Winner of the 2018 Hollis Summers Prize, selected by Beth Ann Fennelly.
Joseph J. Capista's Intrusive Beauty reckons with reluctant ecstasy and the improbable forms that the beautiful assumes. In this powerful debut, Capista traverses earth and ether to yield poems that elucidate the space between one’s life and one’s livelihood. While its landscapes range from back-alley Baltimore to the Bitterroot Valley, this book remains close to unbidden beauty and its capacity to sway one’s vision of the world. Whether a young father who won’t lower the volume on the radio or a Victorian farm boy tasked with scaring birds from seed-sown furrows, the inhabitants of Intrusive Beauty are witness to the startling ease with which one’s assorted lives come in time to comprise a singular life. Mortality, love, duty, desire, an acute longing for transcendence: here, old themes resound anew as they’re uttered in a multiplicity of forms and means, holding fast always to the heart.
“Both wry and ardent, Intrusive Beauty is an immensely accomplished book. Readers have all the pleasure of great poetry here—nuanced syntax, a musician’s harmonious ear, and a remarkably deft and varied handling of form… Nothing is precious here—even the poems about fatherhood and nature, those baited traps, are leapt over by Capista’s nimble speaker.”
—Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi
“In his beautifully crafted first book, Joseph J. Capista never loses focus: on sound, on theme, on formal shapeliness. Always, he writes in the gravity of saying something of human importance. He knows the strengths of limitation and the wisdom of the struggle. He knows what to withhold and what to show, but he shines most when he breaks out of the mold and writes a poetry of pure apprehension. Poems like ‘Devotional of Daily Apprehension,’ ‘Notes for the Next God,’ and ‘Composition’ are vital articulations of wonder.”
“The title of this debut perfectly describes what you’ll find inside: unsettling and beautiful poems that understand what’s hard, what’s gentle, what’s dangerous and what might be saving in human experience. Some zoom in with luminous precision on jellyfish or osprey; another has the poet attending a Vigilante Day parade with group home residents, and becomes a strange, upsetting, invigorating document of a scene that ends ‘We came today expecting outlaws./We came expecting justice.’ Come to Intrusive Beauty expecting a slant and rich kind of clarity.”