Arcana: A Stephen Jonas Reader
"A true poet of modern classic culture in mid-twentieth century U.S.A."--Allen Ginsberg
"At their best the poems have an intensely oral, I would like to call it glossolalic, freedom, as if they captured the essence of what one might like to express in the moment of rapture."--David Rattray
Beginning in the 1950s until his untimely death at age 49, Stephen Jonas (1921-1970) was an influential if underground figure of the New American Poetry. A gay African-American poet of self-obscured origins, heavily influenced by Ezra Pound and Charles Olson, the Boston-based Jonas was a pioneer of the serial poem and an erudite mentor to such acknowledged masters as Jack Spicer and John Wieners, even as he lived a shadowy existence among drug addicts, thieves, and hustlers.
Arcana: A Stephen Jonas Reader is the first selection of his work to appear in 25 years. With a biographical introduction and a postscript delving into recent discoveries concerning the poet's birthplace and background, Arcana is a crucial corrective to our understanding of post-war American poetry, restoring Jonas to his rightful place among the period's vanguard. Featuring previously uncollected and unpublished work, a section of never-before-seen facsimiles from notebooks, and a generous selection from his innovative serial poem Exercises for Ear (1968), Arcana is a much-needed retrieval of an overlooked American poet, as well as a valuable contribution to African American and Queer literature.
Praise for Arcana:
The work of Steve Jonas, though vital to many of his more illustrious contemporaries, has remained obscured far too long, particularly as we've become unaccustomed to the high stakes once involved in the life of poetry. Accompanied by a reprint of Joseph Torra's invaluable introduction, as vital and fresh now as when it came out 25 years ago, along with David Rich's extraordinary archaeological dig into genealogical records and biographical materials to clarify Jonas's self-effaced origins, the publication of Arcana is an important event in our increasingly evanescent cultural history, evidence of what is real.--Ammiel Alcalay
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About the Author
Beginning in the 1950s until his death at age 49, Stephen Jonas (1921-1970) was an influential if underground figure of the New American Poetry. A gay African American poet of self-obscured origins, heavily influenced by Ezra Pound and Charles Olson, the Boston-based Jonas was a pioneer of the serial poem and mentor to such acknowledged masters as Jack Spicer and John Wieners. Major publications include Love, the Poem, the Sea & Other Pieces Examined by Me (1957), Transmutations (1966), Exercises for Ear (1968), and Selected Poems (1994).
Garrett Caples is a poet and an editor for City Lights, where he curates the Spotlight Poetry Series. He has edited or co-edited books by Philip Lamantia, Frank Lima, Richard O. Moore, and Stephen Jonas.
Derek Fenner is an artist, educator, poet, and researcher. He earned his MFA in writing and poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. In 2000, with Ryan Gallagher, he co-founded Bootstrap Press, where they have published over 40 books by poets across the country.
David Rich is the editor of Charles Olson: Letters Home, 1949-1969 (Cape Ann Museum, 2010).
Joseph Torra is a poet, novelist, and editor. He edited Selected Poems by Stephen Jonas (Talisman, 1994).
"Arcana brings together the first major gathering of work by Stephen Jonas in over two decades. Jonas, a poet of Boston who died in 1970 at the age of 49, is an American original, as brilliant a wordsmith as any in what might best be termed the poetics of the New American vernacular. The intensity of Jonas's poetry surprises and delights as his words burst across the page. He introduces a gay, gender-bending, street hustling voice into the Modernist tradition, deeply immersing his work in Ezra Pound's use of collage in The Cantos while paying due diligence to the intricacies of William Carlos Williams' poetics of the variable foot and the American idiom. ... These poems are for lovers as much as they are for hustlers, let alone poets themselves."--Patrick James Dunagan, Rain Taxi
"Despite having significant champions like the late Gerrit Lansing, John Wienters, Robin Blaser, Jack Spicer, and others, Jonas's work has long been out of print and this beautifull edited volume will certainly bring him into the picture."--BOMB
"Arcana: A Stephen Jonas Reader should become a fixture on everyone's shelves and as such, I think that the book's editors--and City Lights--should receive some praise not so much for rescuing (I hate that word) but for reinvesting in such a talent as Jonas."--André Naffis-Sahely, Poetry Foundation
"Stephen Jonas is part of a mythic Boston poetry gang headed by John Wieners, comrades of Charles Olson, fellow New Englander. His gay verse pioneered and prophesied later Fag Rag decades in Puritan Boston. A true poet of modern classic culture in mid-twentieth century U.S.A."--Allen Ginsberg
"It is a pleasure to have Jonas's sassy lyrics back among the living, and to explore with him the possibilities of poetry. He was pushing the envelope when he wrote and a sense of risk and adventure distinguishes his work today."--William Corbett
"It is the vernacular ... the swing of daily speech, that is not imitated but shot straight out, in epigram conceived as Jonas makes it ... The School of Boston, in poetry, is an occult school, unknown. What literary historian has written of Spicer, Blaser, Wieners, Dunn, Marshall, Jonas together?"--Gerrit Lansing