Self-Portrait as Jerry Quarry by Vito Aiuto
Self-Portrait as Jerry Quarry
Vito Aiuto’s poems are funny, heartbreaking, and serious as Hell. They borrow from the blue-collar ethos of Philip Levine, the lexical playfulness of Frank O’Hara, the anxious self-deprecating wit of Mark Halliday, and the theological insight of J.I. Packer, but the voice we hear is nothing if not singular. In the course of these terse yet panoramic fables, John Calvin shares the spotlight with journeyman pugilists, doubt and faith, a wife, a lost father, consumerism, God, a guy named Mess . . . Moreover, Aiuto thrills and frightens us. Part confession and part stand-up routine, Self-Portrait as Jerry Quarry refuses to shy away from sin or the awkward business of atonement.
“The monsters and heros, sometimes inseparable, that populate this book rise up, are beaten down, and rise up again in a raw and flooded mythos. With a darting, weaving musicality, sometimes talky, sometimes demonically convoluted, these poems roar and splinter. If they weren’t so funny, they’d be terrifying–and they are. If they weren’t so terrifying, they’d be funny–and they are. Vito Aiuto’s voice comes to us from the epicenter of a concussive beauty. Get ready to be hit.”
“The poems in Self-Portrait as Jerry Quarry explore issues of God and Faith, of art and the everyday, of what it means to struggle with the limitations of being human (and, paradoxically, the beauty that goes with those limitations). This is the work of a poet who veers wildly between the conversational and the lyric mode, often with comic or heartbreaking results. Aiuto’s poems are devotional and blasphemous at the same time, because he’s so damn unpretentious, from the tip of his blue-collar boots to the hands he uses to pray. And Vito himself is one of the hippest poets I know of, clever and urbane. I hear echoes of Frank O’Hara and Kenneth Koch, but also David Foster Wallace and J.D. Salinger, and it makes for a new kind of music.”
—David Dodd Lee
Vito Aiuto was raised in Tecumseh, Michigan. He received a master’s degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.Currently he is the senior pastor of Resurrection Presbyterian Church. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Monique, who together, make up the folk-gospel duet The Welcome Wagon.