During four decades a good poet can wrestle with many ideas, mold all manner of images, broaden his or her knowledge and feelings and, gaining a clear vision of how this adds up, give the world an impressive collection of poems. The years have been good to Peter Fortunato. He is a senior lecturer in writing at Cornell who recently completed four years teaching at the Weill Cornell Medical College in the Persian gulf nation of Qatar. Fortunato is also a performance artist and founder of two theatrical companies, Spideroot Theater and Spirit Horses.
Beyond seeking personal truth and enlightenment to inform his poetry he conducts a private practice as a holistic counsellor, life coach and hypnotherapist, which can give him extraordinary insights into human needs and wishes. He is recipient of the Emily Dickinson Prize of the Poetry Society of America and a Pablo Neruda Prize from the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa. And so with a forty-year running start, Peter Fortunato can offer “Late Morning: New and Selected Poems”, his words discovered and disciplined by Buddhist beliefs.
Is it intuition, my way of knowing
the skunk who grubs outside my door?
We’re one, but scram, you’re stinking up the place.
Nagarjuna doesn’t have the last word here,
and I don’t expect amphibians from Sirius
to dish the skinny on What-Has-Never-Been-Born…
— from “Buddhist Thoughts in Darkness”
In addition to his close association with world cultures, Peter Fortunato is grounded in his Italian-American heritage and family life and also his immediate and ongoing contact with Ithaca, the Finger Lakes and the glories of nature that surround us all in upstate New York. The selection of forty years’ writing includes several sections of “Letters to Tiohero”, Fortunato’s long poem addressing Cayuga Lake by its oldest aboriginal name.
Walking through the watershed of Six Mile Creek
last spring in the evening,
just darkening, but down off
Coddington Road I entered deeper shadows
below those hills.
in the stone cavern beneath an old barn:
there’s a tractor draped with rags, chains hanging
on the walls, buckets of rusty nails, paint cans,
forks and shovels leaning on a post.
What am I afraid of?…
— from “Letters to Tiohero”