Roslyn Native Publishes Poetry


poetryRoslyn native Stephen Massimilla’s new poetry collection, The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat, has been named a selection of the Stephen F. Austin University Press Prize competition.

The book was published this month to praise from fellow poets Lucie Brock-Broido and Dean Young, who said, “Stephen Massimilla’s poems remind us exactly what such good poems can do: show us that this world is translucent, that poetic language can open portals with its beauty to the ‘delicious luxuries’ of truth.”

The title refers to 17th century plague doctors and their primitive gas masks; herbs and flowers were stuffed inside the beaks to protect doctors from danger. This symbolism is fitting, as Massimilla’s poems not only celebrate herbaceous and efflorescent beauty, they also tend to those suffering most from the contemporary ìplagueî of alienation and cultural and environmental crisis — wounded animals, human outsiders, and mythic beings on the skids.

A graduate of Roslyn High School, Massimilla has written two other award-winning books of poetry. He was awarded the Bordighera Poetry Prize for Forty Floors from Yesterday and the Grolier Prize for Later on Aiaia. Massimilla, who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, holds an MFA and PhD from Columbia University, where he is currently a professor. He also teaches at The New School.

To celebrate the publication of the collection, Massimilla was joined by fellow poet Eva Salzman earlier this month at Poet’s House in Manhattan for an event titled, “Can Poetry Save Lives?” Massimilla and Salzman each read from their new books and discussed the value of poetry as a vital human pleasure and means of expression.

“As a working poet and educator, I’m concerned about the marginalization of the liberal arts and poetry as crucial areas of study,” said Massimilla. “The title of this book in a sense defines the role of poetry in an ailing world. We need to realize that poetry can not only improve our ability to understand ourselves and relate to one another but also help us live fuller, more interesting lives.”

The book is available from or from your local independent bookseller. For more information, visit

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