cut-off-the-ears-of-winterCut Off the Ears of Winter

$14.00 paper | $24.00 cloth
ISBN: 978-1-930974-50-0 (paper)
ISBN: 978-1-930974-54-8 (cloth)
Publication Date: April 2005
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Winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry

“Images of real and symbolic violence ricochet and reflect off each other in this elegant and disturbing collection. The poems chronicle, among other things, a history of childhood abuse and its after effects, but in a larger sense, they also explore through the lens of myth, art, religion, and popular culture, the underlying and often unacknowledged brutality beneath even mundane events.’’
—from the judges’ citation: PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award

“Pathos is the imp of innocence, and in Cut Off the Ears of Winter Peter Covino deploys him over the entire outraged body of modern harms. Here are psalms against the sinister. Here, too, are eclogues of mercy. Everywhere, in every notch and corner, in every kiss, crease and cicatrix, Covino’s imp appears and proves these poems true. This is a book of virtues better far than our deserving.’’
—Donald Revell

“These poems are acts of discovery. They deal with tough, seamy, risky—what academics now call ‘transgressive’—subject matter. There’s a strangely exhilarating desperation in most of these poems that’s compelling. [Covino] uses words as a medium, as materials, not as descriptive or narrative vehicles. I also like the angular, unsettling humor threaded into nearly every poem.’’
—W.S. Di Piero, Bordighera Prize Finalist Citation

“Peter Covino’s first book is spacious, wonderfully unpredictable, and insistent on ambition and scope. Cut Off the Ears of Winter is not simply an autobiography but a poetic autobiography. It moves from the confessional— stories of the body and the family—to stories of the mind, art, and history. Especially compelling is the way in which the intimate biographies of flesh and family are entwined with and inextricable from matters of art and history. On a painting of Judith and Holofernes, Covino writes ‘. . . he of the familiar scowl— / these jealousies overwhelm me . . . / and I cannot say for sure / whose severed head she holds.’ Restless, worldly, intelligent, and beautiful, Cut Off the Ears of Winter is an utterly original first work.’’
—Lynn Emanuel

“So many of these poems make it their job to get around experience, to get it all in, to comprehend it. So often, in what Covino calls ‘a love letter for our lifetime,’ they cannot contend, however intrepid, with such totality—‘a closure that resists us’—and it is at such points (or periods) that I hear this new poet’s particular note. When he asks, ‘How can we explain the pieces of detail, vanishing,’ then I hear Covino’s special lacrimae rerum note. It is new to me and noble.’’
—Richard Howard

“Peter Covino’s debut book of poetry, Cut Off the Ears of Winter, is a haunting work of desperation, abuse, redemption, and beauty. The brutality and conflict of what is at stake in these lyrical poems is rarely addressed in the foreground of the narrative. Instead, it lurks in the background of what is said. Covino’s minimalist diction, conversational voice, and simple albeit effective imagery results in a personal and humanistic sense, which is easily related to. Covino handles the lyrical narrative masterfully . . .’’
—G. Von Bourdeau,

Peter Covino


Peter Covino is the author of the poetry collection, Cut Off the Ears of Winter, a finalist for the Publishing Triangle Thom Gunn Award and winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry. Covino was born in Italy and educated there and in the States, where he earned an M.S. degree from Columbia School of Social Work. He received his Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing at the University of Utah where he was a Steffensen Cannon Fellow. Covino is also the author ofStraight Boyfriend, winner of the 2001 Frank O’Hara Chapbook Prize. His poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Columbia, The Journal, The Paris Review, Verse, and The Penguin Book of Italian American Writing. Currently, he is completing a translation project of Italian poets for an anthology on Contemporary European Poets, Graywolf Press 2007. Covino is also one of the founding editors of the literary press, Barrow Street Inc, and Barrow Street Books (established 1998). He teaches at the University of Rhode Island.