Poetry in the air: Contemporary Writers Series returns with Maria Mazziotti Gillan


Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of John L. Stanizzi on

One thing you might miss out on if you go to a small, private, liberal arts school instead of a larger university is the chance to watch active writers read from their work. In the 1990s, poet Linda Nemec Foster (’72) remembered lacking that experience when she was at Aquinas College, so she and her husband, Dr. Tony Foster (’73), worked to start the college’s Contemporary Writers Series in 1997. For the last 20 years, the series has been bringing some of the best current writers to our campus. The 21st season of the series, which will feature one writer each quad, is kicking off in style with a reading by poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan on Wednesday, Sept. 27.

Gillan was born and raised in the Paterson, NJ, of William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg; she went to Seton Hall University and NYU, and her first book was “Flowers from the Tree of Night” (Chantry Press, 1980). She is a professor at Binghamton University-SUNY, where she also directs the Center for Writers and the creative writing program. She founded the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in her hometown, and she edits the Paterson Literary Review. She has published 22 books and co-edited four anthologies. She won the 2008 American Book Award for her book “All That Lies Between Us” (Guernica Editions, 2007). Come hear her if you like poetry.

Some of Gillan’s most recent books feature both writing and art. Her latest book, “Paterson Light and Shadow” (Serving House Books, 2017), is a collaboration with the writer and photographer Mark Hillringhouse where poetry is juxtaposed with photography. Her preceding book, “What Blooms in Winter” (NYQ, 2016), is a volume of poems; before that, she published “The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets” (Redux Consortium, 2014), which included both poetry and watercolour paintings by her. If you like art and its interaction with writing, this is an event for you too.

In addition to collections of poems and artwork, Gillan has also published a book on craft, “Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories” (MiroLand Imprint, Guernica, 2013), so her visit will also interest those who like to write poetry themselves. We will even have a direct opportunity to get in touch with that aspect of her work, because, in addition to the public reading of her poetry, her visit will also feature a more informal talk on craft—this event will be held in the Loutit Room at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27.

Gillan’s poetry reading itself is also scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 27; like all events of the Contemporary Writers Series, it will be held in the Wege Ballroom at 7:30 p.m., and will be free and open to the public.

About the Writer:

Yashowanto GhoshYashowanto Ghosh is a senior with a major in communication and minors in journalism and writing. Jasho is also an alumnus of Aquinas (B.A. German ’11).

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