Peter Fortunato

Peter Fortunato HeadshotPeter 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, and the author of the novel, Carnevale. Peter’s memoir, Desert Wind: My Life in Qatar, was published by Cayuga Lake Books in April 2023. He lives in Ithaca, NY, where he maintains a private counseling practice specializing in hypnosis.


Peter Fortunato lived and worked in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar during an exciting, transformational time for that Muslim nationas well for him, personally and professionally.  A poet and a Buddhist, the author taught at the newly opened branch of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar’s capital, Doha. His memoir is a rich account of the surreal quality of life in this petroleum-wealthy, desert nation. Available now on Amazon.

Praise for Desert Wind: My Life in Qatar

Readers will be engaged by the author’s vivid evocations and zest for life at the rare intersection of cultural exploration, poetry, psychology, politics, education, spirituality, the thrill of nature, and a sense for the beyond. The book is a whole journey in itself!

—Patrick Laude, Georgetown University

The author’s personal account of his life in this desert oasis, and his insatiable appetite to learn about the culture and its people, give us a behind-the-scenes look into his experiences there as a poet, teacher, student, and explorer.

—Nounou Teleghani

Desert Wind is a fascinating account of Peter Fortunato’s adventures and contains engrossing conversations with people of many nationalities and all walks of life. Readers will learn about Qatari culture, the views of Asian and Western expats working in the country, and his students’ aspirations and interactions with this wise teacher. In the end, Fortunato undergoes his own transformation of profound self-acceptance and compassion.

—Alice McDowell, Ph.D., author of Dance of Light and Hidden Treasure

Desert Wind joins other memoirs of adventures in foreign places, and will delight readers curious about contemporary Arab culture and in particular about Qatar, often mentioned in the news, but still vague to most Westerners. For comparison, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, a perennial best seller, comes to mind, but so far, Mr. Fortunato’s account of his expatriate life in Qatar is unique in its breadth—nor has anyone else examined their experiences in this Muslim state through the lens of Buddhism.


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. Buy it now at

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.

—Robert Morgan

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.

—Bertha Rogers


Late Morning: New and Selected Poems by Peter Fortunato surveys almost forty years of work, 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. You can find Late Morning: New and Selected Poems at

Reviews and Interviews:

Jacqueline Gens for Tsegyalgar East Community Blog

Q&A with Deborah Kalb

Learn more about Peter’s novel Carnevale at his website: 

Read a book review at:

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