Author photograph: Emily Biggins

In Beyond the Margins, his first book of poems, Jeff Dutko protests against the stupidity and heartlessness of an inane and indifferent world, often including himself in that world, but he also praises its sudden and shocking beauty. There is much sadness here and abundant anger, but also wit, incandescence, and intimations of a better way. Early readers have been much impressed by the straight talk, passion, and unconventionality of these poems. This from Elizabeth Thomas: "Throughout Beyond the Margins it is clear that Jeff Dutko is a teacher who approaches writing and teaching with eyes and heart unguarded. At times, he writes of loss and emptiness, while his work also overflows with an unbridled awe. His line 'What amazement, what wonder has sent me to the blank but open page?'

Cover painting (“Weeds Frozen in Water”)
by E. Casioppo
speaks to the poignancy and delight of this collection of poetry." And John L. Stanizzi has commented that “Jeff Dutko’s poems are familiar and casual, and at the same time literary: they speak of the frustrations and joys of the writing life while remaining colloquial enough to appeal to anyone. He can be sardonic: ‘Whatever happened / to that red wheelbarrow / left out in the rain… And where / are those goddamn / chickens?’ And he can be stunningly poetic — ‘The ringing in my ears / comes from the phone / of a ghost / calling from a poem / that was not written.’ This truly is a book whose appeal is as wide as our interests are varied, and as accessible as a loving gesture. In the words of the poet, ‘Come now let us offer up our hands.’ ”

Jeff Dutko lives in Farmington, Connecticut with his wife, two children and crazy dog. Much of his poetry is informed by his experiences teaching children with special abilities, but for over twenty-five years he has also written verse focused on family, social issues, and the world around him. His poems have appeared in a variety of journals and magazines including Slow Trains, The Furnance Review, and Right Hand Pointing.

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ISBN 978-1-936482-07-8

Copyright © 2011 by Jeff Dutko

6" x 9" paperback, 94 pages



Watching My Son Eat Poetry Rejection Notices

I’m disgusted with poetry
I don’t want to see it
I don’t want to hear it
I don’t want to eat it
Despite what Mark Strand says
the ink would not artistically drip
from the corners of my mouth
It would fester on my tongue and kill
even the sour burn of acid reflux

I’ve been bamboozled by poetry
and its promise of power fame and fortune
Where are the groupies
Poetry has made me sick of my own handwriting
Poetry has made me afraid to check my mail
I cannot bear the sight of another smoothed-out SASE
huddling for support with the girls from a J.Crew catalog

I want poetry to go away to take a hike
Go pee in a cup Mr. Editor
and send it out to be tested examined
for idiomatic illnesses
I want you to have to wait six months for the results
Wish you the best of luck placing that elsewhere


When Snow is White

Rare maybe once
in the recumbent hours of the dawn
piling up pure upon itself
leaving no impression
staining nothing

Inside two lovers
lost in a spiraling
continuous touch of each other
Then inevitably they rise
to steel themselves against the day
footprints leading away
from their somnolence
forming small places
for the weight of the world
to collect

When each lover returns
maybe the snow is again white
recreating every day


In the Neighborhood of Chocolate


If you could be any candy bar
which one would you be
So many now sit in front of me
mingling in the Halloween bowl
as if at a freshman mixer

Although I indulge in almost all of them
personally I would skip any of the ones
that feel the need to disguise
a parsimonious offering of chocolate
by slipping a cream colored cookie
into the heart of the bite

Bars dusted in coconut
those with healthy doses of almond
or any other candy-deterring nut
say the overly aristocratic macadamia
I would also avoid
Candies labeled Fun size
have no place in the discussion

If you’re going to be a candy bar
just one for the rest of your life
you’ve got to pick for scale and pedigree
The King Size Hershey Original stands alone
has candy figured out
adult in concept and maturity
childish in simplicity
no gimmicks pure
stable a bar with a future and a past
I love its neatly sectioned off rows
and imagine driving through them
in a tiny confectionary Porsche convertible
speeding through the idyllic
neighborhood of chocolate
each avenue intersected
by each easy street
something to aspire to


But this suburban subdivision is seldom
dipped as deeply in chocolate
as the faces of the children
only partially hidden behind masks
hoping tonight to go undetected
as they spill out of cars
driven over the city’s weathered limits
into this neighborhood of whitewashed fences
their parents remaining inside
listening to the music of FM stations
pondering the irony of waiting
for their kids to scour these particular streets
in search of the perfect chocolate bar


To Watch the World Ascend

These things that rise from our foundations
ascending and in accord harmonious in hallelujah

The granite cliffs’ cragged cupped elevation
over the firs blockading at knee level

Zephyr-filled flight of water vapor
reaching to a sky-train of vultures circling soaring

Deer and squirrel tails warily aloft
against the flowering cornucopia

Even the sky scraper’s tall towers
twisting through the Christ clouds beaming

and the arc of the anthems
left by airflight continuing skyward

modernity still no less beautiful than these maples
shouldering on against today’s advances

cattails twirled and swaying over their own shadows
on flat black ponds asleep with their juxtaposed dreams

oriole singing back to oriole
this note rising and that note higher

All upward secrets upward sailing
questions the poet had to ask

standing grounded
while the world unveils its answers above


The Empty Classroom

You leaned into the echoes of the room
and announced over the desert of vacant chairs
that the room had lost its soul

Yes the walls stood unabashedly
naked and pockmarked
without their multi layers
of construction paper leaves
and the lake of the blackboard
held only small bits of dander
still clinging on in words
that read for the trash or save
with some arrows delineating
which unfortunate overgrown rows
of pedagogical materials
contained annuals and which we hoped
would rise again for another year

Even the lions of technology
were left slumbering
their tails limp and unconnected
Only the sprigs of uneven pencils
left on the fallow fields of desks
stood stiff at attention

But you were wrong
the room had not simply lost its soul
it had gallantly given it away
to the faces that had drunk
when this was an oasis
the faces glued
to those construction paper leaves
the room had hugged to its walls
and then turned loose
upon a waiting world

1000th Point of Light

Who will bear witness
to the last light in the prophecy
and from what safe distance

When the weight from the leaves
of the downed trees of the Amazon

the weight of the dust coating
the rubble left in the wake of the ravenous blasts
from tank and anti-tank barrels of the Middle East

the weight of all the discarded surgical masks
lying stacked under the unfilterable air of China

the weight of the teeth of the dead of Darfur
rolling snake eyes in the dirt with the teeth
of the other countless dead on the dark continent

the weight of just one molecule of crude oil
which skims along atop the already saturated
elements in the heavens of the sea

has finally collapsed the emptying Earth
like a supernova

From what vantage point will our technology
have taken us to celebrate
this passage of light
And who will be left to attest
And who will be left to atone


The Hot Dog Wrapper

On Sunday
the vagrants’ once private shambles
of crooked streets quickly resounds
to the fluttering of hot dog wrappers
Oh the luxury of living so close
to the parking lot of the tennis stadium

just now letting out
a summer’s flurry
of women in white
one telling her daughter
not to throw out but wrap
her unfinished half of a hot dog
“so the trash pickers won’t eat it”

and I wonder
what disease does her daughter have
that she is protecting the bums from


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