Mari Mazziotti Gillan’s new book, When the Stars were Still Visible, asks us to “remember.” In her example, memories start “on the back steps of the six-family tenement / on 5th Avenue in Paterson” in 1944, her father dressed “as a devil for a costume party / at the Società Cilentana”; this opens “so many memories” which “swirl / like bits of color in a kaleidoscope”: of Mrs Gianelli “who always fainted when she got upset” and of “Zio Guillermo’s garden / with tomatoes and zucchini and corn” which is “years later / covered with asphalt and garages.” The poet tells us that “children of immigrants pick up bits and pieces / over the years to create a picture” (“The Children of Immigrants”), that “On the street where I grew up / everyone knew everyone else. / We knew each other’s secrets” (“Carrying Their Hometowns to Paterson”), and, invoking Eliot, that they wore faces that they presented to the world. She writes about her people, her community, and the comfort of soothing things “beckoning me home” (“Even After All These Years”), the way, perhaps, that all poetry should.
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Published by Stephen F. Austin University Press