Ecstasy Among Ghosts

These are poems in which the poet’s generously extended Italian family, terrible despair and regenerating love are as salty as the ocean that beats just beyond the margins. To read this book is to ride a roller coaster of unbridled emotion.

Through the sluice of memory John Stanizzi’ shapes the torrent that pours through his mind and being. He fashions poems that hold and treasure family, friends, and the seasons. He gives stability to what we love and care about through a language equal to what it tributes and memorializes. Ecstasy Among Ghosts is a stunning Debut.

-Hugh Ogden – author of Turtle Island Tree Psalm


John Stanizzi is a poet of courage and passion who manages to be achingly sensual without a scrap of sentimentality. His work is brought to life by the transformation of nature, its eroticism and beauty. There is no separation between his personal world and the world at large, both of which he creates with intelligence, musicality, and precision. His work moves between the old Italian family traditions of mysticism & spontaneity, and his own new venues of passion & tenderness, a wonderful balancing act.

-Ruth Daigon – author of Between One Future and the Next


I treasure the accuracy of John Stanizzi’s ways of seeing and the unsentimental love he’s capable of expressing in poem after poem, and I treasure the directness and simplicity of his verse.

-David Ferry – author of Bewilderment

CARDINALS
-for Carol

I had seen them in the tree,
and heard they mate for life,
so I hung a bird feeder
and waited.
By the third day,
sparrows and purple finches
hovered and jockeyed
like a swarm of bees
fighting over one flower.
So I hung another feeder,
but the squabbling continued
and the seed spilled
like a shower
of tiny meteors
onto the ground
where starlings
had congregated,
and blue jays,
annoyed at the world,
disrupted everyone
except the mourning doves,
who ambled around
like plump old women
poking for the firmest
head of lettuce.

Then early one evening
they came,
the only ones—
she stood
on the periphery
of the small galaxy of seed;
he hopped
among the nuggets,
calmly chose
one seed at a time,
carried it to her,
placed it in her beak;
she, head tilted,
accepted it.
Then they fluffed,
hopped together,
did it all over again.

And filled with love,
I phoned to tell you,
over and over,
about each time
he celebrated
being there,
all alone,
with her.
-Published in Embers, 1985

Very Pretty
Point O’ Woods, South Lyme, August, 1999

So early in the morning,
and yet too hot for her to walk
even a step or two.

We sit her in a plastic lawn chair,
secure her with a bed sheet
huge and cool around her frail body,

and Ma, elegant and 70 pounds,
waits with apprehension
to be lifted to the top
of forty-seven steep and crooked steps

to the landing that overlooks
the cottage roof where a gull sleeps,
and below that
a sail on jeweled green water.

At the top,
with the sun impatient for 97,
we stand with her a moment
as she looks out on the bay.

Very pretty, she says, very pretty.

And I think of those words
as sweetest memory
the very moment
she is speaking them.

         for Katherine Conkling
-Featured on The Writer’s Almanac, read by Garrison Keillor, December, 2008

Paperback – July 1, 2007
$6.98