Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Finding Ourselves in Poetry

Anna Citrino wrote on her blog, Poetry, Place, Pilgrimage, a post titled "Finding Ourselves and the Poetry of Maria Mazziotti Gillan."

Readers of Maria's poetry know how important place is in her work.One of her poetry collections is titled The Place I Call Home. There are many of her poems that use or focus on the settings of memory. On this site, you can find some of her poems of place including ones about her childhood school and the factories of her hometown of Paterson, New Jersey.

Maria is still immersed in Paterson where she is the Founder and Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College and edits the Paterson Literary Review.

Maria emphasizes "place" in all of her writing workshops and in her teaching as Director of the Creative Writing Program and Professor of Poetry at Binghamton University-SUNY.

Anna Citrino identifies with Maria's poetry and uses it to teach poetry. But some of Anna's "places" are far away. She does volunteer work in teacher training at the Tibetan Children’s Village schools in India, as well as teachers in Ladakh, India.

Citrino can identify with Maria's writing as an Italian-American , but place goes further than that. She writes:
"Why are these poems important–poems about immigrants, about Italian immigrants? Italian immigrants were one of the largest groups of immigrants to the U.S., and yet their story isn’t well known. But more than this, these poems are important because most of us today, live with a mix of cultures and social class all around us. At the same time, there is so much misunderstanding between cultures and the social classes. The German poet, Rilke said, “Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.” We need these poems because we need to learn how to see past the media representations of the “other” and find how to be human together. We need to discover how to find and be our true selves underneath the weight of what we see in advertisements, propaganda or other projections of what we think we should be. “For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation,” says Rilke. This is the true work of our lives, whatever it is we do or occupy ourselves with, and this is what Gillan’s poems reveal."

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

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