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The Eye that Desires to Look Upward

Whether the triggering subject is the beguiling sensuousness of a medieval city in Cézanne’s southern France or an unexpected visitation of grace in an abandoned backyard lot, the poems in Steven Cramer’s first collection chart a course between those conflicting parts of the self we recognize as noble and base, susceptible and calloused, selfless and vain, sexual and sublime. With an inviting, direct style and an attention to telling juxtapositions, the poems affirm that “the eye that desires to look upward” must first accommodate the “detritus of the world” in order to earn its passage.

“The chief delight of this first book, [Cramer’s] graceful lines draw the reader’s attention like good conversation, easing along in their sweep through the poem.”

—Thomas Hurley, Cambridge Chronicle

“Thoughtful, balanced, beautiful—these poems are also acts of emboldenment. ‘Earthly visions of paradise’ appear nearby to the poet, who constantly glances up from the workaday. At times he seems ripe to push off with Gauguin. Already he quietly proposes ‘what if’ and ‘suppose,’ wrapping scenes, and representations of scenes, in lovely, intimate tones struck from loss and desire.”

—Marvin Bell

“There is a disarming beauty and a resonant calm to Steven Cramer’s poetry. The graces and sly ironies of the world haunt these poems, and they are as startling as starlight rippling through an empty meadow. This is a superb debut.”

—David St. John