Stephen Jonas is a crucial missing piece of the postwar American poetry puzzle.
"A true poet of modern classic culture in mid-twentieth century U.S.A."—Allen Ginsberg
"At their best the poems have an intensely oral, I would like to call it glossolalic, freedom, as if they captured the essence of what one might like to express in the moment of rapture."—David Rattray
Beginning in the 1950s until his untimely death at age 49, Stephen Jonas (1921-1970) was an influential if underground figure of the New American Poetry. A gay, African-American poet of self-obscured origins, heavily influenced by Ezra Pound and Charles Olson, the Boston-based Jonas was a pioneer of the serial poem and an erudite mentor to such acknowledged masters as Jack Spicer and John Wieners, even as he lived a shadowy existence among drug addicts, thieves, and hustlers.
Arcana: A Stephen Jonas Reader is the first selection of his work to appear in 25 years. With a biographical introduction and a postscript delving into recent discoveries concerning the poet's birthplace and background, Arcana is a crucial corrective to our understanding of post-war American poetry, restoring Jonas to his rightful place among the period's vanguard. Featuring previously uncollected and unpublished work, a section of never-before-seen facsimiles from notebooks, and a generous selection from his innovative serial poem Exercises for Ear (1968), Arcana is a much-needed retrieval of an overlooked American poet, as well as a valuable contribution to African American and Queer literature.
Praise for Arcana:
"The work of Steve Jonas, though vital to many of his more illustrious contemporaries, has remained obscured far too long, particularly as we've become unaccustomed to the high stakes once involved in the life of poetry. Accompanied by a reprint of Joseph Torra's invaluable introduction, as vital and fresh now as when it came out 25 years ago, along with David Rich's extraordinary archaeological dig into genealogical records and biographical materials to clarify Jonas's self-effaced origins, the publication of Arcana is an important event in our increasingly evanescent cultural history, evidence of what is real."––Ammiel Alcalay