Sunday, October 4, 2020

Poem: My Father Was a Young Man Then

'My Father Was a Young Man' by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

This poem appeared October 3, 2020, on The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. 

My Father Was a Young Man Then

Only 16, when he came from Italy alone,
moved into the Riverside neighborhood
full of Italians from Cilento—all of whom
spoke the same dialect, so it was as though
they had transported those mountain villages
to Paterson. At first, America was terrifying,
English, a language they could not master,
but my father was a young man
and he became friends with other young people
and they learned how to take buses and trains
or to borrow a car, and off they’d go
on the weekend to Rye Brook or Coney Island,
free from their factory jobs on the weekends,
reveling in the strength of their bodies,
the laughter and music and the company.
My father was a young man then,
and even when he died at 92,
he never lost the happiness
that bubbled up in him,
the irrepressible joy of being alive,
the love of being with friends.
I imagine him in that time
before he married my mother,
before we were born,
before he had a tumor in his spine
that left him with a limp.
Imagine him with his broad smile,
his booming laugh, his generous spirit,
his sharp intelligence,
imagine him as a young man,
his head full of dreams,
his love of politics and math,
the way he carried those qualities
all the way into old age,
though his legs failed him,
though his body grew trembling and frail,
his mind never did.
When I’d arrive at the house
all those years after mom died, he’d smile
at me with real pleasure,
the young man he was at 16 would emerge,

sit in the room with us
and laugh.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, from her collection, What Blooms in Winter 

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent book is the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow . Her collection of poems paired with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets.
Her new artist website is at and Maria's poetry website is at

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Virtual Poetry Reading by Richard Blanco October 3

Maria Gillan with Richard Blanco at a previous reading at the Poetry Center  in NJ

The Poetry Center at PCCC is pleased to present as part of its revised Distinguished Poets series a virtual reading by Richard Blanco on Saturday, October 3, 2020, at 11:30 a.m.ET. 

The reading will be available at that time live and later archived.

Richard Blanco was selected by President Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history. He is the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. 

Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity characterizes his four collections of poetry: City of a Hundred Fires, which received the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press; Directions to The Beach of the Dead, recipient of the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center; and Looking for The Gulf Motel, recipient of the Paterson Poetry Prize and the Thom Gunn Award. He has also authored the memoirs For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey and The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, winner of a Lambda Literary Award. 

His latest book of poems, How to Love a Country, both interrogates the American narrative, past and present, and celebrates the still unkept promise of its ideals.

His website is at

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Poem: Lying is Done with Words

The editors of NOW, Breena Clarke, Cheryl Clarke and Esther Cohen, have launched this new online journal which is published by the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is one of the poets in the inaugural issue which went live to coincide with the virtual version of their annual Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

Adrienne Rich reading at a Dodge Poetry Festival

Maria's poem takes its title from a line from Adrienne Rich's book, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978  

Lying is Done with Words

Lying is done with words but also with Silence
—Adrienne Rich

Adrienne, how many times did I hide behind silence 
when I couldn’t stand to know the truth,
times when I practiced selective memory,
(that’s what my daughter calls it)
because she says I tend to remember
in watercolor, editing out all the bad parts.

Adrienne, I heard you read at a Dodge Festival years ago.
You were having trouble walking,
one leg dragging.
By then your poems sounded like they could be philosophy papers.

I remember earlier times, earlier poems. 
I remember you in 1972.
My children are five and seven and asleep in their beds.
I have risen from sleep, leaving my husband behind
and climb down the stairs to the kitchen 
where Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton  and May Sarton 
keep me company.

“Breathing,” is a poem about your own kitchen 
in the middle of the night and how you look across 
and see your neighbor pacing up and down,
her body wrapped in a blanket.
You feel a strong connection between your neighbor and yourself,
yet you don’t know the woman. 
I feel as though you have joined me in my own kitchen, 
the clock ticking forward toward dawn.

Your voice and those of the other women poets,
make me feel that I am not alone,
that I can survive in silence 
the terror of the unknown and ordinary,
the sameness of each day
that feels like it can kill you.
As long as I have your words 
and my own poems written in so many notebooks, 
nothing can defeat me.

I do love my family 
but no one ever tells you how lonely you’ll feel,
the days dark as a week of rain, 
except for these moments, 
the poems to keep me company, 
the long nights,
so I won’t feel doomed
by all that I need to do,
the next day and the next.
And I will carve out of these stolen hours, 
while nobody needs me, 
the time to read and write the poems 
that save me.

The NOW  journal is available online at

For Festival information, see their Facebook page or

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 and her poetry website is

Monday, September 21, 2020

Martín Espada Virtual Poetry Reading September 26

Martin espada 3644
Slowking4 / GFDL 1.2

The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College will host a Virtual Poetry Reading with Martíne Espada on Saturday, September 26, 2020.
This reading is part of The Poetry Center’s Distinguished Poets Series, which will be livestreamed via YouTube from 11:30 a.m. to noon at this link
Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York. He has published more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His forthcoming book of poems from Norton is called Floaters. Other books of poems include Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016), The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), Alabanza (2003), A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (2000), Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996), and City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (1993). He is the editor of What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump (2019). His honors include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, an American Book Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His book of essays and poems, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona, and reissued by Northwestern. A former tenant lawyer, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. His website is at

Flash Readings

The videos of the Flash Readings from the Hobart Festival of Women Writers are online.

Unfortunately, Maria Gillan was unable to participate live this year due to hospitalization for a broken hip, but a recorded reading by her is included in the first video at minute 20.  

Please check out her and the other poets' videos at

The festival's online journal, Now, is also available

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 and her poetry website is