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City Full of Fireworks & Blues

poetry by Stephen Cramer

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In City Full of Fireworks and Blues Stephen Cramer collects a series of lyric poems that explore both love and loss with a taut musicality that enters the reader’s very musculature. Though the book often features the emotional or intellectual skirmishes that are common to all, it is far more of a celebration than a dirge. “Let us learn,” one of the poems offers, “the way cries inherit our breath, the way 1,000 facets of song can inhabit the mouth.”

POETRY / General

ISBN: 978-1-962082-11-2 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2024932901

Released March 2024  |  Copyright 2024

100 pages


Stephen Cramer’s first book of poems, Shiva’s Drum, was selected for the National Poetry Series and published by University of Illinois Press. Bone Music, his sixth, won the Louise Bogan Award. His ninth, The Disintegration Loops, was a finalist for the Vermont Book Award. He is also the editor of Turn It Up! Music in Poetry from Jazz to Hip-Hop. Cramer’s work has appeared in journals such as The American Poetry Review, African American Review, The Yale Review, and Harvard Review. He teaches writing and literature at the University of Vermont and lives with his wife and teenager in Burlington.


“To read Stephen Cramer’s new collection of lyric reckonings is to accept his invitation to ‘hook elbows with awe.’ These poems delve and drift through the looping questions of a sensibility aware of its precarious blessings—and equally cognizant of all the loss those blessings imply. Like the culture at large, much recent American poetry has turned away from the contemplation of personal mortality and the difficult wounds and hard-won wisdom its study can bring. Cramer recenters these existential mysteries in a contemporary idiom with sure musical fluency and the gift of keen intellectual clarity. A wonderful book.”
Karin Gottshall, author of The River Won’t Hold You

“These wonderful, elegant, and wry lyric poems invite us to ‘try to be deafened by life,’ to ‘all night long hook elbows with awe,’ and then they show us, poem by poem, how to follow their lead. I was swept in and out of existential questions, through mortality, love, carried by what felt like a modern-day kind of praying—all buoyed by Stephen Cramer’s deft musicality. These poems are by turns sure-footed, sly and funny, open-heartedly uncertain, and full of wonder. City Full of Fireworks & Blues sliced into my world and held me so that when I arrived at ‘I can’t pass up the universe’s continual double dog dare,’ I was sure I could not either.”
Kerrin McCadden, author of American Wake

“Breathtakingly beautiful, this book is a combination of sublime lyricism and luminosity, a book that celebrates the symphony of existence. A resplendent enactment of what it means to be alive inside the beating heart of the great musical, mystery of being.”
Elizabeth A. I. Powell, author of Atomizer

Articles and Reviews


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