“Deep Midwinter After-Party”–demonstrations then and now….and more…

I’m thrilled to announce that I have been  nominated for a Mass Book Award for my debut poetry collection, Baltimore Girls (2017).

Thank you to Finishing Line Press for this honor!

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If you’d like to purchase a signed –and if you like, inscribed –copy of my book, please email me at lviti@wellesley.edu. $13.99 includes the cost of mailing.

Here’s a poem I wrote in late 2016–which seems particularly appropriate at this time in history…

Deep Midwinter After-Party

Empty kitchen. Morning of snow. Small birds
make quick round trips from bush to feeder.
Hardly a sign of the knot of guests who last night
stood by the French doors, beers in hand
or gathered at the table of empty plates,
glasses half full of wine.

Traces of crackers and salsa marinate
with vegetable peels in the compost tub.
We used to be busy with kids and pets,
used to be the ones driving south for Christmas
getting home to pay the babysitter,
wondering if we’ve ever make up lost sleep.

I saw you lean back in the yellow armchair
listening to the thirty year olds
talk about work, their children, the news.
It made me wonder at how time
had moved up so fast on us, how
we ignored it as long as we could.

We’re old, admit it, I tell myself, don’t have time
for twenty to forty years of reforming  the country,
the world—we barely have time
to read the books we want to,  plant the gardens,
see the fifty states,  see refugees welcomed,
resettled,  find a glimmer of a hint of a possibility
of peace on the planet, this  home to our
benighted race, drowning in stuff or in our confusion.

Years ago, thinking about this didn’t faze me.
We would make it better, we would stop a war,
we would bring down a sneak, lying President.
We would do so much better when it was our turn.
Soon, we’ll march,  show what we stand for, bear witness.
I’m not yet ready to call it quits, but getting close.

Let the younger people take the reins. I’m
straggling at the back of the crowd as it pulses down
Independence  Avenue. You might glimpse me there,
like the gray panthers I used saw on the picket lines
–when I was young and fecund—
time biting at their aching heels.

Originally published in Porcupine, Fall 2017, print

Is it too soon to take down the Christmas tree?

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Until my sister and I were out of high school and my parents invested in a silvery artificial Christmas tree,  my mother put up what we called the “real” Christmas tree as close to Christmas Eve as possible. To hold us off, from early December till a few days before Christmas,  she gave us little projects: an Advent calendar coated with silver glitter, with tiny windows, behind which lay old-fashioned toys—tops, trains, kewpie dolls, bears wearing red ribbon bows, jacks, toy workbenches, roller skates.  Or a twelve-inch 1940’s –era plastic Christmas tree that came with tiny glass Christmas ornaments which we painstakingly hung on the tree.

            Or the humblest pre-Christmas ritual of all—the brown paper tree, fashioned from several large Food Fair grocery bags that she cut apart and glued, drawing on it  a seven-foot tall tree shape. With safety scissors, my sister and I carefully cut along the outline of the tree our mother had outlined in dark green crayon. On the scraps of brown paper, we drew and colored in ornaments: round globes in red and  green using the fat primary grade crayons.  When we were a little older, we graduated to the standard 24- crayon Crayola box, and feeling adventurous, we colored paper ornaments in other Crayola shades—burnt Sienna, Azure blue, red-orange, to design fancier balls. For gold, we deployed yellow. For silver, we used gray. After dinner on weeknights, or in the afternoon on Advent Saturdays, we lay on our stomachs in the small kitchen, bearing down hard on our thick Crayolas.

            “Sit up when you use the scissors,” our mother said. “No cutting while you’re lying down.” As soon as she left the room, we were back on our bellies, carefully cutting out the paper ornaments. I was in charge of drawing the star, and we both filled it in with hard strokes, so no brown Food Fair bag paper would show through. We made a stack of the cut-out shapes. Mom taped the giant paper tree to the wall I the kitchen, and each day, she helped us glue a few or the paper ornaments onto the tree. By the time we got to the bottom of the ornament pile, there was a real Christmas tree in the corner of our small dining room, perfuming the small apartment with its fresh balsam scent.

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The Christmas cards began to arrive in early December, from aunts and uncles, from Mom’s friends from her teaching days before I was born, from neighbors, from Mom and Dad’s friends from Sparrows Point.  Mom opened and read each one aloud to us. We rubbed our fingers over the ones with flocked designs, or real cotton for Santa’s beard. On a metal apparatus in the shape of a pine tree, Mom displayed the cards, and when the clips of the metal tree were all used up, she taped holiday cards to the woodwork arch leading from the dining room into the kitchen. Out came the Christmas stockings, which hung on a red ribbon attached to the wall with thumbtacks, because we had no fireplace. Mom said not to worry, Santa would enter and exit from the stairs that led from our grandma’s home downstairs up to our place. The real tree stayed bare in its stand, a red vessel that held the trunk tight by long screws boring into the wood. The lights and the real glass ornaments never appeared, back then, until after my sister and I were fast asleep.

            A few days after Christmas, my mother began to notice the dropped needles that appeared everywhere in the apartment.  She let us keep our favorite gifts, the dolls and toys, under the tree until New Year’s Day. But the pajamas, the scarf and glove sets from our aunts, the bath towels with the circus motif, personalized with our names, and the games had to be stowed in our bureaus or the big closet.  Soon, the real tree would be gone, lying on the curb for the garbage men to claim. The paper tree my sister and I worked so hard on was rolled up and discarded. All the sugar cookies and the chocolate chips had been eaten up, and what remained were a few hard, spicy gingersnaps that only my parents liked. I wondered aloud her what she would do with the Christmas cards, and she said I could collect them, use them for whatever projects I could think up. She handed me a small box, I watched her pull the cards from the woodwork, one by one. This time, she didn’t even look inside at the signatures.

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              She removed the fragile ornaments from the tree and lined them up on the dining room table. As she inspected each ornament, and placed it into its niche in the storage box, the television droned on in the adjacent living room. “Nineteen fifty-two is just around the corner,” the tv announcer said, as he began touting a new car. I contemplated his words. What does that mean, I asked my mother? “It means the new year’s almost here, “ she said.

             Memories of that time, perhaps even of that particular day, are vivid. My father was at work; sister was napping. I was too old for that, so I sat with her as she packed up Christmas. Her whole life, she fought hard to keep the blues at bay at Christmastime, for the holiday brought on sad memories of her straitened childhood.  I didn’t understand why she was in such a hurry to get back to normal, as she put it.  She was always glad to see New Year’s day come and go, and to put Christmas on the shelf, or up in the attic, for another year.

            Two days after Christmas, I feel my mother’s spirit in the room, rising up. Time to close up Christmas for this year—is it too soon to start?

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Finishing Line Press to Publish “The Glamorganshire Bible”

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Note from Finishing Line Press editor and New Women’s Voices contest reader, Leah Maines

I’m very happy to announce that my second poetry chapbook, The Glamorganshire Bible,  has been accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press. Stay tuned for details.

Thanks to my readers–those who know me and those who know me through my writing–for your support!

“Baltimore Girls” has shipped!

My friend –and guest lecturer visiting from U of Miami– Gina Maranto snapped these  photos, as I was opening the shipment of my 100 copies of Baltimore girls, last Thursday when we returned from a long teaching day.

 

If you did not pre-order, I have 100 copies I’d like to part with, so if you’re in the greater Boston area, let me know. I deliver signed copies!! If you’re farther away, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Finishing Line Press carry the book.  Or wait till I come to Baltimore or Stamford, CT, and come to my readings–I  will be selling and signing books!

 

Next reading: Sunday, April 2, 2017, Westwood Public Library,  660 High St, Westwood, MA 02090, 2-4 PM

 

 

I’m “live” today on the Jungle Red Mystery Authors Website!

Please post your questions and comments there about poetry, Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson. Shel Silverstein, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Leonard Cohen, Alice Notley, Joyce Kilmer, John Greenleaf Whittier, and more!

Here’s the website url.screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-9-04-43-am

Guest Blogging on Jungle Red, Feb. 25

My pal Hallie Ephron, one of the Jungle Red mystery authors, has invited me to guest blog  on Jungle Red next Friday, February 25.  their tagline: “8 smart and sassy crime fiction writers dish on writing and life. It’s the View–with bodies.”

The Jungle Red website features eight women mystery authors, many of them winners of prestigious awards: the Edgars, Agathas, Anthonys, Neros, and more.

Of course, I won’t be talking/writing about Private investigators,  or who was responsible for that corpse in a mystery novel, but about my poetry–how I came to it, my writing process, where I come up with ideas for the poems.

My poetry collection, Baltimore Girls, is in the works at Finishing Line Press, although the February 24 delivery date has been pushed a few weeks later. Pre-orderers, please be patient–this small literary press in Kentucky is working as fast as it can to get the book to you.

Take a look at the Jungle Red blog now, and again on February 25 when I blog. Its interactive feature allows readers to comment or ask questions of the guest blogger, and I will be checking in all day (and early evening) long to see what you have to say.

Hallie will start us off with her interview with me, and you, readers, can take it from there!

Hope to see you–virtually–on February 25, from 9 AM EST to 9 PM EST! Please come!

 

The Color of Her Volkswagen

 

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My poem, “The Color of Her Volkswagen,” about an afternoon at Oregon Ridge Swimming “Club,” circa 1960 , appears in the winter issue (page 17) of Pen-in-Hand, the official literary and art publication of the Maryland Writers’ Association. Mad props to Sr. Carol Wheeler, and Sr. August Reilly, RSMs who taught me in Creative English class at Mercy High, Baltimore, and my 21st century poetry mentor, Boston Poet Laureate Emeritus Sam Cornish…
http://marylandwriters.org/…/Newslet…/pen_in_handjan2017.pdf

“Baltimore Girls” -Enormous Gratitude!

.. to those who pre-ordered “Baltimore Girls” last week! Thanks to my cousins in Ohio and Baltimore, old UNY of Maryland pals from high school days, former teaching colleagues at Boston U, Westwood women, my St. John’s family, my librarian network, Dwight Street alums, Stamford friends, and Barnard women. Continue reading ““Baltimore Girls” -Enormous Gratitude!”

Advance review of Baltimore Girls, my poetry chapbook, by Baltimore-born poet Sam Cornish, Poet Laureate of Boston, 2008-2014

Please support my writing and Mercy High School,  Baltimore and Epiphany School, Boston, –by reserving your copy of my poetry chapbook between November 19, 2016  and January 6, 2017-at Finishing Line Press. The number of pre-orders will determine the number of the first press run! 

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Baltimore Girls … examines the poet’s early life in the 1960s and the culture in which she grew up. It is personal history — tales of a small group of young women who lived in the segregated city of my youth. The poems are mini-memoirs, snapshots of young women who had determined they were bound for greater things: “we were in a hurry to get out of town, out of state, through school, to a job…”

Although Viti tells us she “left as fast as she could,” her memories of people, places and her hometown culture remain vivid and sharp, filled with the manners and rituals of the era. She recounts a teen-age date as “a talisman of my life to come” because they spent the time talking “about the war, about Yeats…” This collection is significant for its realism, its honesty and its attention to detail. The poems are specific and descriptive, reminiscent of the lyric realism of James T. Farrell. This book establishes Viti as a poet of the memoir and local history. Her memories of time and place will resonate with many readers.

— Sam Cornish, Poet Laureate of Boston, Massachusetts, 2008-2014