Joseph Ceravolo

Joseph Ceravolo, born April 22, 1934, was a poet associated with the second generation of the New York School. He was the first son of Italian immigrant parents, and was raised in Astoria, Queens. After graduating from City College with a degree in civil engineering, Ceravolo served in the United States Army. While stationed in Germany, he began writing poems, and, upon returning home, studied writing under Kenneth Koch at The New School.

Ceravolo’s poetry collections include Millennium Dust (Kulchur Foundation, 1982); Transmigration Solo (Toothpaste Press, 1979); INRI (Swollen Magpie Press, 1979); and Spring in This World of Poor Mutts (Columbia University Press, 1968), which won the first Frank O’Hara Award for poetry, judged by Koch and John Ashberry.

A volume of his collected poems, The Green Lake Is Awake, was published in 1994 by Coffee House Press. In the foreword, Koch wrote of Ceravolo’s work,

This is not “just language” […] but descriptive language arranged and disarranged in such a way as to keep the feelings and ideas fixed in it, fresh and sharp, every time the passage is read.

Ceravolo’s poems were noted for his experimentation with language and form, which Koch described as a sort of “amazing perceptual archeology.” Although out of print for years, Ceravolo’s work was made accessible again through the publication of his Collected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2013).

Ceravolo, who had been living in Bloomfield, New Jersey, at the end of his life, died on September 4, 1988, of bile duct cancer in Belleville, New Jersey.