by Steven Cramer
55 Poems ~ 101 Pages
Price: $19.95
Publisher: MadHat Press
ISBN: 978-1-952335-08-2
To Order:


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 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.


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, author of Because What Else Could I Do

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 a 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, author of How He Loved Them

is, by turns, matter of fact, nailing the sometimes-funny sometimes-sad
absurdity of the world, and warmly sensual.
—Nina McLaughlin, The Boston Globe

is incisive and various in its approaches, in the service of a full heart and open
Ploughshares, Editors’ Bookshelf


Listen is Steven Cramer’s sixth poetry collection. 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,
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
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., Tufts University; and he founded and now teaches in
the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University in
Cambridge, Massachusetts.


A Habit

by Steven Cramer

If she’s unhappy, she stays upstairs.
For him, less time spent alone the better.
Sometimes, though, he’ll linger in his parked car
until the engine cools. If it’s raining …

The day they met, he tells new friends,
a busker played the Beatles on a glass harmonica.
Memory’s more like lightning bugs, she thinks—
you need to see them twice to track them.
She keeps a notebook for ideas like this.

Married nearly thirty years, for a time
they discussed retiring near the ocean—
Gloucester, perhaps, or maybe Rockport.
All those years and not one affair, a fact
They’re proud of, but try not to belabor

— unlike their one son,
About whom they’ll talk relentlessly.
Watching the child sleep through turbulence,
he stopped white-knuckling and she started.

Three or four dark periods.
They’ve learned to keep an argument
from withering into rage, a process
of retreat, or so it seems to her.

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