Monday, October 17, 2016

A Review of Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s 'What Blooms in Winter'

Celebrating the Immigrant Experience: A Review of Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s What Blooms in Winter
by Brian Fanelli

The last several months have been trying as an American citizen. Donald Trump’s candidacy has used xenophobic rhetoric to demonize minority groups and immigrants. In these times, Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s body of work, which often focuses on her Italian-American family heritage and celebrating the immigrant experience, is especially relevant. Her newest collection, What Blooms in Winter, draws on the deeply personal to vocalize her story and also give praise to the melting pot aspect that has always been a foundation of American culture...
Another poem, “Our First TV,” addresses manufactured notions of the American dream. The speaker lists various images from TV shows she watched growing up and their portrayal of the American success story, including the big white house and huge living and dining rooms on “Father Knows Best.” The speaker goes back even further to Dick and Jane books that taught her about “the other America” with a “pipe-smoking father raking leaves/in his cardigan and brown dress pants.” It was that first TV in the living room, however, that taught the speaker about class divide and how her living situation, a “cold-water flat” with small rooms and Italian chatter, was different than the upper-middle class American homes she viewed on TV. The poem concludes with one final reality about class divide in America, and the lines resonate especially well post-Great Recession:
All the TV programs in the world
could not have prepared me
for the invisible walls
that protected those people
from people like me.
... Overall, What Blooms in Winter places the poet squarely on the side of the immigrant and the underdog. The book never strays from the narrative mode and frequently draws on the poet’s personal memories, either to merge the personal with the political, or to honor the memory of those who have come and gone in her life. I am grateful for Maria’s voice. Her work stands as a protester banner, waving boldly against anyone who wants to make the country less inclusive.

       Read the full review

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Poem: In the Seventh Grade

In the Seventh Grade

In seventh grade, I wanted desperately to buy a chartreuse
satin jacket that all the cool girls in the class had. I thought
those jackets were beautiful, so shiny and soft and in that
wild color that was so popular that year. My mother said,
No, you don’t need that junk, and looking back I see how cheap
and sleazy those jackets were, how that color would have made
my olive-toned skin look jaundiced, but then I fell asleep dreaming
my mother bought me the jacket she called junk and would slide
my arms into the sleeves and miraculously I would become

one of the cool girls, the girls who stood around on Paterson street
corners with boys in black leather jackets, the girls who would be
the first to be kissed, the first to go out on a date, the first to wear
a boy’s ring on a chain around their neck, and not someone like me,
shy, inarticulate, introverted and unable to find even one word t
to say to the boys in the class who treated me as though I were breakable,

something in my big eyes and palpable innocence that made
them want to protect me. In seventh grade, I wanted to be sexy
and to have that quality some girls had that drew boys to them
like bees to honey, the musk my friend still has, where men flirt
with her and where her whole body changes when she talks
to them. Even now, seventh grade an old memory in black
and white, in some part of me that child I was remains, wanting

a pill that could transform me, while the other part of me,
the one that races through my life like the roadrunner,
the one who has long since left that 17th Street tenement
behind, knows I would not trade the woman I have become
for all the shiny, chartreuse jackets in the world.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, from The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the author of twenty-one books. Her latest poetry collection is What Blooms in Winter. Maria's official website is at

Friday, September 30, 2016

Poetry Workshop for Mature Adults Starts October 6

The Mature Adults Workshop Series is open to adults age 50 and over. Award-winning poets, Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss, alternate leading each workshop in the series (four meetings for fall 2016 or four meetings in spring 2017 session).

The focus is on writing narrative poetry, and sharing the work that you write in the workshop.

The workshops are held at the PCCC Wanaque Campus,

Pre-registration is required, and the fall 2016 or spring 2017 workshop series each have a fee of $60 for the four sessions.

Fall 2016: October 6, 13, 27 and November 3

Spring 2017: March 2, 9, 23, 30.

To download registration form, go to

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the author of twenty-one books. Her latest publications are the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter. Maria's official website is at

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Publication Celebration for 'Palisades, Parkways & Pinelands' Includes Maria Gillan

On Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 7 pm, the Montclair Monthly Poetry Series will start its new season with a  "Publication Celebration for Palisades, Parkways & Pinelands."


As the title implies, this book at hand has grown from New Jersey roots. More specifically, it is an outgrowth of the Pier Village Poetry Festival, held in view of the Atlantic in Long Branch, New Jersey, on the Fourth of July 2015. For that event, organizer and Long Branch Poet Laureate Emanuel di Pasquale called together some twenty poets from the far-flung New Jersey poetry tribe. A sampling of their work, along with that of others who could only be present in spirit that day, is included in the present volume. As its genesis and development suggest, "Palisades, Parkways & Pinelands" is meant to be a celebration of contemporary New Jersey poetry and a continuation of a long poetic tradition in the Garden State that stretches back to colonial times.

The Montclair Monthly Poetry Series is held at the Montclair Public Library (Auditorium) on 50 South Fullerton Avenue in Montclair, NJ.  All events are free and open to the public. An open reading follows when time permits.

Contact Library: 973-744- 0500

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the author of twenty books. Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets. Maria's official website is at

Monday, September 26, 2016

Poetry Reading at Wagner College with Maria Gillan September 28

Maria Mazziotti Gillan will be reading her poetry at Wagner College (NY) this Wednesday evening (September 28, 2016).

The reading will be at 6:00pm in the college's Manzulli Board Roo, and admission is free.

Wagner College is at One Campus Road, Staten Island, NY.  For info, contact Giuseppe Sorrentino

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the author of twenty books. Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets. Maria's official website is at

Sunday, September 25, 2016

December Poetry Weekend with Maria Gillan and Laura Boss

Poets are invited to attend WRITING YOUR WAY HOME: A POETRY WEEKEND INTENSIVE with award-winning poets, Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss on December 9 - 11, 2016.

At this weekend writing retreat, poets will find:
• support and encouragement;
• stimulating writing exercises/prompts leading to the creation of new work;
• workshop leaders who are actively engaged in the writing life;
• opportunities to read their work aloud to the group;
• a community of writers and networking opportunities.

This poetry weekend is open to all writers over the age of 18. For teachers and others, 15 professional development credits are available for attendance.

The weekend will be held at St Marguerite’s Retreat House, an English Manor House in Mendham, New Jersey that is situated on 79 acres of wooded land with pathways for exploring the property. This serene, beautiful setting is perfect for contemplating nature and nurturing the creative spirit on these weekends meant to give poets the space and time to focus on their writing away from the pressures and distractions of everyday life.

Participants will draft poems in the workshops and should bring paper or a notebook, pens, and the willingness to take risks. Please also bring previously-written work for one-on-one critiquing sessions  with the poets, and for group readings.
The weekend schedule:

Friday: Please arrive early because of the holiday weekend, between 2 pm and 5 pm, and settle into your rooms. Both Friday and Saturday before dinner, we will meet and greet at 5 pm in the lounge at the end of the hallway on the 1st floor (wine, cheese and crackers will be served). After dinner, we will break into two groups (about 12 to 15 in each), where we will have the opportunity to write poetry and share the work we’ve just written.

Saturday: After breakfast, we will break into two groups for morning workshops. Lunch will be served, followed by one afternoon workshop and either free time or a critiquing session with the poet faculty. Interested participants can sign up in advance (at the retreat house) and may bring previously written, typed work for feedback. After dinner, there will be an additional workshop.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, the two groups will come together and we will share our work—either something written on the weekend or previously.

Sunday: Breakfast will be followed by a workshop. A final reading by participants will serve as the “closing ceremony” to what we hope will be an inspiring and productive weekend. Lunch will offer another opportunity for socializing and networking.

We envision this intensive as a journey, allowing us to look at things differently, listen to our own inner voice, and create in stillness and community. This is an opportunity to retreat from the noise and busyness everyday life and invite the muse to inspire us. In the workshops, we will capture our stories and memories on paper, and discover how poetry can, so often, save our lives.

Fee: $425 is all-inclusive - for attendance Friday evening through Sunday lunch, including all workshops, room, and meals
Deposit by November 1, 2016:  $300
Balance by November 15, 2016 $125
* Early Bird Discount: deduct $25 if paid $400 in full by October 20, 2016.
* Full refund will be given prior to November 18, 2016.
* Late registration will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

Enrollment is limited.  We already have people signed up for this workshop, so if you are interested, please sign up early.

For information, contact or send SASE to Maria Mazziotti Gillan, 40 Post Avenue, Hawthorne, NJ 07506 or call 1-973-684-6555.

Laura Boss is a first-place winner of PSA’s Gordon Barber Poetry Contest. Founder and editor of Lips, she is the recipient of three NJSCA Poetry Fellowships, and in June 2011 received the first International Poetry Award at the International Poetry Festival in Swansea, Wales. Her books include: Reports from the Front (CCC), Arms: New and Selected Poems (Guernica) and Flashlight (Guernica). She recently co-edited with John Gallaher, Time Is a Toy: Selected Poems of Michael Benedikt (University of Akron, 2014). Her poems have appeared in The New York Times. Visit her website:

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the author of twenty-one books. She is a recipient of the 2014 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature from AWP, the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, and the 2008 American Book Award for All That Lies Between Us (Guernica Editions). She is founder/executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College, editor of the Paterson Literary Review, director of the Binghamton Center for Writers and the creative writing program, and professor of English at Binghamton University-SUNY. She has published 20 books, including Ancestors’ Song (Bordighera Press), The Silence in an Empty House (NYQ Books), and Girls in Chartreuse Jackets (Cat in the Sun Books), and with her daughter Jennifer, she is co-editor of four anthologies.  Her latest publications are the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter. Maria's official website is at

Friday, September 23, 2016

'My Mother Was a Brilliant Cook' Featured on The Writer's Digest

Maria Mazziotti Gillan was once again the featured poet on The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. Her poem, "My Mother Was a Brilliant Cook," is from her new collection, What Blooms in Winter (NYQ Books, 2016).

You can hear Keillor's reading on the website.

My Mother Was a Brilliant Cook

The first time my mother went out
to eat was on her 25th wedding anniversary
at Scordato’s in Paterson, and the second time
was for her 50th anniversary
at the Iron Kettle House in Wyckoff.

My mother said, “I could have cooked
this meal better myself.”
But I knew she was happy,
though she would have never admitted it.

Once my mother came to Paterson
from Italy in steerage,
she was content to stay there.
She was a brilliant cook,
and didn’t need to go to restaurants.
She loved her house, poor as it was,
and never stayed in a motel or took a vacation
or wanted to.

She was content to offer platter after platter
of food to her family gathered
in her basement kitchen, and to watch them
laughing and talking together,
while she stood behind them
and smiled.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillian,

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the author of twenty-one books. Her latest publications are the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter. Maria's official website is at