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In Memory of a Banyan Tree: Poems of the Outside World: 1985 to 2022
Three Wooden Trunks
The Country Where Everyone’s Name Is Fear: Selected Poems
In Praise  
  Ray Amorosi

ISBN 978-0-9800289-8-0 (paper)
ISBN 978-0-9800289-9-7 (cloth)    
$18 (paper)
25 (cloth)  /  $24 (Canada)    
6 x 9       

96 pp      
PUB DATE: Pub date: October 2009       Poetry


Sometime in the spring of 2007, Ray Amorosi, from whom I had not heard in twenty-five years, called and read one of my own poems into my answering machine. I called him back. He called me back. This went on for a couple of weeks until, once when he called he announced that he’d written a poem, and then he read it. It began,

it’s Ray.
Thank you for the storm
that passed north of us and for the thought
of lime. Never have our
tomatoes been so sweet.

The poem just melted me and I said so. He mailed me a handwritten copy (his hands have suffered some damage and it’s hard for him to type). The following week two more arrived, and a week or so later there were two or three more. All had the totally original slant and language I remembered so well from the earlier work, but all of them, too, had this great embracing sense of gratitude for both life’s darkness and its light.

I began typing the poems as they came in, sending them back to Ray for proofing, and sometimes sending them out on his behalf to journals, where they were quickly snapped up. After some months it was clear that we had the makings of a coherent and spectacularly unusual book. This book. A phoenix of a book rising out of the ashes of long silence as though there were no tomorrow. And there isn’t; the poems say this again and again: there’s today, refreshed, troublingly and laughably bemused, trickster-ish, reverent, irreverent, glowing and infused with the world’s ironic loveliness.

This book will make you happy.

—Christopher Howell


About 4 months ago I got a call from Christopher Howell, Ray’s former editor, now a well known poet and a professor at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, Washington. He had been in touch with Ray and Ray was sending him poems (handwritten) which Christopher began typing out. He quickly realized how good they were. When he first spoke to me he said they were, “sweet, affectionate, full of gratitude.” When I got the typescript, I immediately agreed: they were as Howell said, but they still had Amorosi’s previous wackiness and unique sensibility, a light-filled darkness. His poems are full of startling and inevitable turns. He begins one poem called “Gifts” with these lines: “Small thunder,/a hare skipping through snow./We’re both so happy/there’s more room for sadness.//I find a Jesuit in a bone in me who/calls for sin, a pen with no ink, a pride of digging/in the field you were born to, a pressing up/the backbone of a woman under your palms.” The poem then moves seamlessly to Van Gogh’s famous “Postman,” then to the horse which is part of the statue outside the museum, and then back to Arles. It ends with these lines: “Why can’t a postman in Arles be a saint?/A patron of the message./Why can’t a tadpole’s eyes be gorged with that/blue of another life?//Those who can’t keep a garden, paint one on a wall.” There are many poems in this book with this kind of fervid and fertile imagination, and filled with a melancholic joy. That’s not an oxymoron. That’s being a full blown grown-up. I don’t see anything quite like it in other poets of our generation. . . .

—Thomas Lux

About the Author

Ray Amorosi

Ray Amorosi was born in the North End of Boston in 1946. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has written two books of poetry—Flim Flam and A Generous Wall—both published by Lynx House Press. Amorosi has taught at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Northeastern University and North Adams State College. However, his main enjoyment has been teaching creative writing in high schools across Massachusetts. The energy and the subtlety of the students’ experiences has taught him what it means to be a poet.




What do we look for in poetry? For my part, I know that I want emotional authenticity, integrity with respect to truth, and a backlog of experience that brings wealth and weight to the language. Ray Amorosi has given us a book that satisfies these desires amply, again and again, surprising us with its fierce rightness, its dark humor, its fundamental humanity. In Praise does not earn its title lightly. Amorosi truly understands the value and difficulty of praise in this troubled world, and provides it in poems that shine with insight and clarity.

—David Young

“This is heaven,” the poet writes in In Praise, “to expect nothing,” and with this insight Ray Amorosi has emerged from his twenty year exile from poetry like someone from a long journey, with stories to tell about a vibrant and illuminated inner landscape particular only to the best of our poetry. Driven by an original and enigmatic quality of voice that organizes this collection of diverse poems, Amorosi has discovered what James Wright called the poetry of a grown man, and it is more than worth the wait.

—Bruce Weigl

I think these poems are pretty wonderful. They feel like the inside of rapture and defeat, but they dart and swerve a lot, which are movements I do not associate with rapture, and that interests me. I like the mixture of lusty and yeasty, along with a kind of innocence that seems attached to receptivity and light. And I like the astonishment that feels unlike any contemporary poetry I know; the voice, while not archaic or dated in the least, seems to come out of some earlier time. I think of Donne and Roethke begetting a voice.

—Michele Glazer


Out here on the river it’s a good thing.
Riptide hits fast there’s no time at the mouth
to bend any lower.

Keep her calm and slit the waves leeward.
Once over the pounding you’re out
to sea alone, no matter who’s with you.

Straight over the arc to P-Town lodge
for as long as you like
at the Golden Shanty or Mike’s Sea View.

Coming back is better biting
the southerlies trimming in fast tacking
off the wind for your point.

Going way out to pierce your craft perfectly
is a gift God sometimes gives you.



it’s Ray.
Thank you for the storm
that passed north of us and for the thought
of lime. Never have our
tomatoes been so sweet.
We taste you in them.
I feel you are my son gone now for such,
such a long
time. Come home.
No matter who is at our table
there’s a plate for you,
and a bed upstairs in a quiet room.
The tiny dart-like yellow flowers are just
beginning to open. The bees are gone. The wind
is of no use. I need
a hand with the fine paint
brush in and out so the fruit will swell please
come back my son, come home.