Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category

Sound bite

February 7th, 2019

My publisher, Fomite Press, asked me to provide for their website a recording of an excerpt from my work that relates to a particular calendar date or event.  I thought I might as well also post it here.  My trilogy, In Dante’s Wake, is a retelling of the Divine Comedy as if it were happening to me.  It takes place in August 2005, the time of Hurricane Katrina.  The first two volumes, To Join the Lost (corresponding to Dante’s Inferno) and Among the Lost (corresponding to Dante’s Purgatorio) have been published by Fomite.  You can purchase them here.  In this excerpt from Volume 3, presently a work in progress, I am standing with Dante and some others on a beach in paradise at dawn, looking out across the ocean.  Dante is talking.

Among the Lost gets its first review!

November 11th, 2016

Forget that other thing.  Wednesday also brought this news: the first review of Among the Lost.

Where to buy Among the Lost

November 3rd, 2016

I’ve received a couple of queries – stop fiddling with your cell phone and listen up, Jon Lonoff! I’m talking to you! – about where you can get a copy of Among the Lost for your very own. It’s distributed online at Amazon, Ingram, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iTunes and Smashwords. I don’t even know what some of those are. Once my web site is updated, you can get it from me, but that may take a little while. At this web site,you also can order copies right now of the previous volume in the series, To Join the Lost. My publisher, Fomite Press, is reissuing To Join the Lost, so you will be able to get it at all the venues I’ve mentioned, but that may take another month before it’s ready.

Two weeks to my book launch!

October 26th, 2016

You’re invited to help me celebrate the launching of my second book, Among the Lost!  Yay!  It’s on November 10, 2016, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Bridgeside Books, 29 Stowe Street, Waterbury.  I’ll read from it, answer questions, sign copies.  There will be refreshments at the reading and next door at Stowe Street Café.  Please feel free to pass this invitation along to others!  Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description of the book:


Among the Lost: In Dante’s Wake Book 2

Among the Lost, set in the modern American rust belt, is a meditation drawn from Dante’s Purgatorio.  To Dante, Purgatory was the mountain where souls not damned went after death to cleanse themselves of sin in preparation for entering Paradise.  What, Steinzor asks, are we preparing ourselves for, having lost the fear of hell and the hope of heaven, in the course of our daily urban existence?  And whatever that is, how do we go about preparing for it?.






Praise for Among the Lost

What a magnificent ascension Seth Steinzor is achieving. Having embarked on a latter-day retelling of the Divine Comedy, he has already descended into the Inferno and has now risen to the peak of Mount Purgatory, regaling us along the way with apt parallels to Dante’s infernal and purgatorial people, places, and purposes. We are indeed fortunate to have Steinzor following Dante’s footsteps.

—Rennie McQuilkin, Connecticut Poet Laureate



October 18th, 2015

My dear friend Susan Weiss died this summer after fending off breast cancer for several decades.  Susan was a difficult, courageous, charming, immensely talented and creative, warm, caring, smart, wacky, alert, profound, perceptive, sensitive, funny, principled person.  She and I got together regularly for years to talk about writing and about our families.  Susan wrote novels, one of which, My God What Have We Done, was published and is highly worth your while to seek out.  The publisher is Fomite Press of Burlington, Vermont.  One feature of Susan’s writing was her penchant for meaningfully juxtaposing pairs of subjects that one would think had little if anything to do with each other.  The effect was kind of like if you tinkled one of those little tibetan meditation bowls that you see in gift shops, and out of it came the clangorous reverberations of a great church bell.  In My God What Have we Done a failing marriage is juxtaposed with the Manhattan Project.   In the last book she completed before she died, Susan wrote about a mother seeking relationship with her children, and a murder of crows.  Here is a poem I wrote after visiting Susan in the respite house where she spent her last month or so (with insincere apologies to Dylan Thomas):

I know you’re tired,

too tired to sleep well.

You could rage against the

dying of the light, but the

night doesn’t care.

I can imagine you

wasting breath on that, but

not too much.

Or you could go gently.

Whatever.  Really, I see you

stroking the tiny throat

feathers of that crow

sitting on your shoulder, its

strong beak poised at your

ear, asking it to

let you tell its story.


May 29th, 2014

fireworksI was going to title this post “Yahoo!” but that might have been misinterpreted.  So much of our language has been commercially appropriated.  Eat more kale, says I.  Anyhow… I am pleased and proud and tickled and relieved to announce that the second volume of my poetic trilogy, which revisits Dante’s Il Purgatorio in much the same way that To Join the Lost revisited L’Inferno, has been accepted for publication by Fomite Press, a publishing house after my own heart.  Visit their site and you’ll see what I mean.  The “relieved” is because I took some risks with this one, and they seem to have paid off.  Both of the editors who have read it so far have liked it enough to want to print it.  Projected publication date is some time in the first half of 2015.  So… if you haven’t bought a copy of To Join the Lost yet, now would be a good time to do so, so that you can be all read up and prepared when Goldfish Rising (or whatever we decide to call it) hits the streets!  You can get your very own copy of TJTL here; if you ask, I’ll autograph it for you.


January 6th, 2014

Okay, so I’m on a roll here.  People are “liking” the poems.  So, being as I’m a poet, that encourages me to post more poetry!  Funny how that works.  Maybe people will like the poetry they see here enough to buy the book.  Anyway… I’m not normally a fan of poems about poetry, but occasionally I perpetrate one, because what are you going to write poems about if not the things that are important to you?  This one reports on a reading I attended twenty years ago.  I can’t say I’m a normally a big fan of Louise Gluck’s work, either, but that’s mainly a question of personal taste.  Her artistry is undeniable.  I arrived very late, having gotten the time wrong.  Perhaps if I’d arrived earlier, I would have been bored, whereas arriving close to the end the few minutes I experienced retained all their impact.  I’ll never forget the high-pitched sing-song in which she read, or the apparently almost physically painful effort it seemed to cost her, which put a premium on every word.  If that is what writing is like for her, as well as reading, she must lead a life of exquisite torture.  I hope not.  I am not sure what impulse made me give this poem its long, loud, heavy-on-the-prosaic-details title – the exact opposite of Gluck’s poetry – but it seems to work.  Sometimes a title is like a frame.



truthfulness pared

to the hard minimum,

mum almost

but for what must escape

lips – the line

a birch branch carves,

white as a whisper



asking for questions

(second thought) short ones;

when none come

painful thanks, lips wrenched

crooked as apple tree boughs


It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Pictures That Got Small

December 23rd, 2013

harp guyThis might have been a dream, or perhaps a nightmare, except that it was a waking vision and it felt oh so tranquil.  It seems appropriate to the season when we are saying good-bye to an old year and all the years that preceded it, and are on the cusp of the new.  I am not entirely happy with the way that my blogging program has inserted a little extra space between each line, but I’m not unhappy with it, either.  The extra space stretches things out and makes the poem have even more of a lazy, detached, languorous feeling.


I remain moored in the same place, but

every year the shore recedes further and

the big water deeper and wider all

around me. Used to be, I’d watch

the little pale fish: first their shadows

dotting and running the rippled sand,

darker green on the golden green, then

themselves halting and in unison

bolting like something sprayed from a

bottle, sometimes so fast disappearing

until my eye caught their shadows again.

That was when it was inches deep.

After awhile it was not fish but people

occupied my view, at first a shifting

few on their dry yellow slope: a couple

families, older ones mostly sprawling on

towels colorful as macaws, ones older

than that dazed on folding chairs, kids

helter skelter, half a dozen or so, digging

with plastic implements they’d leave behind

as if to mark where what they’d made

had been. I got to know a few. A fat

boy with a blue bucket. A college girl

lying on her stomach, looking both ways

like a kid crossing a street before she

reached behind and bared her breasts

to the sand while her boyfriend slept.

An old man and an old woman passing

a book back and forth, pointing at pages.

Of what they all said, as fewer and fewer

words could reach me, I understood

less and less, until it was only children’s

ejaculations and their parents’ (?)

cautionary howls, dimming gradually.

By that time they were numerous dots

on the beach, unevenly clotted as the

little fish had been; as not with the fish,

I could see what might have made

their patterns form. Shade trees. A tent

emitting loud music attractive to some.

Metal boxes in which to light fires.

Proximity of others like or unlike.


the time of day – the changing angle

at which the sun’s spears strike beneath

the mildly heaving surface into a blue

in which, at last, striations of light

converge but are lost before they meet –

is all I see.



July 12th, 2013

Years ago I had a friendly acquaintance named Jane who gave massages in her home, and one day I took her up on it, and had one of Those Experiences.  No, cynical Burlingtonites, so recently sated on news stories of happy ending massage parlors, not one of those experiences.  Jane has long ago passed out of my life, but recently I made a new friend who worked for some time as a massage therapist, so the subject has been on my mind.  I have no idea what it is like to be pulled into the white light of orgasm by some oriental sex slave, an experience to be had at certain “health spas” around here up until a few weeks ago for around eighty dollars, according to the news.  I don’t remember what I paid Jane for giving me something other than an orgasm, but it wasn’t quite that much.  It was worth writing a poem about.


The last thing I felt was warmth in the middle

of my chest and a spot of it on the crown

of my head, your touch, as if your arms

ran a conduit plugging those places together;

then that was gone; my eyes were closed;

I floated in a black place.  Somewhere a bone

flute knitted high and low seamless as a mitten.

I floated in my body bag, waiting for something

to return.  Nothing returned.  Then, as I floated,

a click from the other room, a little boy’s

blocks clacked, and here a puff of breeze

on my bare chest seconded this call.  So my

eyelids lightened, filled with the possibility

of motion as slowly as canal locks fill with water;

opened; and there was this glaring white blank

I recognized after a while as your ceiling and not

the eye of god because if it had been god’s eye

the thoughts that kept tugging at my attention –

of the flute, of you and your husband and child,

of my wife and children, of the streets between –

would have pulled me away; but there remained

your ceiling in awesome steadfast finality.

Then you peeked in the door, quietly asking

if I was alright, and I knew it had become time,

the muscles in my limbs were mine again,

to move, pull on my shirt, and button it.

In Praise of Water Purification

June 13th, 2013

I hesitated to share this poem, because I’m unsure how good I think it is, as a poem, but I think it might at least be an interesting expression of some thoughts I’ve had.  It is one of the many fruits of the years I’ve spent pondering something my mother said one Thanksgiving: “It didn’t begin with me and it doesn’t end with me.”  In some sense this seemingly obvious observation has become central to my outlook.  One aspect of these reflections is captured in To Join the Lost, where the essence of hell is belief in the opposite proposition.  Goldfish Rising, the next volume in the trilogy, will carry the thought forward.  Geniuses tell us things that look simple but contain the world.  My mom was like that.  But this isn’t a poem about my mom.  It’s more about dads:

Yesterday, while scrubbing the sink to a

depthless, flawless white the chrome tap

hung across like a space vehicle (that’s

the kind of thing I think about while

scrubbing sinks) it struck me: my death,

if my son holds for me what I held

for my dad, will rip the poor kid a

hole in his guts, the same as my dad’s

ripped for me; and this is the cost the

love that I want now for us imposes.

Would it be better not to be beloved,

than to inflict that daily absence?

Then (this being the kind of thing

I think about while scrubbing sinks)

I saw, in the dimensioneless whiteness

above which swam the tap, the hole that

runs through my son’s life connected

to the hole that runs through mine,

and that ran through my father’s life,

and that pierced (I believe) the core of

his father’s before him, all the way

back to… when?  To some miserable

bastard, lost in heartlessness, whose son

greeted his last departure as merely

or less than just another sunset?  Could

indifference cap such a pipe-line?  Then

I thought of what might flow through such a

conduit, what umbilical nourishment

besides what filth and waste, and I knew,

it does not begin or end with me.