“Still” at Rattle ‘Poets Respond’

After nearly three years of trying, I’ve finally managed to land another poem in Rattle’s ‘Poets Respond’ series. I love this series; the poems chosen are often excellent (and always interesting), poetic responses to the weekly news cycle. “Still” was my response to the deadlock of the 2020 election: exhausted, burned out and anxious for them to “call it”, the nine lines wrote themselves largely unconsciously – as so often happens with poetry – as I looked out the window and noticed birds still chirping away in the trees.

(I read the poem on Rattle’s Open Mic for Sunday November 8, 2020.)

“Still”

There are still birds, still things coming to life
in unexpected ways. Still nights and days.
Nocturnal, diurnal. Circadian rhythms
scratching an itch at the back of the throat.
Still family, still friends. Still love
slapping you silly with its rubber tongue,
salt that makes your stomach sing a psalm,
palettes of rusted foliage, stray bees
in November, still buzzing in the lavender.

from Rattle

Unburial reviewed in Italian Americana

A year after publication, Unburial has its first book review! Stefano Maria Casella has reviewed it for Italian Americana, and has this to say:

It is a complex story, with highs and lows, dreams (the dream of the
young girl visiting Rome and finding her “love”) and tragedies (“Timonium”), pleasant episodes and gloomy moments. But no happy ending. It opens
with the meeting of a young American girl (“An American in Rome” or
“The innocent abroad”) with a kind of local Latin lover: a couple destined
to become the author’s parents. Under their sign, the whole sequence is
structured, from romance through crisis and divorce to the end of their
earthly existence.

Of course it sounds a bit like a novel, which I suppose it is as well. Casella goes on:

From a formal/stylistic point of view, worth recalling is the high
frequency of similes (“like/as”) followed by various metaphors; as regards
the form of the stanzas, several poems are structured in unrhyming (or
scarcely/imperfectly rhyming) tercets and/or couplets, one in quatrains, and
some (seven) in fourteen lines, arranged in various patterns and schemes,
formally—but only formally—recalling the number of lines of the sonnet.

There are actually a number of formal sonnets in the book (rhymed and metered)! But I do like the informal sonnet, the thirteener and fifteen-line sonnet, and pretty much anything else that resembles a sonnetlike poem.

He concludes beautifully:

And it is in the very sign of literary tradition that the poet concludes his book: after “Unburial,” his father’s “exit” and “Requiem for an Ocean Burial,” the ritual scattering of his mother’s ashes, the poet directs his gaze “To the Horned Moon”, in a XXI c. claire de lune which closes the circle of one of the most ancient poetic topoi begun some seven centuries B.C. by Alkman’s unforgettable nocturne.

Here is the poem, reaching back in time.

“To the Horned Moon”

How often I meet you here
above the trees and houses
nested in sleep, the edges

of you ringed, luminescent
as a dropped nickel in a pool
of crude oil. Copper-crowned

night, twilit and electric blue,
presiding above the world
unchallenged. What star

measures up to you? None
I know of. They are too far.
You, on the other hand,

so close I could
take you by the horns
wrestle you to Earth or

steer you forever
at ten million miles per hour
straight out of the universe.

-from Verse-Virtual, May 2018

Indietro

Indietro_Schlachtman


With so much going on, I completely forgot to post this back in March. My image, “Indietro”, was chosen for the Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge in February. Here it is accompanied by Stephanie Shlachtman’s poem “They Tried to Cover Her Up“, which was my pick as artist. The other winning poem, chosen by editor Tim Green, was Mary Ann Honecker’s “When Peeled Back“. Both poems are mind-bending responses to the image, which is a photograph of a billboard in Perugia I snapped outside my daughter’s school.

Of course, February seems like aeons ago. My daughter hasn’t been to her school since around the time the image was open for submissions. These poems come from what was perhaps the final phase of life before COVID-19 took control of us and altered the narrative. The billboard, like so much else from before the flood, is gone now. All that remains is the art it inspired. 

Rattlecast #45 is up!

It was a pleasure to have been a guest on last night’s Rattlecast with editor Tim Green. I tried not to think about the fact that my episode is bookended by poets such as Dorianne Laux (#44) and Sonia Greenfield (#46). But there it is. With Tim’s okay, I just wanted to let it rip with little or no premeditation. Maybe it’s kind of raw at points, though I hope I managed to say one or two things of general interest to listeners besides just reading my poems. I’ve only given three readings in my life before this, so cut me some slack!

Rattlecast #45

Rattlecast45

Big news! I’ll be appearing on Rattle‘s Rattlecast #45 on June 9, 2020 at 3pm EST. I’ll be reading from Unburial and talking with Rattle editor Tim Green about poetry and whatever else comes up. Tune in to the livestream on YouTube. The Facebook event is here if you’d like more information.

See you on the 9th!

New Year’s Poetry Jam Recap

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L to R: me, Will, Dora, Damiano, John & Nicole.

I’m sure I’ll never do another reading quite this awesome in all my days. Somehow I shared a stage in Rome with Dora Malech, John Murillo, Nicole Sealey and Will Schutt. Don’t ask how, but it went down on January 2, 2020 (today is the ultra-rare Palindrome Day – 02/02/2020 – which hasn’t happened in 900 years and won’t again for another thousand), already a month ago, and I’m just now getting around to posting the audio I made of the event for the sake of posterity. Let’s say the quality is ‘bootleg’. But here it is, in all its ragged glory. Special thanks to Moira Egan for making the connections. Rome is magical like no other place on earth.

Marc and Dora

John 

Nicole

Will

Rome Book Launch with Moira Egan

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Saturday, Dec. 7 I’m doing a book launch for Unburial at the Anglo American Book in Rome – with Moira Egan! If you’re in the area, come on by and say hello.

Anglo American Book – Via della Vite 102 (Piazza di Spagna) – 6pm

Come hear poetry by American poets Marc Alan Di Martino & Moira Egan read from their recent books Unburial (Kelsay Books) and Synaesthesium (New Criterion Prize) at the historic Anglo American Book (Est.1953) near the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy.

Marc Alan Di Martino is a Pushcart-nominated poet and author of the collection Unburial (Kelsay Books, 2019). His work appears in Rattle, Rivet Journal, Baltimore Review, Palette Poetry and many other journals, as well as the anthologies Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife (Kingly Street Press, 2019) and What Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye (Gelles-Cole, 2019). He lives in Perugia, Italy.

Moira Egan’s most recent collections are Synæsthesium (The New Criterion Poetry Prize, 2017) and Olfactorium (Italic Pequod, 2018). Her poems, prose, and translations have appeared in journals and anthologies on four continents. She teaches Creative Writing at St. Stephen’s School in Rome.

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Anglo American Book Rome

Unsheathed

Image result for unsheathed betsy mars

I’d almost forgotten – well, not really, I just have little time – to mention the anthology Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take up the Knife, which came out in October, on almost the same day as UNBURIAL.  The anthology is edited by Betsy Mars, and is a collection of original poems inspired by an offhand line of mine, “Knives cut both bread and throats.” Betsy and I were chatting about social media, its virtues and its drawbacks, and I fired off a line she liked.  We exchanged poems beginning with the line, and Betsy liked the idea of an anthology so much she even started her own publishing imprint, Kingly Street Press, to make it happen.

Here is my contribution to the anthology:

Duality

Knives cut both bread and throats
tongues and fruit, a length of rope
to fashion both knot and noose.
A blade can scissor hope,
whittle back bone, crack
skull, scrape out the pulp
from teeth then sign its name
in flesh soft as an apricot.
It is a weapon, and is not.

(There are twenty-three other poems in the book!)

An Interview with Frontier Poetry

I’m thrilled to have an interview up at Frontier Poetry about the making of Unburial. (Said that way, it sounds like a horror film.) There are few things more interesting than the process of making something, in my eyes: be it a painting, a poem or a photograph. Everything has a story behind it; everything is, in the end, a result of a lucky point in space and time when the right combination of factors happen to converge. Change one of the variables and the whole thing could be wiped away like fingerprints on a pane of glass.

What were the toughest moments you faced while getting the collection to the world and what have you taken away from them?

All the rejection, and the uncertainty it breeds,

can be crippling.