Peter Fortunato is an award winning writer, performer, ceremony maker, visual artist, and teacher. He is the author of four books of poetry: Entering the Mountain, Late Morning: New and Selected Poems, Letters to Tiohero, and A Bell or a Hook, as well as a book for children, Color Me Earth. He lives in Ithaca, NY, where he maintains a private counseling practice specializing in hypnosis.
Entering the Mountain, Peter Fortunato’s 2017 collection, includes the book’s title poem and several other long poems concerned with love of family, myth-making, and mortality. Among these is Mr. Fortunato’s elegy for his father, “Every Wizard,” chosen for a Pablo Neruda Award by Stanley Kunitz, who told the author, “You’ve discovered your legend. Now where will it take you?” Entering the Mountain is the result.
Praise for Entering the Mountain:
Peter Fortunato’s [early poetry] owed much to Gary Snyder; his recent work—by far his most adventurous and poignant—evinces the umbilical break: these are poems that brilliantly meld personal history, myth, and the heart’s irrefutable music. In earlier Fortunato poems, one could see the wheels working. The new poems seem to rise from the mouth of revelation: it is as if the loss of his mother and father, finally, has given him the presence to throw off the conventions and the dog-eared. The great poem, “Every Wizard,” like so much in this fine collection, is not only a testimony to history—his father’s complicated immigrant experience—but to how each of us must honor the weight of love. We can celebrate Art, craft, and the intricacies of how a poem makes us feel, but Fortunato, like a seer, reminds us of the mind’s irrepressible provender and the heart’s irreducible calculus.
—Kenneth A. McClane
The first thing we notice about the poetry of Peter Fortunato is the strength of voice as he delves into memories of family and kinship, and a cultural heritage going back to Italy and even classical Greece. An important theme in Entering the Mountain is performance, performance of music, of magic, escape artistry, the performance of rituals and celebrations of both the living and the dead, acts of homage and affection in our daily lives. Some poems are vivid portraits, others home movies. All carry us deep into the mountain of memory, sometimes painful, always thrilling.
The poems in Peter Fortunato’s Entering the Mountain walk the reader into a world that is full of mystery yet grounded in the poet’s commitment to seeing and recording the natural world and his place in it. We watch as he watches the woodpecker, his words transiting the creature into flame: “And what became of the thundering lizards / who slid their skins who maybe / rose on wings like the phoenix?” The poet shares his life with us, inviting us to “. . . taste that memory / take that cup today.” He moves us back and forth through time, guiding us through his early days and introducing us to the people who inhabited that time with him, inviting us to be part of his magician’s story.
Late Morning: New and Selected Poems surveys almost forty years of work by Peter Fortunato, beginning with selections from his earliest published collections, A Bell or a Hook and Letters to Tiohero. Themes that compel Fortunato’s work are love of nature and human love, the revelatory power of dreams, and spiritual practice rooted in Buddhism. Winner of numerous awards for his writing, including the Emily Dickinson Prize of the Poetry Society of America, and a Pablo Neruda Prize from the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, Peter Fortunato is a writer, performer, ceremony maker, visual artist, and teacher. He also maintains a private counseling practice specializing in hypnosis. He lives in Ithaca, New York with his wife, the poet Mary Gilliland.