Tony Quagliano (1941-2007)


“If you use the word color, it ruins the word blue.”
Tony Quagliano, “One for William Carlos William

Tony Quagliano was a poet, essayist, literary critic, jazz writer, editor and Professor of American Studies at Japan American Institute for Management Science and the University of Hawaii. He was widely published in magazines and journals, especially "long" poetry, and was the recipient of the inaugural Pushcart Prize (1976) among others. He edited, among other things, KAIMANA, The Journal of the Hawaii Literary Arts Council. As the editor of KAIMANA, Quagliano sought quality: “I just publish the very best stuff I get.” In 1997 he was one of six Americans chosen to select the haiku that appear on the national Japanese American Memorial in Washington D.C.

Tony loved jazz, and the qualities of jazz - rhythm and sound - underlie his poetry. Joanne Yamada writes: “For Quagliano, such qualities always incorporate the conscious fusion of the sound of the word within a rhythmic structure.” In amazing and unexpected ways, Tony Quagliano brought the sounds of words together and, likewise, the confluence of ideas/thoughts together. Tony believed that instead of explaining, you should allow objects to speak for themselves and action to tell the story.  

Tony Quagliano publications include: New York Quarterly, New Directions, Harvard Review, Rolling Stone, Exquisite Corpse, Wormwood Review, and Negative Capability–The Big Easy Crescent City That Care Forgot. His poems were also included in the anthologies The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, The Poetry of Solitude: A Tribute to Edward Hopper, The Poet Dreaming in the Artist’s House, among others.

Quagliano wrote four books of poetry: Language Drawn and Quartered (Ghost Dance Press 1975), Fierce Meadows (Petronium Press, 1981), Snail Mail Poems (Tinfish Network, 1998), and his book of haiku pictographs (red moon press, 2008). He edited the Small Press Review Bukowski special issue (1973) and edited Feast of Strangers–Selected Prose and Poetry of Reuel Denney (1999).

The volume Language Matters – Selected Poetry by Tony Quagliano, New York Quarterly Books 2012 is available for purchase at


Tony Quagliano was the 1976 recipient of the first Pushcart Prize - Best of the Small Presses Award; the Elliott Cades Award for Literature in 1988, and the Stefan Baciu Award in Literature for cutting edge artistic quality, originality, creativity and inventiveness in a body of work.

Tony died on 31 May 2007 at the age of 65. A few years later a Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award was established in honour of Quagliano’s contribution to the world of poetry and as recognition of him being an accomplished poet with an outstanding body of work.


Selected Work:

In Gauguin’s hut
his last picture
Breton snow

(Frogpond XI: 1, 1988)


the night nurse
stays to talk
her blue mascara

(Frogpond XI: 3, (1998)


white petals
of the tea shrub
stirred by the breeze

Azami 3; pictographs (red moon press postscripts series vol. 1, 2008)


still treescape
a truck backfires
87 birds change trees

(Frogpond XIII: 3 , 1990); pictographs (red moon press postscripts series vol. 1, 2008)


I’m older than Basho
the fact I thought of it
shows I’ll never learn

Mainichi Daily News (12 November 1994); pictographs (red moon press postscripts series vol. 1, 2008)


blinking on and off
a metronome

Brussels Sprout IX; pictographs (red moon press postscripts series vol. 1, 2008)


In Japanese theevanescent kanji floating in the background is heiwa (peace).