Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Talking With Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Maria with poet Mark Doty

Loren Kleinman interviewed Maria Mazziotti Gillan for the huffingtonpost.com

Here is an excerpt.
When I first started to write, I imitated the British and American poets I was studying. I thought I had to prove how brilliant I was by mentioning Greek gods and mythology. I started writing when I was seven years old, but my first book was not published until I was 40. My graduate school professor told me that it was in the poem about my father that I found the story I have to tell.

He gave me the courage to feel that people might be interested in reading narrative poems written by an Italian American, working class woman, reading poems about ordinary life. I'm shy and introverted, but my poems allowed me to say things I could not have said to anyone in person. I think poems build a bridge between us as human beings and that's why I think poetry is so important. It gives us the courage to say the unsayable.

Poetry matters because it teaches us about what it means to be human. It clarifies all those emotions we all share -- love, loss, longing. It helps us to make emotional sense of our lives and to see ourselves and the world more clearly. When poetry works, it moves us to laughter or tears or to having the hair on our arms stand up. It is not just pretty words; it is rooted in the body and we respond with our bodies to it. For me, poetry is so important, because I can carry it in my mind and I can recite it and I am comforted. That's why I've spent so much of my life organizing readings and workshops and conferences and contests and awards. I want to share my love of poetry the way my mother shared food.



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