Today's poetry for today's world

Joseph A. Soldati


Joseph A. Soldati’s latest chapbook is In Italy: A Personal Journey published by Finishing Line Press (2015).  Soldati has published numerous poems and essays in a variety of literary journals, magazines, and anthologies for 40 years.  Some of his poems have appeared in America Magazine, Carpe Articulum Literary Review, New Millennium Writings, and Windfall.  Soldati has published five other books: On Account of Darkness (2011), Apocalypse Clam (2006),  a bilingual volume of poems, co-edited, with Eduardo González-Viaña, O Poetry! ¡Oh Poesia! Poems of Oregon and Peru (1997),  Making My Name: Poems (1992) and a scholarly book, Configurations of Faust (1980).  Soldati is a Professor Emeritus of English at Western Oregon University, and the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships.  He is a long-time member of the Friends of William Stafford and former Chair of its Board of Trustees.  He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his two cats, Roxanne and Tramp.




Cover Art: “Images of Italy,” Jack Portland


Click any book cover on this page

to buy Joseph A. Soldati's books.


eating art


                                             For Jack Portland


For a long time now I’ve wanted to arrange

lemons on a plate as Matisse did—a yellow

trinity aglow on aged pewter; or, like Cezanne,

pile apples, oranges, and pomegranates

in a shallow bowl until they spill across

the sideboard, their bright orbs enhancing

the old wood, the pitcher behind, the empty

wine glass waiting.  They invite us to touch,

to cradle them in palms made orbicular,

to sense, so to speak, citrus against skin.

Just today I have set a simple lunch

like a De Luca still life—a plate of cured sardines,

hunks of peasant bread, onions, and a bottle of Chianti—

that we serve ourselves and, serving ourselves,

savor the earth and sea.  Afterwards, as in your

Images of Italy, there will be two cups of caffe

and, next to them, a frosted bottle of limoncello

its sweet bitterness a bite and kiss in the mouth.


Cover photo by Marc Weinberg. 











boys played baseball

without adults,

even on Saturdays.


thinking more of sons then,

knew one was always out

on a close play,

and did not interfere.

And sometimes,

after supper

in the hot hushed evenings of July

the fathers would come out

like shy children

in their tee-shirts and dress pants,

and they would hit

huge parabolic drives

that cracked through the dry sycamores

many yards away,

and run the short base paths

in their thin dark socks

that would never come clean

for work again,

and pause in their great glee

to breathe hard and light cigarettes.

We relayed those long balls

by brigades

until it was too dark to see;

then we all walked home

under a full moon

nestled in the sky

like a new baseball

in a worn mitt.




First published in Making My Name (Lewiston, NY: Mellen Poetry Press, 1992),

and Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems, Eds. Horvath & Wiles

(Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2002).




Cover Photo by Bryan Grimes. 








Evening, with three syllables, e·ven·ing--

a slow-saying word the mouth hesitates

to let go--the evening of twilight

smoothing out the dents and spikes of day,

soothing the way a hand stroking your face

erases the creases of question and care.

Think of a river evening below the cataracts

or embanked below the wind's whirl;

of coals glowing without a flame;

of birds that fly without dip or swerve,

as if they'd found a groove in the sky. 

Think of bread, unleavened,

that will not rise to insistent heat,

of a lake iced beneath a snow, the long

evening of a sandy shore counterpoised

against the sea.  Think of how your breathing

softens after love, the evening of your body

dissolving into air.




First published in Solo: A Journal of Poetry, No. 6 (2003);

and Apocalypse Clam (Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2006)




Cover drawing by Jack Portland.





                                       In Memory of Arnaldo Grazzi  


To those I love lying here in narrow crypts

in the faded stone walls or in graves beneath

the soil, I bring April's bounty--white lilies,

daffodils, heavy stalks of blue hyacinths. 


Photographs encased inglass and fixed to the stones

testify that these dead are alive forever--

eyes full of light, lips ready to laugh or kiss.

I remember the delight of their voices at table,

of arms embracing me, of cheeks against mine

whenever I returned, and when I departed.


I see them now as I saw them that autumn afternoon

in Vecciatica more than twenty years ago--

I on the road and they near the top of the pasture,

raking the fragrant hay into straight lines for Arnaldo

on the tractor to bale.  After that first evening meal--

a minestra thick with cannellini--my vision

blurred from too much wine, I could barely

make them out through the tobacco smoke.


Always now, bread, pecorino, and the daze

from red wine remind me of them, their auras

in the blue smoke hovering above the cluttered table

after those prodigious dinners on feast days

when Inez and Anna built a mountain of tortellini

and Fortunata snapped up a green mound of fagioli--

crick    crick    crick   --  all morning into the clay bowl.


O that they could come with me now

through the iron gate and up the road home--

so distant, for I have not lived here for a long time,

having stored away one life and taken down another.







Writer’s Tip: Chances take!  Bold be! Experiment!  Spearmint!  Play with the language! 

Have fun!  Throw a wrench or a wench into the machinery of your own composition. Startle

yourself with the unusual.  Remember that you can’t succeed unless you occasionally fail

to measure up to your own standards.  Persevere! 




Return to The Poets table of contents.