Mariani Offers His 'Epitaphs'
BC poet brings together past and present works in his newest volume
A new collection by acclaimed and award-winning poet University Professor of English Paul Mariani offers the best of his long and distinguished career, bringing together new poetry and revisiting his extensive four-decade body of work, along with revisions of his earlier, highly praised compositions.
Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected and Revised Poems is described by the book’s publisher as Mariani’s “magnum opus”: the story of a rich life lived and lived again over the past seven decades. Mariani’s lyrics chronicle his journey from the streets of New York in the mid-20th century, growing up in a working-class family, to his own marriage, fatherhood and grandfatherhood.
Mariani, who terms Epitaphs for the Journey as “a Catholic book through and through,” with Boston College as an integral part of the story, regards it as his best book of poems.
“I feel it is the culmination of a lifetime’s work with poetry, autobiography, and teaching poetry and the classics, and I was delighted to have free reign to say what I had to say,” said Mariani, who is currently working on a biography of Wallace Stevens and a memoir of growing up on the mean streets of New York in the 1940s.
“This is a carefully crafted life in poetry in the tradition of St. Augustine’s Confessions, with the help of so many of the poets whom I have learned from, including Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Robert Lowell, John Berryman and Hart Crane, as well as poets ranging from Virgil, Dante, Milton, Baudelaire, Rilke, Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop, Philip Levine and so many others.”
Epitaphs for the Journey contains 96 poems in eight sections, or cantos, of 12 poems, which each cover a decade of Mariani’s life. According to the publisher, they “contour Mariani’s search for answers to the unknown. His verse is born out of the relationship between the felt presence of mystery — what some might call God — and the modern imagination.” It is designed and illustrated by Mariani’s friend, Barry Moser, with whom he had talked about doing the book when the time was right, for the past 35 years.
Of Boston College, Mariani added: “As a Catholic, poet, writer, teacher, and scholar, I am blessed to be part of such a great Jesuit institution. I remember my first day teaching here back in September 2000, saying to myself that, finally, I felt I had come home. I was 60 then, and had taught at Colgate, Hunter, John Jay College, and for 32 years at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, as well as lecturing at many other universities, but I feel more than ever that BC is my real home, intellectually, creatively, and spiritually.”
Mariani has published more than 200 essays and reviews and is the author of 17 books, including seven volumes of poetry and biographies of poets William Carlos Williams (for which he was a finalist for the American Book Award), John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Hart Crane.
Actor James Franco adapted Mariani’s biography The Broken Tower: The Life of Hart Crane into a film. Franco directed and starred in “The Broken Tower,” which featured Mariani in the part of photographer and artist Alfred Stieglitz. Franco previewed the film at Boston College in 2011 and joined Mariani for a question-and-answer session following the screening.
Mariani’s many honors and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and two National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. In 2009 he received the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry.