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Epitaphs for the Journey: A Magnum Opus

new collection by acclaimed poet, bc professor paul mariani

Award-winning poet and BC professor Paul Mariani (Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert)

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (August 2012)  — A new collection by acclaimed and award-winning poet Paul Mariani—University Professor of English at Boston College—has been deemed his “magnum opus” by its publisher.

Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected and Revised Poems offers the best of his long and distinguished career: it brings together new poetry by Mariani, revisits his extensive body of work which spans four decades, and includes revisions of his earlier work—poetry that has already been highly acclaimed.

The result, his publisher notes, is 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-twentieth century, growing up in a working-class family, to his own marriage, fatherhood and grandfatherhood.

Mariani—who describes it 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. (More on the book below.)

“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,” Mariani said. “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.”

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 sixty then, and had taught at Colgate, Hunter, John Jay College, and for thirty-two 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.”

Epitaphs for the Journey: The book 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.”

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), the volume is part of Cascade Books’ Poiema Poetry Series, edited by D.S. Martin. The definition of the Greek word “poeima” is the thing that has been made, the masterpiece, and the series is rooted in the ancient tradition of poetry as the partnership between poet and reader.

According to Martin, Mariani is a skilled storyteller who “writes in the mode of American confessional poets…this style fits well with his Catholic faith.”  His background, Martin has written, “is Catholic and broadly classic, and warmly embraces all aspects of Christianity and Judaism and the world beyond those.”

Mariani has published over 200 essays and reviews and is the author of 17 books, including seven volumes of poetry and five 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 the latter—Mariani’s 1999 biography of the American poet, titled 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. He has lectured and given readings of his work across the United States, Canada and Europe. He also served as poetry editor of America (the weekly Jesuit magazine) from 2000-2006. His poems have been widely anthologized and have appeared in numerous journals and quarterlies.

His academic specializations include twentieth-century American and British poetry, biography, religion and literature, and creative writing. He 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. A University Professor in the Boston College English Department, his courses include “God and the Imagination” and “Bishop, Berryman and Lowell.”

For more information

To arrange an interview with Mariani, contact him directly via email at:

To request a review copy of Epitaphs for the Journey, contact book publicist Caitlin Mackenzie, at

Rosanne Pellegrini, Office of News & Public Affairs