Joe Lerner -- the image that comes to mind is a short, robust, energetic fellow wrestling with a typewriter, hi-fi, and albums of operas and masses on a weekend visit to Fire Island. He never traveled without these indispensible impedimenta. When everyone went to the beach, Joe stayed behind to tap out lines of poetry and listen to his favorite music.

External or material things had little attraction for Joe. Solitude was a necessary condition for the probing of his mind. This is not to imply that he was reclusive; on the contrary, he was gregarious. Loving people, he made good friends. And his friends leaned on him for his wisdom and his warmth. He enjoyed controversy too -- the exchange of ideas. He could balance a gaggle of concepts to the utter confusion of his opponents. But his Socratic method of argument was essentially teaching. To top it all, he had a zany, sometimes exasperating sense of humor. It cut like a scalpel through shams and hypocrisies. The Devil's advocate was his favorite role.

What I mean to say, in this prefatory note about a close and critical friend whom I will always miss, is that he was touched by a tantalizing Muse. The touch was transfiguring; both a form of freedom and of thralldom. He had a compulsion to compress his thoughts and emotions into tensile integuments of poetic speech. Poet maudet -- he bore this sweet but exacting burden with philosophic detachment.

Joe Lerner -- the image that comes to mind is that of a mortal wrestling with his private angel. He was so proud od his physical prowess. It is his spiritual strength that survives as a legacy for his wife, his children, and his friends.

Harry Weinstock

My father tried to make students of us all. He wasn't always successful but he never gave up trying. I think through these poems he's still trying.

Fred Lerner

When I see Jenny Jo run to the door to meet her daddy, it always brings to me the wonderful memories I have of doing just that. No matter what age I was or what the problem was, meeting my father, walking and talking with him, always made the difference to me. Nothing I can write can equal my living memories.

I am a happy person. I enjoy life. For this gift I thank you Dad, and Mom as well.

Cathy Lerner Smilovitz

More than the whisper of smoke lingers to cloud my thoughts: thoughts that unwilling tears will not wash away. Anger, willfully selfish yet paradoxically joyful, tingles in my voiceless throat in a heavy needful call for his help. Prescient image -- mouth shut, enigmatic smile, didactic eyes, Socratic hands, transluscent skin and a smelly pipe -- seared in the elongated lobes of me a lasting pleasure that reminds daily to forget forgetting.

Robert Smilovitz

Daddy once told us that the only thing he minded about dying is how much he'd miss Mom. I know that if he had published himself, there would have been a special word of warmth and wit for her. And he always wanted us, their children, to understand that it was she who taught him things like how to love, how to care, and how to give of oneself. This book, I think, is her gift of him to us all.

Cindy Lerner Diamond

Children, your grandfather was an unusual man. You would have been crazy about him as he would have been crazy about you. One of the sad things about his death is that it came before you got a chance to love him. In a way, you lost him more than we did. That's one of the reasons we've tried to save some of him for you here, in his poems. And if you look, you will find that there is more of him all around you. He is in us and he is in you. I guess it's hard for you to pick him out, but he's there. Ask us and we can show you.

Steve Diamond

I love my Uncle Joe. He was my teacher and he taught me two things I will not forget. First, if people are prepared to face unsettling results, careful reasoning can lead to solutions to problems. And second, if you are resolute, difficulties can be overcome regardless of their weight or power. I believe that this trust in both reason and determination in the face of adversity informed a part of Joe's life as it now informs a part of mine.

Mitchell Brody

Joe was my friend. We communed on many levels, often words were unnecessary. Our lives were intertwined. We freely gave and freely took of each other. Joe was my friend.

Lou Wolinsky

Joe Lerner was my best and lifelong friend. For us who shared the good fortune to know him over the years, this book is a chronicle of his moods and feelings, his perceptions of that world of which we were a part. It was also our world.

No matter how elegant any collections of his poems might be, they pale before the richer and varied meanings his life added to ours. Yet this selection is another contribution of the rare gifts he brought to all of us.

Aaron Smith