right, male left) on a leaf of Astragalus, Mount Hermon, Israel/Syria: photo by Gideon Pisanty, June 22, 2012

File:Salvia pratensis 006.jpg

Salvia pratensis (Meadow Clary, Meadow Sage), flower, Karlsruhe, Germany: photo by H. Zell, 16 June 2012

Joseph Ceravolo (1934-1988): Lighthouse, from Spring in This World of Poor Mutts (1968)

"Published in 1968, Spring In This World of Poor Mutts contains the poems which remind me most of my father. 
"His writings seem to reflect him being a man from 9-5, a fish on the weekend, and a summer lighthouse tourist in the warm sun. 
"Perhaps these are simply the ways I remember him the most."
 -- Jim Ceravolo


Wooden Boy said...

This is beautiful; a poem that could only have been written at leisure.

The magical indolence of beer breaking on lips, time to look and to feel.

TC said...

Thanks WB, I had thought you might enjoy this one.

A quick word about the poet, who's not as well known as he ought to be.

Joe Ceravolo, son of Italian immigrants, born in Queens, a civil engineer and regular family guy, was living in New Jersey with his wife and kids at the time he began sending me his extraordinary poems, which were (and remain) like nobody else's. I gratefully put the haunting Stars of the Trees and Ponds in Paris Review #38 (Summer 1966), the amazing Ho Ho Ho Caribou in #44 (Fall 1968), and a number of other poems in my mimeo series Once.

So much is made of whatever in any epoch is thought "new". Later on, the new becomes the old. In most cases. But there are exceptions. Looking back at my review of Joe's 1965 book Fits of Dawn, I can tell that I had not yet caught up with this kind of newness. I still feel that way now.

"Motions of consciousness," I hazarded, "are caught abstractly as gestures, signs, like the cave paintings of primitive hunters that convey profound involvement not by likeness but by inventive strength of form..."

In case anybody's interested:

TC on Fits of Dawn, Poetry, CX, 2 (Summer 1966), pp. 110-11

Joe died much too early, of cancer.

Such undiluted poetic genius and imaginative generosity shall not come round again soon.

A couple of other Ceravolos:

Joseph Ceravolo: Dusk

Joseph Ceravolo: May

Anonymous said...

I like this very much ... the swinging between the small and the eventful...being both significant

TC said...


Yes, I agree, that swinging between worlds... English is such a hard and "concrete" language, that sort of fluency is much more difficult to achieve (than in, for example, Spanish).

Ceravolo is a naïf writer in the best sense: he comes to the inextricably intertangled worlds of experience and dream with a child's awed openness and wonder, and brings back his visions without relying on the training-wheels of logic, "appearances" and judgment.

Curiously, there actually exist aw-shucks Yankee-literalist would-be poet types who feel confused, made uncomfortable, nay, even threatened by this sort of primal poetic magic!

tpw said...

Dear TC: Joe and I were supposed to read together at St. Mark's, and I was very much looking forward to meeting the author of INRI, Transmigration Solo, and Spring in This World of Poor Mutts, all of which I still have, of course. But about a month before, someone called me from the Church to tell me he had passed away unexpectedly. What a terrible loss. (He died in 1988, not '68.) I see that Wesleyan is bringing out a Collected Poems of Joe's in December.

TC said...

Hey Terry, yes, the greatest loss.

And the greatest boon is the little help from one's friends with one's insomniac typos. (Fixed it now, thanks!)

Anonymous said...

very nice Tom...thanks!

larry white said...

"oak oak / like like"
has always rung in my head with my memory of JC's unique and vividly childlike poems first read in those '60s mimeos. You put it so well, Tom, as always, and this one is a lighthouse. I look forward to further flashes.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The moon breaks in little pieces
out on the lawn in the grass
by the hose where her tongue
hung out generously
she is
a dog that summer of cats
scratchy grass
and now when I contemplate using
grammatical drugs
like ellipses
I think of her with no crutches
but paws paws paws.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

I did not know there was such a blue
in Karlsruhe
negative space
in the Meadow Sage
deer head outline
or the head of a mutt.

I borrow the words
look for the fence
to see if I trespass
but in Europe the laws
are different
anyone can walk past
your place
peer into windows
without asking.
shotgun is ready
at the door
pit-bulls and bigger
bark with teeth.

Hazen said...

A wonderful poem. The child/man remembers. Life is small things pieced together with love and attention.
Thanks much for this one, Tom!

Wooden Boy said...

You refer to "the nativity of speech" in your review, TC, and this is crucial. What Ceravolos does isn't some kind of tidy representation (telling the moment again). The scene is happening in language at the moment that we read, forever newborn. The words make the beach, the men and women, the wasp and the lighthouse happen; nothing laboured, just breaking in on us like tides and beer and beauty. Without discretion, nothing guarded, the poem is speaking always.

"Openness and wonder" is just right - a holy gift to have.

Wooden Boy said...

The "little heart" could be the heart of the poem, I think - something like a thrush's heart.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

What can be caught
what catches (the poet's attention)
too many choices
and not each choice but
a blind telling

in lingering too long
on any one _____shelter
at the beach
that day in France
the blue violet in Karlsruhe
almost French
gecko's twisting crawl
like a mutt
the mix
friendlier than
the cruel surreal
nice to meet you here
Mr. Ceravolo

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Thought glimpsed
that summer
close up like
cliff bowl
finally some feedback
impression summarized

when I got up
a short shadow at first
and then a longer one
delicate person
spine and idea
sun not in one spot
the waves
soupy ankles
finally dis-
only it washed
back in
seaweed man o' war
stinging tails
from the Azores
filling station
tame area sleepy
by day



"Where are you closer to everything?" -- in JC's "Lighthouse" it seems, thanks for bringing it to light here.


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, jay calling from branch in right
foreground, no sound of wave channel

do “figure in a few strokes,”
while these and there

sense of seeing which means
that, as such, action

grey white of fog against top of ridge,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

"The 'little heart' could be the heart of the poem, I think - something like a thrush's heart."

A curiously affecting fancy that, WB.

And why not.

larry white said...

Thanks, Tom, for the links to your previous posts of Joe. "Ho ho ho caribou" brought back the most memories, but all are great little Homerics. I don't suppose there is any prose criticism by Joe; his poems stand alone. Berrigan comes to my mind before Koch. But I've always much to learn.

mammas, nourishing mammas, always

holding you as I

love you and am

revived inside you, but

die in you and am

never born again in

the same place; never