Steven Cramer's sixth poetry collection generates scores of illuminating juxtapositions: the privacy of a son's shower-aria and the public lies spewed by the demagogue; what Martin Luther, The Thinker, and Charmin have in common; Renaissance garb-the stomacher, pincnets-wrapped in a headline announcing the moon-landing, to name just a few. Listen begins by facing and facing down the paradox Dickinson called "that White Sustenance/Despair," and ends its journey nearby the "questionable sea" of emotional autonomy. Along the way, there are poems that vivify the magical thinking which shapes, or misshapes, our deepest attachments, as well as the impingements of the so-called world on the so-called self. Experimenting with many verse forms to give shape to the mind's restless shifts and associations-sometimes absurdly funny, bracingly honest, and always sharp in thought and craft-the lyric testimony of Listen reaffirms the indispensable, if fragile, consolations of art.
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About the Author
Steven Cramer’s sixth poetry collection is Listen, published by MadHat Press (2020). His previous books of poetry are The Eye that Desires to Look Upward (Galileo Press, 1987), The World Book (Copper Beech Press, 1992), Dialogue for the Left and Right Hand (Lumen Editions/Brookline Books, 1997), Goodbye to the Orchard (Sarabande Books, 2004)—winner of the 2005 Sheila Motton Prize from the New England Poetry Club and named a 2005 Honor Book in Poetry by the Massachusetts Center for the Book—and Clangings (Sarabande Books, 2012). His poems and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Field, Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and other journals. His work is represented in anthologies such as The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (Autumn House Press, 2005 and 2011), The Book of Villanelles (Knopf Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series, 2012), and The POETRY Anthology, 1912–2002 (Ivan R. Dee, 2002). He has also written essays for Simply Lasting: Writers on Jane Kenyon (Graywolf Press, 2005); Touchstones: American Poets on a Favorite Poem (Middlebury College Press, 1996); and Until Everything Is Continuous Again: American Poets on the Recent Work of W. S. Merwin (WordFarm, 2012). Recipient of two grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, he has taught literature and writing at Bennington College, Boston University, M.I.T., and Tufts University; and he founded and now teaches in the Low- Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Steven Cramer's Clangings was a tough act to follow, but its dive into mental disturbance by way of a persona has permitted, in Listen, a movement into the darker corners of the poet's own psyche. A very agile mind inhabits these poems, which are enhanced by exciting leaps from image to image and reference to reference, as well as by unexpected quotations, allusions, etymologies, bits of history, and asides that inform and delight. Like Cramer's previous book, Listen will reward reading after reading. -Martha Collins
When the locals machete them, "coconuts thud like dud bombs on the lawn." A man in an MRI machine becomes "a loaf of dough forbidden to rise." A yogini tells her class to "let the shenanigans of our thinking simmer down." Yes, these poems begin in depression, but their territories are wide, diverse, and very vivid, and Cramer's talents as a poet and storyteller are magnificent. Witty and erudite, Listen shines light on the sympathies and sadnesses of illness and the riches of a life deeply attuned to the fragile self and the world the self passes
through. This is a marvelous book by a poet in top form. -Kevin Prufer