Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving and The Place We Call Home

“He's plotting a way to journey home at last; he's never at a loss.” (Odyssey, Book 1, l. 237)

A special holiday episode of the  Poetry Spoken Here podcast examines poetry's long relationship with the themes of family and home. The show opens with a reflection on how those themes are used in Homer's Odyssey, the second oldest work in the western canon. At around the 8 minute mark, you'll hear Charlie Rossiter's conversation with - and might remember for the day today.Mazziotti Gillan about her work reflecting on her upbringing in an immigrant family.

Here is a poem of Maria's from the appropriately named collection, The Place I Call Home, that reminds us of the many things we forget to be thankful for every day - and we might remember on this day.

Forgetting to Give Thanks

I watch the public TV program on Rwanda
and the water they are lifting out of polluted
wells to drink, though there’s a cholera epidemic.
It is the only water they have and they draw
a pail of it out of the well. The water is brown
and thick and muddy. The emaciated man
walks away with the pail of water.
Several children walk behind him.
They stop at the side of the road
and the man lets each of them drink
from a battered metal dipper.

In my house I forget to give thanks
for the clean water that pours
out of the kitchen faucet, the water
in the bathrooms, hot and plentiful,
for long showers and baths.

We forget how much of the world does not have
what we have and even I forget, I who grew up
in an apartment heated by a coal stove. The only warm
place was at the kitchen table set up close to the stove.
The bedrooms were frigid. My mother would warm
the beds with bricks she heated in the oven
and then we’d rush in and jump into bed.

The house had no insulation and no storm windows,
so the windows would develop a coating of ice
in patterns I thought were beautiful. We bathed in water
that my mother heated on the stove. My mother washed
our clothes on a tin washboard.

Today, with my house full of appliances—stove,
refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine,
dryer, air conditioners, TV’s and as much
hot or cold water as I want, I forget to be grateful,
and am only reminded for a minute when I see
those people in Rwanda who are drinking water
so filthy it will probably kill them. Or when I think
of my mother and all the work she did, carting
buckets of coal, stoking the fire, boiling water
to keep us warm.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan,  from  The Place I Call Home

The Poetry Spoken Here podcast home page

Maria's Official Site is at  Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Montclair Monthly Poetry Series: Deborah LaVeglia and Edwin Romond December 3

On Thursday, December 3, 2015 the Montclair Monthly Poetry Series will feature the poets DEBORAH LAVEGLIA and EDWIN ROMOND at 7pm.

Deborah LaVeglia is the author of 'Vigil', a poetry chapbook. She has been published in many poetry journals, including Edison Literary Review, Lips, Paterson Literary Review, Negative Capability, Big Hammer, Overview Ltd., and Arabella. Deborah is poetry director of PoetsWednesday, a reading series run out of the Barron Arts Center in Woodbridge, NJ (the longest running poetry series in NJ). She is also the creator and director of the Woodbridge Township High School Annual Poetry Slam. She has served as poet-in-residence at St. Michael's School in Cranford, and has often been a visiting poet at various NJ schools. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007.

Edwin Romond  is the author of eight collections of poetry and has been awarded writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and from both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania State Councils on the Arts. He was a public school teacher for 32 years in Wisconsin and New Jersey before retiring in 2003. Romond now works in the poetry program of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation leading Spring and Fountain workshops for teachers and hosting events at their bi-annual poetry festivals in Newark, NJ. He lives in Wind Gap, PA with his wife and son.

An open reading will follow the featured poets' readings.

Montclair Public Library (Auditorium), 50 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair, NJ 973-744- 0500

Contact:  Laura Boss  or Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Maria Mazziotti Gillan and The Poetry Center at PCCC

In 1980, Maria Mazziotti Gillan founded The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College as a way of honoring the city's legacy as the birthplace of two legendary poets, Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams.

An acclaimed poet herself, the Center sponsors readings and workshops that draw major poets like Maxine Kumin, Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, Mark Doty, Diane di Prima, the late Stanley Kunitz and even Allen Ginsberg before he died in 1997.

Poetry is only part of Gillan's plan to help turn an ailing industrial city that is still filled with poor immigrants like her own parents, into a cultural hub for the county and state. As the cultural affairs director for Passaic County, she and her staff are able to offer grants in support of  the arts, history and culture.

Maria's office and the Cultural Affairs Department  is housed in the historic Hamilton Club Building, which was established in 1897 as a gentleman's club and purchased and refurbished by Passaic County Community College in 1995. The Cultural Affairs Department is comprised of the nationally renowned Poetry Center, the Theater and Poetry Project, the PCCC Art Galleries and the Passaic County Cultural & Heritage Council.

But poetry has always had a special place for Maria.

"There was nothing here when I was a kid. We never even went to a play. And one of the things I noticed when I was an adult was that there was still nothing here. When I first started the Poetry Center, people said, ´No one´s going to come to Paterson,´ but we have had poets from all over the country, from all over the world, come here, They need to come here, to a place that´s more alive than the suburbs. It´s exciting. It's electric."

The Poetry Center offers literary awards and contest that garner submissions from throughout the country in fiction, books for young people and poetry. Workshops for the public are held regularly featuring distinguished poets who come to the Center and offer readings of their work.

Maria Gillan also edits the annual Paterson Literary Review and oversees the Center's poetry contests, readings and workshops in the Paterson and area schools.

Of the Poetry Center, poet Laura Boss has said that is is "“New Jersey’s 92nd Street Y.  It is a beehive of readings, workshops, literary publications, and contests, and Maria Mazziotti Gillan is its queen bee, whose vision and dedication created it.”

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Legacy of Confessionalism

Di Stefano

In the essay, "A Defense of Train Wrecks: Lyric Narrative Poetry and the Legacy of Confessionalism," Dante Di Stefano examines how the "confessional" poem has evolved.

"Extraordinary poets such as Joe Weil, Denise Duhamel, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Ruth Stone, and Sharon Olds all write confessional poetry. None of these poets would claim to be a confessional poet, just as none of the confessional poets, with the exception of Anne Sexton, accepted the label. All of these poets possess great technical proficiency and a profound understanding of the literary tradition in which they write. More importantly, the confessions in the poems written by these poets do not separate the poet from common experience."
In examining Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s poem, “Daddy, We Called You,” he notes her "avowal and renewal" as the poet confesses:

One night, riding home from a date,
my middle class, American boyfriend
kissed me at the light; I looked up
and met your eyes as you stood at the corner
near Royal Machine. It was nearly midnight.
January. Cold and Windy. You were waiting
for the bus, the streetlight illuminating
your face. I pretended I did not see you,
let my boyfriend pull away, leaving you
on the empty corner waiting for the bus
to take you home. You never mentioned it,
never said that you knew
how often I lied about what you did for a living
or that I was ashamed to have my boyfriend see you,
find out about your second shift work, your broken English.
Di Stefano comments that "The denial of the father in this poem is a denial of self. By confessing the sin of shame for her father, the poet avows her love for him."

"There is a directness to Gillan’s poem that admits no posturing. By affirming her love of her father, by admitting the difference that he represented and of which she was ashamed, the poet reconnects the tissue that her denial severed. The autobiographical “I” in this poem is a universal “I,” channeling the experience of anyone who has denied their roots and disregarded their heritage, if only for a moment. Of the universality present in Gillan’s work, Joe Weil has commented: “All griefs are as unprecedented, as original as the whorls in our fingerprints, and yet certain poets are able to take the specific ceremonies of grief and loss and reenact them in such a way that they are meaningful to all who read their work.” As with all the best confessional poems, Gillan’s work bridges the particular with the universal."

read the full essay at

Maria's Official Site is at  Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Maria Mazziotti Gillan Poetry Reading at ECSU

Maria Mazziotti Gillan will be reading her poetry at Eastern Connecticut State University on November 19, 2015 at 5:30 pm.

Marie is the Director of the Creative Writing Program and Professor of Poetry at Binghamton University; Founder/ Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ; and the editor of the Paterson Literary Review. She is the author of twenty books, most recently The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets. Dr. Gillan received the 2014 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature from the AWP, the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers and the 2008 American Book Award for her poetry collection All That Lies Between Us.

The reading is sponsored by the English Department's Visiting Writers Series and the Eastern Writers Guild.
A book signing will follow after reading.

Location Information:
North Campus - Science Building Room 301, 400 High Street, Willimantic, CT 06226

Maria's Official Site is at  Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Laura Boss and Maria Gillan Reading in Princeton


NOVEMBER 9th, at 7:30 pm in the Community Room
Poets at the Library Series

Co-sponsored by the Princeton Public Library, US1 Poets' Cooperative, and Delaware Valley Poets

Parking for the library is available in the parking garage adjacent to the library. For information with regard to the parking deck, click on
For library information only, Contact: Shelly Hawk
For US1 Poets, Enriqueta Carrington or Lavinia Kumar

Maria's Official Site is at  Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Maria Gillan Is Special Guest at Anniversary Dinner

On November 12, 2015, the St. Paul's Community Development Corporation of Paterson will hold an anniversary dinner to recognize 25 years of life changing work and to invest in the next phase of empowerment services being offered to assist those who need us the most. The special guest of the evening will be poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan,Founder/Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College.

The evening event will feature a cocktail reception, dinner, program and silent auction and will be held at the North Jersey Country Club, 594 Hamburg Turnpike,Wayne, N.J.

St. Paul's Community Development Corporation was founded in 1990 as the outreach mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the City of Paterson, New Jersey. Today they are a separate, secular, not-for-profit organization guided by a diverse and voluntary board of directors that bridges racial, economic, geographic, and religious boundaries. Their mission is to alleviate the conditions of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, and illiteracy in the City of Paterson. They do this by providing emergency services to all in need and by designing long-term approaches to achieving social and economic improvement at the grassroots level.

Maria's Official Site is at  Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets.