Free Concert: New and Selected Poems

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9780971822849: Free Concert: New and Selected Poems

A poet of international acclaim, Milton Kessler published five books of poetry during his lifetime. Kessler received numerous awards and distinctions, including a Robert Frost Fellowship, an Edward MacDowell Foundation Fellowship, and a National Endowment Program Grant. He died in April 2000, leaving behind a manuscript of new work. This book celebrates the life and work of a gifted poet of original voice, presenting work from each of his books together with his new poems.

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From the Back Cover:

About the Author

Milton Kessler (1930-2000) was born and raised in the Bronx and Brooklyn. A high school dropout, he spent time in Van Cortland Park writing poetry, and turned to singing; as he later wrote, "to sing was the only way through." He sang for Eleanor Roosevelt and for the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston, and was a spear carrier at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

Later, he worked as an optician, and in the garment industry. He entered the University of Buffalo at age twenty-five, graduating summa cum laude in two-and-a-half years, and then went on to get his master of arts at the University of Washington, where he worked with the poet Theodore Roethke. He taught for more than thirty years at Binghamton University and abroad in England, Israel, Belgium, and Japan. He was married to Sonia for forty-eight years, and was the father of three grown children, and grandfather of six.

Milton Kessler wrote, "Each day is still full of amazement, aloneness, danger, and gratitude." He died in 2000, one month before his seventieth birthday.

Cover photograph by Paula N. Kessler
Cover design by Stu McCarty

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Silver Spring, MD 20916-9685

[back cover—boxed copy]

"Kessler’s sharp phrases catch the motion, textures, and strange, beautiful voices of a physical world we live in but never fully know."
—Camille Paglia

"A lyricist capable of lovely and musical effects."
—Elizabeth Bishop

"A good book like this [Grand Concourse] is a gift to the world, a tourniquet to staunch the bleeding."
—Arthur Miller

" ‘God's Cigar’ is perhaps the most amazing modern poem I've ever read."
—Ruth Stone

"This is an original poet of great power. . . ."
—John Crowe Ransom

"One savors ‘The Grand Concourse,’ meaty with love and patience."
—David Ignatow

From the Inside Flap:

Free Concert: New and Selected Poems
by Milton Kessler

"With Kessler, you begin literature and art fresh each time you come to them."
—Camille Paglia

When Milton Kessler died in April 2000, he left behind a manuscript of new work. The new poems included in Free Concert were among Kessler’s papers, and were selected and edited by Kessler’s family with Scott Chaskey. Kessler’s final work is nostalgic, but never sentimental. Witness the volume’s opening poem, "Tree":

All these years, tree,
you have been growing in the sidewalk.

Now you are right beside my 5th floor window,
where I can read my future in your leaves.

Kessler draws these poems from daily life, and from the recesses of memory. The poems are alive with breath and energy; they are profound and whimsical, compendious and delicate. Born from the tradition of Whitman, they resonate in Kessler’s own robust, inclusive voice. Kessler’s poetry is exuberant with the joy of nature, work, love, and a life lived one moment at a time. This book celebrates the life and work of one of the most gifted modern American poets, offering generous selections from each of his books together with new poems.

A poet of international acclaim, Milton Kessler published six volumes of poetry during his lifetime, and received numerous awards and distinctions, including a Robert Frost Fellowship, an Edward MacDowell Foundation Fellowship, and a National Endowment Program Grant. His poem "Thanks Forever" was chosen to appear in London's subway cars as part of the Poems on the Underground project.

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