Monday, January 18, 2021

Celebrating Calabria: Writing Heritage and Memory

 
This book is the result of the “Italian Diaspora Studies Writing Seminar” that took place in May 2019, in Calabria and Basilicata which included writing sessions led by poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

The program was launched by the Italian Diaspora Studies Association, in conjunction with the Department of Humanities at the University of Calabria, with the support of the U.S. Consulate General of Naples, and the patronages of the Canadian Embassy of Rome and the Italian Cultural Institute of Montreal (CA).

The program was aimed at establishing a broad transnational perspective on the Italian diaspora through a community-based writing program, characterized by the mission of focusing on the South of Italy and on the importance of material culture and of historical heritage that can be experienced only by visiting specific locales of the diaspora.






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 paired with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets. Her artist's website is MariaMazziottiGillan.com and her poetry website is MariaGillan.com.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Poem: So Many Things I Wish I Had Done

So Many Things I Wish I Had Done

So many things I wish I had done, so many things I wish
I had said, all those words
that could have comforted
but that I withheld,
so now even so many years after my father’s death
I wish I could call him back
from inside the mausoleum drawer at Calvary Cemetery,
reach him through all that steel and metal,
tell him how now that my own children are grown
and have children of their own, 
how much he taught me about how to love,
how to forgive even the sharpest words
hurled in anger,
even the biggest betrayals,
I want to thank him for understanding 
how much I would regret my cruel and thoughtless words,
how even sixty years after I called him disgusting
for drinking his coffee from a saucer
as all the immigrant Italians did,
that I can still see his eyes,
the pain in them,
though he did not yell or grow angry.
He grew quiet instead
pretending he did not understand
that I wanted that middle-class father
he could never be.
I imagine I can sit with him once again
in his crowded little living room,
he, in his brown recliner from Medicare, 
I, in the chair next to him, 
and I would hold his hand.

by 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 paired with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets. Her artist's website is MariaMazziottiGillan.com and her poetry website is MariaGillan.com.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Review: What They Bring: The Poetry of Migration and Immigration



Edited and with Introduction by Irene Willis and Jim Haba (IP Books, 2020)
Reviewed by Charlotte Mandel


​With this new anthology, aptly titled What They Bring: The Poetry of Migration and Immigration, Editors Irene Willis and Jim Haba remind us how dearly each of us interconnects with every other human being, regardless of physical or cultural differences. 

The reader is seized immediately by words well known, such as “the tempest-tossed” of Emma Lazarus giving voice to the Statue of Liberty; Pastor Martin Niemoller's heart-rending “Then they came for me”; heard suddenly in the context of today's world.  Re-reading such familiar poems taken for granted as part of our literary American experience, is profoundly affecting. We recall W. H. Auden (“Refugee Blues”) along with new poems by living poets such as Martin Espada, Alicia Ostriker, Michael Waters, Marie Howe, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, and Claudia Rankine.

​What They Bring offers insights that can change your life, as with Alberto Rios' poem “A House Called Tomorrow”: 

​You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen—
​You are a hundred wild centuries

​And fifteen, bringing with you
​In every breath and in every step

​Everyone that has come before you. . .

Similarly, the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai states “. . . the migration of my parents / Has not subsided in me.” 

​Indeed, perceptions brought into consciousness cannot be erased. Unlike the way we may surf the TV, or rattle the newspaper towards an op-ed page, this anthology penetrates and advises—pay attention! 

​The editors have worthily included poems of their own, such as Jim Haba's keen understanding of what immigrants bring to our “children's children's children.”  In “Border” Irene Willis writes of reading news of a hungry child left at the border while eating breakfast.

​Several poems take us directly into life experiences of refugees—the permanent feelings of outsider status, the sense of enduring insult. In “A Girl Tying Ribbons in Her Hair” Charlotte Gould Warren writes, “As a child, you learn to keep your pain buried.” In “A Machine for Remembering” Justin Ahren reveals, “I've known my whole life / the barbed wire / behind which I was born.” A. E. Stallings “Refugee Fugue” and Erica Jong's “Child on the Beach” remind us of the heartbreaking image of a drowned toddler face down on shore.

​Outsider status can permeate the sensibility of an American born child of immigrants. 

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's “I Was the Girl Who Never Spoke,” tells of fear that her pronunciation
would show
where I come from
where I belong
where I can never go.

​Reading these poems I have not only gained insight into others' lives, but also been educated into the weight of language, as through Rafael Campo's “In English That Is Spanish”:  

​. . .immortality 
​Is really only going back in time
​Through languages like fourth dimensions, rhymes
​Like clocks to when we were a single race. . .

​I can think of no more necessary book to appear in this dramatic era of global connection alongside elements of divisiveness at play in our own country. We must be grateful to editor-poets Irene Willis and Jim Haba, for bringing us these poems to be read and re-read.

To answer the question implied in the title, what do these immigrants bring?  Humanity, compassion, skills, and an enriched nation. As a reader, I have been profoundly touched by the unforgettable voices heard in these poems.  





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 paired with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets. Her artist's website is MariaMazziottiGillan.com and her poetry website is MariaGillan.com.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Spring 2021 Virtual Poetry Intensive Workshop with Maria Gillan and Laura Boss



Though poets Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss are still unable to host their very popular Poetry Intensive Weekend Retreat in-person, they will be offering an online version for spring 2021.

Maria and Laura will lead the workshops just as they do when they have a workshop at the retreat house in Mendham. They will both will take half the group in each session so that all participants have a chance to work with both poets. They will both use the same writing prompts.

This two-session workshop will be held March 13, 2021 and  April 17, 2021. 

The workshops are full at this time, but there is a waiting list and if interest is strong, another group (limited to 20 participants) will be created. 
 
The fee for these virtual Zoom workshops is $60 for both days. If you’re interested, please e e-mail Smita Desai at sdesai@pccc.edu and ask to be put on the waiting list. 

In these workshops, participants will draft poems and share that work with the group in a supportive environment. Everyone will leave with stimulating writing exercises/prompts leading to the creation of new work and have opportunities to read their work aloud and receive encouragement

These intensives also help you enter a community of writers and networking opportunities for future work.

As always, Maria and Laura will lead the workshops just as they do when they have a workshop at the retreat house in Mendham. Both will take half the group each time so that everybody gets a chance to work with both of them. They will also use the same prompts.


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 and Flashlight (both Guernica). She co-edited with John Gallaher, Time Is a Toy:  Selected Poems of Michael Benedikt (University of Akron, 2014).  Her most recent book of poems is The Last Lover (NYQ, 2017). Her poems have appeared in The New York Times. Visit her website: laurabosspoet.wordpress.com.

 

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the winner 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 2008 American Book Award for her book, All That Lies Between Us. She is the Founder/Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College, editor of the Paterson Literary Review, and starting September 2018, has been appointed a Bartle Professor at Binghamton University—SUNY and Professor Emerita of English and creative writing. She has published 23 books, including What Blooms in Winter (NYQ Books, 2016) and Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets (Cat in the Sun Books, 2014). Visit her website at www.mariagillan.com.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Poem: Today I Celebrate My Body

Today I Celebrate My Body

that body that suddenly couldn’t move, 
the hand that couldn’t hold a pen or open a cap,
that body that couldn’t turn over in the bed.
Each new thing I can do—
close my hand around the pill bottle,
hold a book,
write my name—
I celebrate.
I even celebrate my faltering step,
my one leg dragging. 
These and other movements we take for granted 
until we can no longer do them 
and only then, do we learn gratitude 
for our ability to get out of a chair
and walk even a few feet with help.
Each day I get stronger.
One more thing that I can do
and I celebrate each small victory,
although I know I probably will quickly forget
and take all theses daily miracles for granted again,
ones I deserve and don’t ever want to lose.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

"Today I Celebrate My Body" first appeared in Ragazine



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 paired with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets. Her artist's website is MariaMazziottiGillan.com and her poetry website is MariaGillan.com.