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  • NYS Writers Institute

Poetry Friday: A pair of poems by Maria Lisella

For today's Poetry Friday post, we're sharing poems by Maria Lisella

A travel writer by profession, Maria curates the Italian American Writers Association readings, and her work appears in travel trade magazines as well as USA TODAY, Jerusalem Post and the online bilingual publication, La Voce di New York.

Maria served as the Poet Laureate of Queens from 2015-2019 and was recently named an Academy of American Poets Fellow. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Poetry Prize, her collections include Thieves in the Family (NYQ Books), Amore on Hope Street, and Two Naked Feet. (You may order her books at the local, independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.)

In 2015, Maria was featured in a profile posted on the Queens Public Library website. Here is an excerpt:

Who are some of your favorite authors and poets? "...those who inspired me as a teenager included Rod McKuen, e.e. cummings, and W.B. Yeats. When I entered college, I took one of the first Black Literature courses offered, and there I encountered Mari Evans, Nikki Giovanni, and Langston Hughes, all of whom spoke to me, as we were all outsiders. I think James Baldwin is among America’s finest, most searing authors. For poets, I would choose Philip Levine, Lucille Clifton, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Paola Corso...and so many others."

What advice do you have for aspiring poets who are trying to find their voice, and for people who find poetry intimidating? "Read everything; listen to everything; edit everything over and over. Follow living authors you love; if you live in New York City, you are so close to other writers. Don’t be afraid of any of them… but go to their readings with the intention of listening. Take notes, ask questions. Find a workshop suited to you; or ask if a poet you like will be offering a workshop, and study with him or her. Keep a journal; write notes that do not have to make sense; write down your dream fragments. Keep fit physically, as it clears your mind."

The two poems below were previously published in the Trolley journal, Summer 2020.


Like a bandita ...

By Maria Lisella

I wrap nose, mouth, peer above my makeshift pandemic burka. My laugh gives me away to mom & pop shopkeepers I visit while I shun supermarket lines, flee if I see more than one customer. No glances at any bargains, Like a squirrel storing its nuts for winter, I scurry among squash, potatoes, cabbage, long-lasting vegetables, the swift rush, a need for abundance in this new world of sick, healthy and suspect. Hastily race to the safety of home; the ferocious flight from invisible droplets that hover and stray on a sleeve, a grocery bag, the heel of a shoe; dive for the finish of another day without incident or symptom.

© 2020 Maria Lisella. All rights reserved.


They jump aside as if startled ...

By Maria Lisella

They jump aside as if startled...

but no, the two men dressed in blue denim jumpsuits like the ones you see in 1940s French films, leap aside to make room for the new social distance edict, and I’m grateful. First a meter or 39 inches, it has grown to six feet in a city once so comfortable with an 18-inch nose to nose distance among eight million subway riders. Homes become a prison, sanctuary, or retreat. We seek solace from: phones, midnight texts, emails, live streams usher guests into our living rooms.

© 2020 Maria Lisella. All rights reserved.


More about Maria Lisella


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