Housefire Elegies (Gold Wake Press, 2017)
Praise for Housefire Elegies:
In Housefire Elegies, Keith Montesano continues his textured exploration of primal American fear and violence—not to glorify, but as an attempt to see through pain into a landscape lit with the fire of humanity. At times chilling yet compassionate, this book, like all important books, calls the ghosts forward to sit with us and listen.
Keith Montesano’s third poetry collection bristles with the anxieties of the witness—the watcher who’s both beguiled and repelled by unfolding dramas of violent catastrophe. By turns discursive and cinematic, meditative and elegant, these poems remind us that brutality often borders on the quotidian, and they’re at their most potent when Montesano suddenly closes the gap between the banal and the tragic.
Keith Montesano’s new collection, Housefire Elegies, haunts with an illuminating conscience rendered and spliced by the poet’s generous imagination. In each exquisite poem, “we’re locked into something now.” These laments take hold and mesmerize.
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Scoring the Silent Film (Dream Horse Press, 2013)
Praise for Scoring the Silent Film:
In each poem in Scoring the Silent Film, Keith Montesano uses a peripheral character in a film by such varied directors as Michael Haneke, Steven Spielberg, Wes Craven and Ang Lee to draw a deeper meaning from a fleeting scene. The poems make time stop—in the middle of madness, violence, action—long enough for us to realize how much a human life is worth. In doing so, Montesano turns the rich history of film into brilliant, unforgettable poems.
—Jesse Lee Kercheval
Though the poems in this ambitious collection spring from the author’s abiding love of movies, their obsession is ultimately with our humanity. Violence—both realistic and fantastic—is ever-present, and emerging from the looming shadow of that violence are urgent meditations on empathy, inaction, fear, faith, and guilt. Keith Montesano has mingled the mediums of film and poetry and given us something utterly new. Scoring the Silent Film unspools before us, a poetic tour-de-force, mesmerizing and shot through with light.
The personas found in Keith Montesano’s Scoring the Silent Film are in the voices of victims, neighbors, friends, and other shattered lives, some of who survive wearing long scars of their traumas. And yet despite these harrowing circumstances, Montesano’s interpretations of characters are rendered with a profound sense of empathy as he holds the lens of his poetic gifts up close to the turbulent landscape of cinema violence, and shows us that there is still the possibility of blossoms among the ash.
—Oliver de la Paz
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Ghost Lights (Dream Horse Press, 2010)
Praise for Ghost Lights:
The poems of Ghost Lights are ambitious and multi-textured narratives and lyrics, are steeped in the lore of cinema and pop culture, and above all seem to dwell in those liminal places where adolescent longing gives way to a hard-bitten and grown-up spirit of elegy. Keith Montesano is a tough and relentless poet, whose craftsmanship is as impressive as his stance. Ghost Lights is an exceptionally noteworthy first collection.
“Where // did this world / come from, and how did it appear?” Following Larry Levis, Keith Montesano discovers those fugitive moments when one life becomes another, when our angels arrive or depart. Ghost Lights presents a difficult and necessary vigil that enlarges the body of contemporary elegy, a welcome debut.
—Jake Adam York
Love, death, art, the love of art—glimpses flash past, shards assemble into mosaics of passion and pain, and the past won’t steer clear of present. Keith Montesano’s arresting Ghost Lights illuminates in its glow a vision of heartbreak and heroism, a rescue from the burning building and every other trap “somewhere between innocent // and harmful.” This insightful poet imagines in lyrical beauty the terror and fascination of consuming flame.
Within Ghost Lights, the striking first collection by Keith Montesano, are all the elemental obsessions: violence and fire and sex, in service of the sublime. Unafraid of ambition, free of pretension, these poems hold on to the heart and mind: they thrill, and enthrall, and, long after one has read them, they haunt.
Lyrical and cinematic, and mired in a landscape of unexpected beauty, Montesano’s poems illuminate the intense drama of the everyday, and capture the crystallized heartbreak of an environment that works with and against its inhabitants. This debut is destined to make the heart race, “as if we don’t really die, / but make headlong / for our deepest desires, nothing to watch over us any longer.”
For all the wreckage, weapons, basements, mazes, and time “toward magic hour,” in Ghost Lights we are witness to a language cut from all the terror in our houses, a blood thicker than blood. These elegies—by turns viral, suicidal, tender, sublime—are of a deeper heart, an obsessed language culled seemingly from where they woke cut along the veins in Keith Montesano’s brain, and replicated on mine now, this book sent asking what our cells hold, where our dark is: “That you planned it from the start, your life…”
The poems in Keith Montesano’s first book, Ghost Lights, do the work of apocalypse: revealing and disclosing what’s hidden in the shadows of small Midwestern towns. They are alternately elegiac and violently ecstatic, “full of divorce // and broken homes, misplaced love and hand guns.” In the dark cinema of these poems, the camera is never permitted to turn away from what we’d rather not see, but every scene is driven by the poet’s desire—which is equally unflinching—to compose these love songs for the end of the world