Friday, July 13, 2018

'New Jersey Poem' and Eco-Justice Poetry

Ghost Fishing (University of Georgia Press, 2018) is the first anthology to focus solely on poetry with an eco-justice bent. A culturally diverse collection entering a field where nature poetry anthologies have historically lacked diversity, this book presents a rich terrain of contemporary environmental poetry with roots in many cultural traditions.

Eco-justice poetry is poetry born of deep cultural attachment to the land and poetry born of crisis. Aligned with environmental justice activism and thought, eco-justice poetry defines environment as “the place we work, live, play, and worship.” This is a shift from romantic notions of nature as a pristine wilderness outside ourselves toward recognition of the environment as home: a source of life, health, and livelihood.

Ghost Fishing is arranged by topic at key intersections between social justice and the environment such as exile, migration, and dispossession; war; food production; human relations to the animal world; natural resources and extraction; environmental disaster; and cultural resilience and resistance. This anthology seeks to expand our consciousness about the interrelated nature of our experiences and act as a starting point for conversation about the current state of our environment.

Contributors include Homero Aridjis, Brenda Cárdenas, Natalie Diaz, Camille T. Dungy, Martín Espada, Ross Gay, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Joy Harjo, Brenda Hillman, Linda Hogan, Philip Metres, Naomi Shihab Nye, Tolu Ogunlesi, Wang Ping, Patrick Rosal, Tim Seibles, Danez Smith, Arthur Sze, Eleanor Wilner, and Javier Zamora.


In New Jersey, with one of the highest cancer rates
in the nation, with its brownfields
and chemical dumps, with its rivers that reek
of death and floating sewage, with its air tainted

by the coal-burning plants in Ohio, with its towns
where all the trees are dying, there are
moments still when I can look beyond
the surface of all the ruin we have brought

to the earth, and see again some of the world
I remember, the daisies and Black-eyed Susans
that seeded the vacant lots of my childhood,
the sky crammed full of stars, the air

so clean I would breathe it in and sigh, the snow
that fell in thick flakes that we ate sprinkled
with sugar and coffee after we scooped it
from the ground into cups. If the air and earth

were already destroyed then we didn't know,
licking this fresh-fallen snow off a spoon,
unaware that the world we were given
was not the one we'd pass on.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, originally appeared in Ancestor's Song

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow  and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter . Her collection of poems along with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Maria Gillan Will Read with Dodge Festival Poets August 21

Maria Gillan will be reading her poetry on Tuesday, August 21st at a special event showcasing a few of the Dodge Festival poets who will be at the 2018 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

The event will be held at Military Park, 51 Park Place, Newark, NJ 07102 across from NJPAC.
The reading will in the park by the “Reading Room” at 6:30 p.m. The poets will read until about 7:30 and a open mic up 20-minute community reading will follow with the event ending by 8 p.m.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow  and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter . Her collection of poems along with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Maria Gillan at the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival

The largest poetry event in North America comes to New Jersey’s largest city when the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival return to Newark from Thursday October 18th through Sunday October 21, 2018. For four days Newark’s vibrant downtown Arts District will be transformed into a poetry village featuring some of our most celebrated, diverse and vibrant poets and spoken word artists.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan will be one of the featured poets this year, and as part of their Ask a Poet series leading up to the Poetry Festival, they spoke with Maria.

What was your experience with poetry in high school? If you wrote poetry as a teenager, who were your influences then and what did you write about?
Because I did not speak English until I went to school, and we spoke only Italian at home, I was gratified in grammar school to hear poetry read aloud by our teachers and I fell in love with it. It was in high school, however, that I was introduced to poets whose work really spoke to me by two amazing teachers, Mr. Weiss and Miss Durban. They made me brave in a way I had never been before, and taught me to shed my shy skin when I read poems aloud in those classrooms at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey. I was so fortunate to have these teachers who introduced me to poets like Amy Lowell, T. S. Eliot, Wordsworth, Yeats and e. e. cummings, poets whose work I still love. My only regret is that I did not write letters to those teachers to thank them for asking me to read poetry out loud in their classrooms, and for teaching me about the music of language. 
What is the role of poetry in today’s world?
As an immigrant child coming from a family with very little money, living in a house where English was not spoken, I was extremely shy and inarticulate. Through poetry, I was able to write down everything I was feeling, all the things I couldn’t express directly to other people in spoken English. Poetry gave me a voice and a way of communicating with the world. I have spent my life dedicated to poetry and its power to change our lives. Recently, I wrote a book on writing, called Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories. In that book, I try to give others the courage I learned for myself after much struggling. I think poetry can change the world and make a bridge between people that helps us to understand one another even if we come from various countries, places, and social classes. Poetry gives us the chance to explore what it means to be human. 
Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?
I’ve written a lot of things I was afraid to share. In the beginning, when I first started to write, I was trying to hide behind language and reference to Greek gods, and other things that I thought would erase the fact that I came from a poor, immigrant family. Gradually, I started to move toward putting details of my own life and my own experiences into my poetry, worrying less about proving that I was smart and more about how I was communicating through the poems. For many of my earlier poems, I put a screen between me and the world. I tried to get simpler and more direct in order to build a bridge between me and other people. But often I was afraid to be that vulnerable. Sometimes, I’m afraid of all I reveal in my poems. An example would be the poems I wrote about my husband’s early onset Parkinson’s disease and his 25-year illness. I tried to be honest about the complexities of that situation, and I still find some of those poems difficult to read without crying. They are poems I felt I needed to write, and they illuminate what it was like to live with a debilitating illness for a long period of time. I hope my poetry gives the people who read it the courage to open all the secret compartments in their own lives. 
What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Dodge Poetry Festival?
What I love about the festival is the energy it generates. There is electricity in the air from so many people listening to poems, and listening to poets talk about their work and about what poetry means to them. I find it particularly exciting on the student day, because I love to see the students so engaged with poetry. I think of how much poetry has helped me and how it’s saved me, and maybe there’s a student there who is shy and introverted, and has stories they are afraid to tell. The festival allows a person to find the words to express their feelings.

Meet Maria and many other poets at the festival!

Elizabeth Alexander* | Francisco Aragón | Renée Ashley
Ellen Bass* | Jan Beatty | William Brewer | Jericho Brown
Tina Chang | Cortney Lamar Charleston | Marilyn Chin*
Sandra Cisneros | Henri Cole | Aaron Coleman | Kwame Dawes* William Evans
 | Naomi Extra | Forrest Gander* | Ross Gay
Maria Mazziotti Gillan | Rigoberto González | Linda Gregerson*
Terrance Hayes* | Juan Felipe Herrera | Brenda Hillman*
David Hinton | Nicole Homer | Marie Howe* | Rob Hylton
Joy Ladin | Joseph O. Legaspi | Raymond Luczak | Khaled Mattawa
Peter E. Murphy | Eileen Myles | Marilyn Nelson*
Aimee Nezhukumatathil | Hieu Minh Nguyen | Sharon Olds
Gregory Orr | Alicia Ostriker* | Gregory Pardlo | Kevin Pilkington
Khadijah Queen | Nancy Reddy | Alberto Ríos* | Mary Ruefle
Christine Salvatore | Sapphire | Nicole Sealey | Ntozake Shange
Danez Smith | David St. John* | J.C. Todd | BJ Ward | Rachel Wiley
Jenny Xie | David Young
* Academy of American Poets Chancellor
Full poet list subject to changes and additions

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is a recipient of the 2014 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature from the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, and the 2008 American Book Award for her book, All That Lies Between Us (Guernica Editions).
She is the founder/executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and editor of the Paterson Literary Review. She is also director of the Binghamton Center for Writers and the creative writing program, and professor of English at Binghamton University-SUNY.
Maria has published 23 books including her most recent, the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow, the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter and her collection of poems along with some of her paintings, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Submission Period for Paterson Literary Review #47 for 2019 Now Open

The regular submission period for poetry, fiction and prose for the Paterson Literary Review issue #47 (2019) is now open through September 30, 2018.

PLR does not accept online submissions.

The following types of work will be considered:
  • Poems: each under 2 pages, high quality, any style;
  • Art: black & white, line drawings, woodcuts, lithographs 8 ½" x 11" or smaller;
  • Photographs: 8 ½ x 11", black & white glossies;
  • Short stories: under 1,500 words, high quality, no formula stories.
  • Memoir: no more than two pieces; two pages maximum.

The Paterson Literary Review was founded by and is edited by Maria Gillan.

To learn more about PLR and the comlete submission requirements, see

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Lips Poetry Magazine Publication Reading June 7

On Thursday, June 7 there will be a publication celebration reading for the Lips poetry magazine issue #48/49 as part of the Montclair Monthly Poetry Series.

Many of the poets whose work appear in this issue will read. The founder and editor of Lips, Laura Boss,  will be in attendance. Copies of the journal will be available for purchase.

The program begins at 6pm.

An open reading will follow if time permits.

This series is held at the Montclair Public Library Auditorium and hosted by Maria Gillan and Lips founder and editor, Laura Boss. All readings in this series are free and open to the public.

For information, contact the library at 973-744-0500.

Location: Montclair Public Library (Auditorium), 50 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair, NJ

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Poem: I Am Sitting at the Table


I am sitting at the table
in my friend's dining room
her children age five and two
are there also, the little one
with her curly electric blonde hair
that reminds me of my daughter's hair
before my sister decided it was too
messy and had it cut short.
When I came home from teaching
there was my furious five-year-old,
her curls gone.
It was years before she forgave
my sister and years before
I could forgive myself
for not being there to stop her.
Funny how the past
and the present are mixed up
in our minds like colored glass
in a kaleidoscope. Anyway,
there I am in Vestal, NY,
my children grown up
even my grandchildren
much older than these
children at this table
and I look at the youngest child
with her tough stance
and her big smile and her wild hair
and then at the oldest child
with her light blonde hair
that falls in a straight line
to her shoulders
and her eyes wide
and blue as pansies
and I see in her, the delicate
precision with which she moves
the careful way she lifts her fork
to her mouth,
her serious concern that every action
be completed in exactly the right
way, my own daughter, grown now
and with that veneer of sad cynicism,
that loss of hope, so evident
since her divorce,
the sharp wit she uses
to hide her thin skin,
the place inside herself
that even six years have not been able
to heal. I think of my sixteen-year-old
granddaughter and see in her
those same qualities—all three of them,
the little girl sitting near me
eating her ice cream cake
with such sweet concentration
and my daughter who tries to
save herself by that same
precision in everything she does
writing an article, or preparing to teach
her classes, or setting up
her new condo. "I don't want
to talk about my life," she says.
"I never want to talk about it.
You," she says, "are too optimistic.
You always think everything
will work out, and it never does."
Across the telephone wires
from Boston, her words make my
eyes fill with tears who would
do anything to make her happy.
My student says, "You can't be
afraid. What are we supposed to feel
if you're afraid?"
My granddaughter has grown into
a long-legged girl with her thick
blonde hair and her lean body
and her quick intelligence,
but inside she's as frail
as the wings of a moth, as easily hurt,
and all those young women, my images
of them swirl in my mind, and no matter
how much I love them
the hardest thing of all
is knowing I cannot predict
what will hurt them, what their lives will be
nor do I have the power to keep them
from everything in the world
that wants only to do them harm.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow  and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter . Her collection of poems along with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is