97-Year-Old Poet Publishes New Work

Local poet Jo Geluso debuts her newest book of poetry “Storyteller.”  Long Islander News Photo/Sophia Ricco

Local poet Jo Geluso debuts her newest book of poetry “Storyteller.” Long Islander News Photo/Sophia Ricco

By Sophia Ricco

With a knack for recollection and getting to the root of a story, local poet Jo Geluso has debuted her sixth book, “Storyteller.”

The book of poems comes directly from the mind of Geluso, who shares personal tales, memories and her love of nature. Born in 1921, she brings readers back to a simpler time of childhood. The 97-year old poet credits her grandfather for teaching her the art of storytelling.

“I was only four when grandpa started to tell me stories in Sicilian. He told me all these stories, because my grandparents brought us up,” Geluso said.

Geluso recalls the summer of 1934 and trips to a sweet shop. “This summer is special, I am 11,” and her favorite, “butterfly cupcakes.” What distinguishes the past is the joy she finds in choosing whatever scrumptious sweet she likes with the nickel she was given.

“I don’t know why I write, I just love to read and write. But I spend most of my time with poetry,” Geluso said. “I can’t explain how, why, when or where. I was 80 years old and I had never written a word of poetry, but decided to start.”

Her work reflects a deep love for the natural elements of the world, with many poems going into great detail to describe creatures and plants. She enjoys making readers think by portraying an object with words, before telling them what it is.

Geluso blends her Sicilian heritage with this style in the poem “Get to Know Me.” She writes, “Sicilians always welcome me into their kitchens, they appreciate my distinct flavor, my spicy bouquet. Food stout enough to partner with me, create an inspired fare...” revealing at the end that it is fennel.

Although, Geluso considers her work poetry, she does not think of herself as a poet, but rather a storyteller like her grandfather.

“I think, a poet takes a lot of time going through a poem time and time again, and changes it,” Geluso said. “I just write it the way I feel it and don’t change it.”

Geluso’s process for writing involves taking in her observations of the world and telling them honestly. She brings readers on a journey in “Way Home,” writing “dusk ebbs to dark, walk familiar path, stone walls along the way, my companions at gloaming, pink sass peaks, valley vanishes. owls glide, like sighs of wind, quiet as deep of night, dark leaves time behind, I am home.”

“The reason so many people like my poetry, well what they’ve told me, is they like that they don’t have to look up a word,” Geluso said. “I tell it like it is. I write it as if I’ve got a friend sitting in the chair of my living room and I’m telling a story.”

The book’s foreword, written by Maryanne Napoli, encapsulates the work.

“The memories Jo serves up in each of her poems transports us to a time when life was simple and sweet.”

“Storyteller” can be purchased on Amazon.