Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Review of 'Paterson Light and Shadow

Paterson Light and Shadow Poems
by Maria Mazziotti Gillan with photographs by Mark Hillinghouse (Serving House Books, 2017)
Reviewed by Dante di Stefano at blog.bestamericanpoetry.com

Paterson Light and Shadow pairs the poetry of the city’s finest living poet, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, with the arresting tonalities of Mark Hillringhouse’s photography. The conversation between Hillringhouse’s stirring black and white images and Mazziotti Gillan’s deeply moving autobiographical poems brings to life the vibrant history of one of the first cities of American poetry, birthplace of Allen Ginsberg and muse to William Carlos Williams.

In “December Dusk,” Mazziotti Gillan writes:
“A precariousness steals over things
at dusk when darkness bleeds the light away
and our shadows stretch their long fingers.” 
An exquisite precariousness steals over the graffitied factories, the abandoned boxing gyms, The Great Falls, the diners, the side streets, the public schools, the crumbling monuments, and the dilapidated stoops enshrined in the pages of this book.

For Hillringhouse and Mazziotti Gillan, Paterson is a place both haunted and sacred; at any moment the drab and ramshackle might give way to memory’s “dizzying panorama, luminous / and vast.”

Paterson Light and Shadow is a love note to an archetypal American place unfolding in the dialogue between word and image; to eavesdrop on the discussion between Mazziotti Gillan and Hillringhouse is to understand more deeply their charged and fortifying relationship to this remarkable city.