Sunday, October 10, 2010

Arts: Marick Press Poetry Event

For Kalamazoo Gazette, 09-26-10, with my photos
For hearts and minds
Poets meet to ‘shine light’

When Mariela Griffor was a child in Chile, her grandmother read her the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca and other Spanish-language greats. She was expected to memorize the poems, then recite them later for visitors.
Poetry has been part of Griffor’s life ever since. As an adult, she’s authored four books of her poems thus far and is publisher of Marick Press, a small book publisher in Grosse Pointe Park.

Founded in 2005, Marick has printed some 50 titles, most of them poetry — by contemporary writers with “fresh, strong voices,” she says — with 25% from the pens of Michigan poets.
Griffor and two other poets whose works have been published by Marick, as well as three local poets, will read from their work at 5 p.m. this Saturday at Kazoo Books II.
The event, sponsored by Kalamazoo-based Friends of Poetry, is intended “to shine light on the treasures that are right around us,” says chief organizer Chad Sweeney, author of three books of poetry and a Western Michigan University poetry instructor. His work has been included in the “Best American Poetry” anthology series.
“What I’m hoping for is a Mediterranean Sea of cross-cultural exchange” in bringing together poets from different parts of the state, says Sweeney, who “made a decision to be a poet” when he was 19.
Similar group readings are planned for Mt. Pleasant, Chicago and Marquette.
Poetry readings, Sweeney contends, are “more fulfilling than watching TV. It’s more interactive than theater because you’ll meet the poets after.
“The best contemporary poetry speaks to (people’s) needs — about the war in Iraq, about traffic on Westnedge. Wallace Stevens wrote that the purpose of poetry is to help us live.”
“Poetry is important to everybody,” agrees Griffor, who also serves as honorary consul of Chile in Detroit. “It doesn’t belong to one group of people. It is a universal language. It’s the language of the soul.”
Griffor fled her native Chile in 1985 after her fiancé was murdered by agents of the President Augusto Pinochet regime. She then lived in Sweden for 12 years, where she met mathematician Edward Griffor.
They married and moved to southeastern Michigan, where her husband teaches at Wayne State University.
Griffor’s own poetry has been described as “a revelation” by Raul Zurita, a Chilean National Literature Prize winner. Ilya Kaminsky, author of “Dancing in Odessa,” noted her “lyrical voice” and remarked on her “constant pursuit of both tenderness and truth.”
“The magic of poetry is when it can be honest,” Griffor says.
She admits that some poetry can be off-putting and difficult to understand.
“Poetry is one of the vehicles of the subconscious,” she says. People “are exhausted by daily life. Poets go deeper.
“Poets talk about what’s important, but what other people don’t talk about. Poetry touches the hearts and minds.”

Books of poetry by Mariela Griffor

• “Exiliana”
• “House”
• “Il Rumore Della Pioggia Nel Michigan” (“The Sound of the Rain in Michigan”)
• “Heartland”

Books of poetry by Chad Sweeney

• “Parable of Hide and Seek”
• “Arranging the Blaze”
• “An Architecture”
• “Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sounds: The Teachers of WritersCorps in Poetry and Prose” (editor)

Poets at the podium

Poets scheduled to read at Marick Press Poetry Meets Kalamazoo include:
• Scott Bade, Kalamazoo
• Robert Fanning, Mt. Pleasant
• Mariela Griffor, Grosse Pointe Park
• Francesco Levato, Chicago
• Amy Newday, Shelbyville
• Chad Sweeney, Kalamazoo
Sponsored by Friends of Poetry (, the event starts at 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 2, at Kazoo Books II, 2413 Parkview,, 269-553-6506.

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