Grace Cavalieri’s The Poet and the Poem

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It is my great honor to be a guest today on Grace Cavalieri’s “The Poet and the Poem,”  hosted at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. I will be reading some of my poems, discussing poetry as well as reading some Arabic poetry (and my translations) by the Iraqi poet  Lamia Abbas Amara. Amara is one of the leading modern day Iraqi poets who has lived here in the United States since the 1980’s.

Here is one of my translations:, originally published in 1982 in Pig Iron.

Lamia Abbas Amara

I was sitting in the lobby
of the Shaateh Hotel
in Tripoli, Libya
when she passed by
in a long dress
hair bound in a kerchief
carrying two bundles in her hands
as if she had just arrived from a journey.

At her side
two young men
–two moons or two angels.
I guessed they were her sons.

I knew this woman
I knew the luster in those eyes.

I started to call her-
I forgot her name.
My face smiled at her.
She noticed me
her gaze penetrated mine-
she also was trying to remember.

She did not stop
did not let on to her sons
but kept walking across the lobby
as I continued struggling with my memory.

She disappeared
but everything about her came back-
except her name.
My college classmate in Baghdad.
Daughter of a diplomatic official
in the Iranian Embassy.

I remembered her witty comments
and her strange behavior.
the English teacher entered
while some students were drawing
ugly figures on the blackboard.
He shouted angrily
what are you doing?
Quietly she answered
they are drawing themselves.

she had a fit of epilepsy in the class
and started writhing on the floor.
I held her and smoothed her clothes.
She rested against my breast
between my arms.
And the first thing she said was
how kind you are!

Everything about her was strange
even her name which I had forgotten.
I remembered everything about her-
except her name.
How difficult it was to recall
after more than thirty years.
it came to me:
Frouzanda Mahrad.
I even remembered her sister’s name:
Drakshanda Mahrad.
I repeated this impossible name
so I would not lose it again:
Frouzanda, Frouzanda, Frouzanda
but she had already disappeared
down the long corridors of the hotel.

I considered asking reception
for her room number.
Then I backed down
and I asked myself:
after greeting her
what would we talk about after thirty years?
About work?
When both of us were retired?
About our marriages?
When we were at that age
where we were either widowed or divorced?
There remained one other question:
our sons.
What would she say to me?
Or I to her?
Would she say she had come to Libya
so her sons could train for combat? 1
Would I say that my son
is a soldier in the Iraqi army?
Then we would be quiet.
Silence and glances would be our talk.
Who would kill first?
Would my son kill hers
or hers mine?

Two mothers prepared for bereavement
meeting on the razor’s edge.

Frouzanda would remember me
no doubt
after a while
as I had remembered her.
Her companion, the beautiful poet.
The kind person who had embraced her daily.
Perhaps she would even see my face
soiled with battledust.
And on the loving breast
piercing claws
clinging war medals.

The same loving breast
that had nursed the soldier
alert on the battlefield
threatening the life of her sons
defending himself and his land
exactly as her sons were doing.

I hoped she had not recognized me.
Perhaps she had not remembered.

I did not encounter her again.
What a blessing forgetfulness is!

Why should we hate the people we once loved
because of a war which mars even our memories?

Translated by Mike Maggio

1 Libya, although an Arab country, supported Iran in its war against Iraq.


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Music and Language: A Confluence of Influence

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Music has always been an intimate part of my life. Perhaps it goes back to the time when, as a child of perhaps 5 years old, I would sit in front of the record player and just listen and listen and listen. And rock back and forth, of course. Or maybe it’s that I began to take piano lessons at 9 years old and dreamed of one day becoming a performer. Or perhaps it relates to the fact that I would hear melodies circulating around inside my head while riding the bus on the way to school – melodies that I always thought would grow into an original score – a piano concerto or a sonata. Or, perhaps, more relevant to my current efforts, that I would hear voices behind the music I was playing – voices that were trying to communicate with me, to tell me their story – voices that emerged from the notes and chords that my fingers executed. Where, I would ask myself, did those voices come from? Who were they? What did they want to tell me? What was their story?

Fast forward to my adulthood when poetry and fiction took over my life. Music was still there: the particular rhythm of a line in a poem, or a poem that started with a rhythm to which I had to supply the words. Or the cadence of a line or a paragraph, or even a chapter, in a work of fiction — a bit of dialogue, perhaps, or the crescendo of a scene that was working itself into a climax, like the finality of chords in the finale of a Brahms symphony.

It is music that has often inspired the shape of my characters, the arc that a particular story takes, or a poem that I silently sing. While I do not write to the accompaniment of music nor specifically use music for inspiration, it is the music that I listen to on a daily basis that provides an unconscious backdrop to what I am creating, And while there is no music in most of the stories I write, it is the musical nature of language itself that is always my focus, for a story or a poem is more than just words and characters and actions. It is comprised of feelings and tone, of mood and atmosphere, of all those intangible elements that can only be conveyed by how the language is implemented – by the very music of the linguistic experience.

The Appointment, my newest book, is a novella that takes place in the 20th century but has the feel of a 19th century work. It is European in nature though it is firmly an American story. Professor Withers, the main character, spends his waning days (or, more accurately, his post-waning days) in a quest for self. Could he have possibly been defined by the Elgar Cello Concerto most famously performed by Jacqueline Du Pres, a piece of music that has haunted me for years? And what about the other characters I create?   The characters that come to me? Fazzalludin Chowdry, for example, a Pakistani immigrant, a butcher by trade who gets unwillingly involved with the President of the United States in my novel, The Wizard and the White House?  Or the Reverend CJ  Willis, the wily preacher in the same story? And how about Sister Lucretia, the evil nun in my Gothic novel-in progress, a dark, cruel character who is as elusive as she is wicked? What music helps me create such characters, such stories? Or, maybe I should ask: what music leads me to discover them somewhere out there?

And so I think back to what I listen to on a daily basis. Yoko Ono is constantly on my playing list and has been an unending source of inspiration for me. Surely her musical creations like the incredible “Hirake (Open Your Box)” or the John Cage-inspired Cambridge 1969 2007,  both of which take me musically to a place where I’ve never been, have allowed me to create the wild, surreal environment that makes up The Wizard and the White House. Or Shostakovich;s Cello Concerto No. 1, a piece of music that is as disturbing as it is irresistible and which I’ve been listening a lot to lately – could it be helping me create the dark, threatening environment that makes up my evolving Gothic novel?

Music, that most abstract, intangible art form, can lead the spirit to places unpredicted and unforeseen. Fiction and poetry, at their best, should do that same.  A reader should come away from a poem or a story with a feeling that they have been transported to a world where they have never before been or that they have never before imagined. And once they return, with a breath of wonder, they should feel like they were on a journey which was both elucidating and rewarding. One to which, the author hopes, they will often return.

A composer friend of mine, with whom I just worked on a project, recently told me that he hears strings of music in his head. He then transcribes them using software on his computer. And that’s how he composes. He does not sit at a piano or with cello in hand and work out melodies. No, he connects to another world – channels would be the proper word – and allows that world to occupy his being. Similarly, when I write, I channel – perhaps to the same place as he – and listen and record. Could it be that we connect to the same place?  Could it be that artists, musicians, and writers have a secret place where they all go – a secret garden where that famous muse instills us with music, story, art? Or is it that we all go to our own private Innisfree, a place that guides us to the art we carefully render?

The answer is as elusive as the very source of inspiration. Regardless, music and language and art are inseparable and who is to say which inspires the other?

Mike Maggio, May2017

Posted in Essays | 2 Comments

Author Special

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To celebrate the publication of my new novella, The Appointment, I am offering  a copy of The Appointment at the regular price of $9.99 and a copy of The Wizard and the White House for just $7 plus handling and shipping of $5 for a total of $16.99. Offer available in the US only. Both books will be signed by me.

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On the Air

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Reading “LA Central Library”  from Garden of Rain

Dennis Price Show
May 9, 2017

LA Central Library

Standing in line
for 15 minutes of internet
Tom Bradley Wing
LA Central Library

the alkies
the druggies
even the homeless
need to charge their iPods.

Quintessential LA
quintessentially speaking
the glim and glamour
the vim and stamina

of those who lost their lives
to glass and steel
steal and beggary
lost their lives yet still survive.

How they cleaned up downtown
they say. meaning those
who fell by the wayside
were tucked away

swept away
cinders from a vintage fireplace
shoveled off to an invisible part of town
where they can’t be seen.

Unlike the ragged man
in the underground mall
on Fifth and Hope
chased by security

chased for a steaming cup of coffee
proffered by a McDonald’s employee
a placation perhaps
a plume of hope

in this hopeless city
where dreams are made
of celluloid and steel
and the Triforium Carillon

no longer rings true
no longer rings
thanks to judges and judgments
and the injustices of Justicetown.

Yet this downtown library still stands,
despite the flames, still commands,
despite the people who lost their souls
a testament to the restive phoenix

that shall always rise and rise.

© Mike Maggio 2017

Posted in Poems, Readings | Comments Off on On the Air

Tonight On the Dennis Price Show

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I will be appearing tonight, along with Marianne Szlyk, on Hotline With Dennis Price on Fairfax Public Radio to discuss this year’s 30 for 30 poetry event as well as my new book, The Appointment. Marianne and I will be on from 8 to 9 PM Eastern.

You can listen in from anywhere in the world:
In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channel 37
In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27
Anywhere else in the world :
For mobile devices :

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Announcing the Release of The Appointment

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When a terrifying gang goes on a rampage at a packed subway station, Professor Jeremy Withers is severely beaten and left for dead. When he regains consciousness, he continues his journey to campus, only to find his office empty and his life as an academic for 30 years completely erased. A surprise visit from two mysterious inspectors complicates matters further. Do they want information about his attack? Who are they working for? Where can he locate them? Soon Professor Withers finds himself lost in a world that seems uncanny and unforgiving, searching for answers from people he cannot find.


This short novella is a story of loss and alienation and has been compared to Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.

Here’s what is being said about The Appointment:

Mike Maggio’s The Appointment is a contemporary tale of alienation, bureaucracy, and merciless academia. Maggio’s anti-hero tries to seek some help–some human concern for his existential plight–but, like Kafka’s K or Tolstoy’s dying Ivan Ilych, fails to find the recognition and human warmth he so desperately needs. The Appointment is a story of existence and mortality and those who avoid human community and who are ultimately left totally alone.- JUDITH MCCOMBS, THE HABIT OF FIRE: POEMS SELECTED & NEW


With all the dread-filled propulsion of certain dreams, Mike Maggio’s The Appointment runs on urgency. No time to get a grip on what just happened or what adds up: Professor Withers has been wounded somehow, and yet he still strives for agency and meaning, as though the powers of officialdom were not driving him relentlessly towards the appointed end.- MADELEINE MYSKO, BRINGING VINCENT HOME AND STONE HARBOR BOUND


Mike Maggio has one of the weirdest minds I’ve ever come across, and like all weird minds, it is fascinating, colorful, dramatic, and hilarious. Read, laugh, ponder.- SOPHY BURNHAM, AUTHOR OF LOVE, ALBA


By directly from this site for a signed copy:


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30 for 30 Winning Poem

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The voting is in and Diane Park’s “Night” has garnered the most votes with a total of 89. Congratulations Diane!

Diane will receive a copy of my novella The Appointment.

Thank you again to all who participated.

Stay tuned to this web site for upcoming creative challenges



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Time To Vote For Your Favorite Poem

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It’s now time to vote for your favorite wildest poem.

If you have not had a chance to read all the poems posted in this year’s 30 for 30, please take some time to do so. We had some very wild poems from some very wild poets, so read through them, choose one and vote by selecting the radial button beside the poem of your choice and clicking on vote.

The poet whose poems garners the most votes will receive a signed copy of my new novella, The Appointment, scheduled for release on May 8.

Please spread the word. And thank you to all the poets who participated this year, to everyone who came by and read and to those individuals who shared their comments.

Posted in 30 for 30 Poetry Celebration | 5 Comments

Diane Wilbon Parks

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She stood as dark as ever, waiting for me to follow.
I chose her canopy for covering
and faded into her like clouds.
She sleepwalks in my skin,
questioning the sound of my moods.
We’ve been here before.

Our souls crossed, as she tucks the moon in my hair.
We’ve lain on the subtle hills of her slanted cliffs
and mountain tops, trimmed in heavy kohl,
sprinkling dust over pitched blue moons and pillows,
while craving the intractable lips of her rivers.

My eyes quickly fold, then flow through her mouth,
kissing the banks of her salty lips,
as she stands stronger and darker than ever,
glistening like diamonds, peeking out of shadows.

She eagerly plucks the soul of wild children,
leaving their flesh to become
lifeless sentences of old intellect.
She wears truth like sandals.

I’m left; bald, with the heartbeat of a wind,
I can’t convince any longer.
She drags me into the string of songs that a sandman carries.
I go into her, eagerly.  Night.

© 2017 Diane Wilbon Parks

Diane Wilbon Parks is the author and publisher of two poetry collections, Rearview Thoughts; and most recently, The Wisdom of Blue Apples. Her poems have appeared in American Poet’s Society’s Anthology, Expressions, Great Poems of the Western World; Echoes: Voices from Prince George’s County Poets. Diane has shared and inspired high school and college students with the visual imagery and use of metaphors and personifications in her poetry. She is a Senior IT Program Manager, a PMP, an United States Air Force Veteran and UMUC Graduate. She’s a member of University of Maryland’s Honor Society: Phi Kappa Phi, and University of Maryland, University College’s Honor Society: Alpha Sigma Lambda. Diane resides in Maryland with her husband, Eric and two adult children, Sean and Shelby, and dog, Cooper.

Posted in 30 for 30 Poetry Celebration | 28 Comments

Who Says April Only Has 30 Days?

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This year, April has 32 and so I’m adding two extra poems, one today and one tomorrow. Well let’s be honest — I screwed up, but what better way to screw up than to have more poetry! So National Poetry Month is hereby officially extended for two more days.

Please stay tuned. On May third, it will be time to start voting for your favorite poem, So in the meantime, please review all the wild poems and be ready to cast your vote.

I do want to take the time to thank all of those wonderful poets who participated in this year’s 30 for 30 and to all of you — the readers — who came by every day to check out WILD poetry.

Until next year…

Posted in 30 for 30 Poetry Celebration, Announcements | 1 Comment