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eye to eyeEye to Eye

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Maria Terrone's poems are simultaneously sensuous and spiritual, earthy and intellectual. Her imagination takes fire from contradiction and complexity. One small image—washing a potato or rearranging a lingerie drawer—can open up vistas of private desire or public history. Her poetry explores the contingencies of time and eternity, the mysterious interpenetration of reality and the imagination.
         — Dana Gioia

As alert to the edgy political nature of contemporary reality ('the names of nations changing/ as people revolt and take aim') as they are to the luminous energies of ordinary facts, or the hard truths of the body's own shocking vulnerability, or the complicated inheritance drawn from her beloved Italian ancestry, Maria Terrone's poems see 'eye to eye' with a world she can at once celebrate and grieve over, but for which she shows a deep, empathetic, richly articulate understanding.

Thoughtful, grounded, even visionary at times, her language in this mature third collection is a kinetic mix of keen-eyed observation and unsentimental judgment. In one poem she sees 'gnarled hawthorn trees that lean/towards me like question marks.' As a poet she lives, like the rest of us, in a world of questions marks—but what shines through them is the fierce light of the life force itself, telling her 'it's possible for a body to float on joy.'
         — Eamon Grennan

"Maria Terrone's eyes and ears are honey, and her touch is 'near enough to lift each hair on my skin.' Through trauma and joy her nuanced and evocative poems are insistent and alive. Terrone pinpoints unforgettable moments and we can feel the shock of discovery as she enacts how 'to suspend your life for another.'"
         — Annie Marie Macari

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Poems from Eye to Eye:

“All but the Serpent”: http://www.thecommononline.org/all-serpent

“David’s Blade”: http://www.thecommononline.org/davids-blade

“Tango Room”: http://www.thecommononline.org/tango-room

“Models & Marie Antoinette: Two Escapes”: http://www.thecommononline.org/models-marie-antoinette-two-escapes

“Ferdinandea”: http://www.thecommononline.org/features/ferdinandea

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cover secret roomAmerican Gothic, Take 2
-- Chapbook, 28 pages

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In a voice that beguiles and surprises at every turn, part Marianne Moore, part Emily Dickinson, Maria Terrone enchants us in this new book of poems.  The poems take us to Italy, to Montauk, Long Island, and to dream landscapes in which the Beatles throw a party at an ancient temple and Albert Einstein crosses Queens Boulevard.  And all the way, through these poems, Maria Terrone is our guide, both wickedly funny and deeply serious.  “Scatter your sequins,” she directs us. “Then exit,/ tap dancing backwards in code.”  This is a delightful new collection from an important voice in contemporary American poetry.
      — Nicole Cooley, author of The Afflicted Girls and Resurrection, winner of the Walt Whitman Award. 
                      

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A Secret Room in Fall

Winner of the Robert McGovern Prize from Ashland Poetry Press

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Whether confronting matters close to home and family, taking in gritty facets of the urban landscape, or bringing to sympathetic light anonymous, mainly female workers in the shadows and giving each her moment of perfectly articulated presence, Maria Terrone’s poems are quietly insistent, recuperative acts of imagination. At times spiced by a wry humor, at times opening to small touches of rapture (“I rise daily, a miracle”), this Secret Room in Fall suggests a world that is one “dense, resplendent cargo,” of which the poet takes exacting, loving stock.            
    — Eamon Grennan



Even over-familiar subjects like 9-11 are transformed in Maria Terrone’s imagination to fresh, intriguing journeys. New York and Italy, modern life and distant history are acutely observed, leading the reader into “secret rooms.”  Pedicurists, workers of many sorts, artists and widows are all shown striving for some transcendence, some unnamable beauty. Like “a brilliant kaleidoscope, the sea we hold within / will allow us to sail through our own lives, / unharmed.” In such declarations Terrone speaks for us all.
        — David Mason

 

A Secret Room in Fall is a compelling, imaginative collection not to be missed. The poems move easily among their many contexts--history, literature, autobiography, travel, and subtly loving, persuasive portraits. The manuscript opens with an Egyptian queen asserting the tricky ubiquitousness of the dead, and goes on to surprise and delight with other unexpected speakers and odd conclusions. Its people--Blanche, fanciful namer of colors; a handicapped man on a train platform; obliviously happy young lovers carting their mattress in the subway; "The Woman Ironing"--all acquire biographies through the situations assigned them and the details that give them a hold on the reader's attention and memory. 

As an immigrant with an insider's understanding of the diversity of America, I responded viscerally and joyously to "The Fruited Plain," without missing the poem's hints of hopes unfulfilled and dreams often deferred.

This is a rich, generous serving of the fruits of poetic observation, of attention to “voices from other rooms” that speak of realities beyond what can be perceived.
      — Rhina Espaillat

 

This is lively and incisive new work.
     — Maxine Kumin

Poems from A Secret Room in Fall:

THE EGYPTIAN QUEEN GIVES DEATH THE SLIP

Found: two boxes of wigs in my tomb
and a stash of makeup; considering my rain-
soaked sail to the other side, you assume
a queen needs to freshen up.  But no, I changed
looks to slip by unknown in last century’s hair style
and dated powder shades like bronze and clay.
You’ve seen my “death mask” in the museum’s Nile
wing by an artist I hired myself.  Pray,
do I look dumb or weak? When you stared
into my black-winged eyes, weren’t you first to blink?
Taking flight is my talent. Let Death play solitaire,
or else play with you his eternal, stinking
game of boredom. That’s not for me. I’m everywhere
and nowhere, which is why you found my casket bare.

 

MY BROTHER LISTENS TO HIS POLICE SCANNER

Trapped voices escape from Bob’s earphones.
Just down from Vermont, he rests
on the guestroom sofa, plugged into
heart attacks and drug busts,
drunk drivers, domestic brawls, an unbalanced
man on the ledge of the Triboro Bridge.
For hours, he eavesdrops on the city
then calls, There’s a hold-up
in progress almost next door, yanking
out the jack so that I too can be tuned
to the local frequency, get to know my neighbors.
The dispatcher’s call for back-up crackles
in our room like fire drawing near.
But when I glance at the garden below,
the trees of late summer seem fearless,
their deep, even breath like the speech
of  yogic masters.  In the north country,
leaves like spent tongues
have already begun to fall, whole forests
practicing for their long silence.

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The Bodies We Were Loaned

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“Maria Terrone’s scrupulously crafted, suavely cadenced poems record telling details of the quotidian world with such vividness that after a while we begin to hear “the rush” of the “hidden/city” of the heart,  “its roar and raging heat, the wild/dark needed to become human.”
The Bodies We Were Loaned is a triumph of meticulous sorrow.”
  — Sandra Gilbert

 

It is "the body's unequivocal language" that Maria Terrone aspires to in this maturely achieved first collection.  In language precise in its physicality and thought, she celebrates ordinary work and those who perform it, admiring the tough, the common, what endures. As keenly attuned to what is going on in works of art as in the emotional states she observes in herself and those around her, her poems become notations of mood, intensely alive to the passing moment, and to all those momentary things that are, by the force of her observation, "dipped in light."  Acknowledging the body in its darker moments, caught in "the jail of itself," she can also honor the "word made flesh" of old love letters, or the rich delight of saving an injured bird that's "homeless, hungry, broken-legged, maybe heaven sent."  What I especially like is her refined appetite for the world, able to see and state clearly (in a love poem called "Strawberries") the "simple truth of these berries, ripe/just with the meaning of themselves."
    — Eamon Grennan

 

In the Bodies We Were Loaned, Maria Terrone presents us with sensuous and sensitive poems that explore the presence of the extraordinary in the ordinary. This powerful, moving book is a love song to the wounded world.
    — Maria Mazziotti Gillan

 

Count on it: a poem by Maria Terrone entices.  In her first book, The Bodies We Were Loaned, expect surprises. Maria loves the exotic of now and long ago, the local landscapes of the globe. But she especially loves New York, and reading her splendid poems, I ask, Why not? They capture the joy in sounds and images so vivid, I'm there. I love all the poems in this collection.
    — Walt McDonald

 

Here the poetry starts before we even open the book. The title The Bodies We Were Loaned was apropos before the events of September 2001 made it electric with a raw new relevance. We savor what we know will pass, long for what is passing--be it a Chinese emperor, a sandhog or "a prophet in flame red lipstick." Here we find them all. Here we also find eloquence without a hint of the facile, a naturalist's eye avid for textures and detail, and a heart prepared to evoke "the body's unequivocal language." These fine poems are a delight to recommend.
     — William Pitt Root

Poems from The Bodies We Were Loaned:

YOU’LL BURN IN HELL, THE PRETTY WOMAN SAID, SMILING

and the man who had dared to steal a look
across the subway aisle hooted. A bible small
and square, forbidding as a padlock on a jewel
case lay over her trim lap.  The good book
tells me you’re damned because you seek
the body’s pleasure. Her trumpet voice blasted fallen
souls--him and every one of us.  I was enthralled
by this prophet in flame-red lipstick,
but the man’s laugh was just a grin now, a gag
pulled tight against his whitening skin. Die,
devil, she hissed, watching him struggle to lift
his heft from the well of a plastic seat. When he sagged
back, destroyed, she leaned into him, a perfumed bride
of Christ, tract in hand, face anointed with bliss.

 

“THE IDEA IS TO HAVE HEARTS ON A SHELF”
- Biomedical engineer quoted in a newspaper

In the fullness of time (a decade, they predict)
and money (5 billion, give or take)
and scientists’ damned
hard work (the calculation of minds that knew
from the getgo the heart’s eternal power
to raise funds, rally even the wary;
in short, its public relations value
over liver, kidney and spleen)--

hearts will beat on a shelf.
It could have been otherwise. Left alone,
stem cells might have chosen
another path, bloomed
as muscle or vein, but were induced
in laboratory light to this--a pump organ
tuned to nonstop celebration.

Soon they'll appear in a glass showcase,
labeled, plumped up like a pasha’s
rarest pillows.  Take one down--carefully, now!--
and feel the satin flutter against your skin,
insistent whisper of a heart wanting in,
the rush of your hidden
city, its roar and raging heat, the wild
dark needed to become human.                       

                         

Maria Terrone, ©2007 - All Rights Reserved