bookcover - 1 The Plague Doctor Forty Floors From Yesterday Aiaia criticalworks anthologies
Cooking With The Muse

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Cooking with the Muse: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare.

Co-authored with chef and author Myra Kornfeld and forthcoming from Tupelo Press.

“This vertiginous, seductive, learned book surprises the palate on every page. Its ranging, awakening recipes and awakening, ranging poems would be more than enough to satisfy any cook or reader. The added notes, though… These are an education, invitation, and testament to the peregrine splendors of human hungers of every kind—for dishes and flavors, for knowledge and history, for the transformations and sustenance that both cooking and literature bring. The only dilemma is where to shelve this—in the kitchen among the cookbooks, or in the library next to Dickinson, Hopkins, and Heaney.”

– Jane Hirshfield, Poet, Essayist, and Translator

“If I ever had the chance to take off a year and spend it in the country with my family, the one cookbook I’d pack is Cooking with the Muse. Preparing recipes from this book will persuade you to slow down and appreciate the powerful connection between food, poetry, and nature. Come to think of it, wherever you are — enjoying the fantasy vacation of your dreams or anchored to hearth and home — Cooking with the Muse will provide you with a tasty new seasonal recipe, and poem, every night.”

– Sara Moulton, Chef, Cookbook Author, Television Personality

“I have fallen in love with Cooking with the Muse. What a treasure trove of recipes, poems, quirky and fascinating literary references and reflections on food and its meaning in our lives. I don’t know when a cookbook has been such a good read! I find myself underlining my favorite bits, like this from Lucille Clifton: “I taste in my natural appetite / the bond of live things everywhere.” I want to give this book to every poet and cook I know.“

– Ellen Bass, Poet and Teacher

“Delicious and captivating—the perfect source of inspiration—this cookbook truly unites the literary and culinary arts. What a great gathering of the gifts of poetry and cooking!”

– Barbara Sibley, Co-Founder of The San Miguel Poetry Week and Chef-Owner of La Palapa Restaurant

“A sensual chef-d’oeuvre of culinary prowess seasoned with the cultural notes of poetry and nutritional wisdom —you will savor every page of this holistic masterpiece.”

– Kathie Swift, Leading Nutrition Author and Speaker

“A golden idea comes to the table in Cooking with the Muse.  Of course there is poetry in cooking!  Recipes even look like poems—the lines distinct and the outcome magically blended. Literally delicious, Cooking with the Muse delights, entices, comforts and enthralls.  Each dish is a poem in itself.”

– Molly Peacock, Poet, Author, Speaker

“Part love song, part practicum, part history lesson, Cooking with the Muse is a delightful page-turning compendium heralding the life-giving joy of cooking with the seasons.”

– Mary R. Cleaver, The Cleaver Company, The Green Table, Table Green at The Battery

“Prepare your appetites! This glorious compendium of recipes, food lore, poetry, and history offers savory layers of enjoyment in every category – It’s a delicious feast of love.”

– Naomi Shihab Nye, Poet and Novelist

Cooking with the Muse is a book I want to cuddle up with in bed and use in the kitchen until it becomes tattered and splattered.”

– Liz Lipski, PhD, Author of Digestive Wellness, Director of Academic Development Nutrition Programs, Maryland University of Integrative Health.

“Cooking, like any other art, requires the Muse. She leads us down misty paths of green herbs, tantalizes us with the smells from a simmering cauldron, drizzles sweet rosewater dew on our tongues. Alas, all too often, the Muse escapes us, and we experience a culinary cul-de-sac. In this mouth-watering book, Kornfeld and Massimilla generously mix rich poetry and prose, irresistible recipes, vibrant photographs, and timeless nutritional wisdom to reawaken the sleeping Muse within us. She entices us back to the kitchen, whispering in our ears the long-forgotten names of beloved flavors, inspiring us on every level: to listen, to taste, to celebrate, to cook, to love, and to eat.”

– Jessica Prentice, Co-Founder Three Stone Hearth Community Supported Kitchen

Cooking with the Muse not only guides you through the seasons showing you how to make inspired dishes with global flavors; it does so with words of poetic inspiration, providing a multicultural view of the pleasures of cooking and eating. Cooking with the Muse offers a combination that satisfies both stomach and soul.”

– Richard Ruben, Seasons to Taste, LLC, author, The Farmer’s Market Cookbook

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The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat

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Selected in the Stephen F. Austin State University Press Poetry Series Prize Competition

The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat


“Stephen Massimilla’s new collection is utterly lovely and entirely strange. Fixed in the exactitude of the Moment, these are poems that are ‘on their way to the next world.’ From the ‘basil-blue mornings’ of the here and now to the apocalyptic dusks of swans and neon talismans, the reader is ever included in a quick-step with the poet. Lucid and delicious, the work is riddled with sublime forms of play—word play, mind play, heart play…a wondrous and vivid intelligence. Many mythic characters enter these worlds: from Odysseus, Raskolnikov and Vallejo, to little LuLu and Madame La La, even one evanescent unicorn. Sublime, dead serious, wickedly funny, above all, this is a book that is a delight to partake of.”

-Lucie Brock-Broido

“In the land of plague, the courageous doctor sports a silly-shaped hat. This titular merging of the tragic and the amusing burdens the heart in unforeseen and mysterious ways. Thus, we are compelled to follow Massimilla, a siren of language, an intoxicator, into his realm of beauty and sadness by a brilliance of thought and a radiance of emotion—at once sensual, playful, spacious, compassionate, heartbreaking. These stunning poems, these daring visions, dazzle.”

-Emily Fragos

“Stephen Massimilla’s poems…show us that this world is translucent, that poetic language can open portals with its beauty to the ‘delicious luxuries’ of truth.”

-Dean Young

“In his resounding new collection, Stephen Massimilla yokes classic and contemporary vocabulary and worry to land- and seascapes reminiscent of Wallace Stevens’ ‘Sea Surface Full of Clouds.’ These loci—in traditional forms or riverine lines—are populated with beasts of land, sea and air: geese, tigers, bugs, pigeons, crocodiles…. An octopus and a prostitute cohabit in the book’s mid-section, ‘An Inky Parable.’ Literary, painterly, or Greek gods and heroes, and Darwinian natural detail spiral around Massimilla’s ‘caduceus of sentence/ and line’ throughout. The poet speaks most to my heart when he speaks most simply, as in ‘Etymology’: ‘and / I stand, wanting / air in my blood // And its nostalgia, / Latin / for our pain.’”

-Rika Lesser

The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat is a big, violent book of lyric poems bursting with undercurrents of passion; no matter where you come up for air, you feel in the grip of winds that keep circling back, pitching about in some faraway sea, where everything is bending toward everything else. ‘Stylized chaos,’ well describes these luminously expressionistic poems full of funky wordplay and a punk sensibility, all vivid with sharks and maddening gulls, gothic cityscapes amidst sprawling gardens and neon harbors, poems dripping with color and lust. The Plague Doctor is phantasmagorical, baroque, unbelievably nervy, brilliantly articulated, …and beautifully distorted, like the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh.”

-David Dodd Lee


Forty Floors From Yesterday

Cover paintings © by Stephen Massimilla Cover design © by Glynnis Osher Read Poems From This Book | Ordering Info.

Winner of The 2001 Bordighera Poetry Prize.
Sponsored by The Sonia Raiziss-Giop Foundation

Forty Floors From Yesterday

A bilingual Edition Translated into Italian by Luigi Bonaffini

“The surreal imagery in these poems is crafted with a deft hand and a sure ear. The author has put to fine use the strange emotional states wrung from the marriage of unexpected things, but this strangeness is never created for its own sake – to shock us – but instead to illuminate the darker corners of our longings. These are marvelous poems. Like fairy tales they conjure, bewitch, cast inescapable spells.”

– Dorothy Barresi (Bordighera Poetry Prize judge, American Book Award winner)

“In this millennial era it’s not common to find a black-belt sonneteer; or poems whose dance macabre phantasmagoria owes something to Baudelaire and Rimbaud; or work as witty and sardonic as it is learned; or a flair for startling tropes and jewel-like visual images; or docudramas on Metropolis. To find all these things in a debut volume, though, is a rare event, one sure to strike up its own best fanfare.”

– Alfred Corn

“The surprising juxtapositions in these poems give a sense of the mystery and drama of remembering strong feelings. As in poems by Hopkins and John Wheelwright, the crowding of sounds and images can also get very exciting. I think the density of the language wonderful.”

– Kenneth Koch (Van Rennselaer Prize judge)

“This was my winner, and by a pretty long shot. The sonnets were technically sophisticated, subtle in tone, wise in insight, vivid with the warmth of love and sad in their sense of its passing. I liked how few of the rhymes seemed obvious, and how often they had been softened by enjambment. I liked the careful back and forth between the sentence and the line.”

– John Burt (Grolier Prize judge)

“These intricate, handsome poems speak of anguish and joy, possession and loss with a strong verbal density that repays acquaintance. Memorable lines and images sparkle in the sky of Forty Floors from Yesterday, a formidable first collection.”

– Stephen Sandy


The Grolier Poetry Bookshop

Winner of the 2001 Grolier Poetry Prize
Sponsored by the Grolier Poetry Foundation

Later on Aiaia

“This was my winner, and by a pretty long shot. The sonnets were technically sophisticated, subtle in tone, wise in insight, vivid with the warmth of love and sad in their sense of its passing. I liked how few of the rhymes seemed obvious, and how often they had been softened by enjambment. I liked the careful back and forth between the sentence and the line. I like the subtlety with which the sonnet ‘Descent’ shifts from being a poem about snorkeling to one about a dangerous erotic temptation.”

– John Burt (Grolier Prize judge)


Critical Works

Myth, Anti-Myth, Post-Myth: On the Contested Role of Western and Eastern Myth and the Ghosts of Antiquity in Irish, British, Expatriate American, Local American, and Postcolonial Modernist Poetry.

The Figure in the Tower, Google Books

The Figure in the Tower, Google Books


Selected Anthologies


Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke: Erotic Poems 
Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke: Erotic Poems
Token Entry: Subway Poems
Token Entry: Subway Poems
New Hungers for Old: One Hundred Years of Italian-American Poetry
New Hungers for Old: One Hundred Years of Italian-American Poetry