A Sense of Place: The Poetry of Maria Nazos

Provincetown poet Maria Nazos.
JEANNETTE DE BEAUVOIR - Provincetown poet Maria Nazos.

Maria Nazos came to Provincetown six years ago to find the solitude and space she needed to write.

She has embraced the Cape, which in turn has nurtured her art. After substantial success in literary journals, her first full-length volume of poetry, A Hymn That Meanders, was published last year by Wising Up Press.

A Night Back in Joliet, Illinois

You’d better start believing in God,

said my cousin one night.

Home for the first time in light

years, I’d smashed a girl’s head into the wall

for calling him a cokehead, which was once true,            

but from her mouth felt like a shirt sleeve

whipping in the night breeze

that should be shrugged off.

Shame settled like a curtain of soot on a Greyhound

window: this wasn’t the fight Joliet people fought.

They talked about wins or losses as if buying shoes, or falling in love.

My cousin said he needed God when he dried out

in a cabin with his last earnings, when he called

the woman at the bank. She wired him money. They loved.

At forty, even with no cartilage in his nose and planets

reflected in his eyes, he was blessed—

I dressed in armor, charged, blind into a blank

pasture: a miracle I had no business being in.

Reprinted from A Hymn That Meanders, Wising Up Press, 2011

“I became serious about poetry—and poetry became serious about me—because my short stories kept getting shorter, and my poetry kept getting way more play than fiction, then finally I realized that as long-winded and breathy as I am, I’m truly a lackluster fiction writer at best,” Nazos said in an interview with InsideOUT.

Odd to hear a poet describe herself as long-winded, but Nazos’ poems do use longer lines than most other poetry; they seem to cover more ground.

“I realized that poetry would be my life's vocation when I grew to appreciate the challenge, the intricacy, and—when you get it right—the beauty that accompanies this overlooked genre,” she said. “Poetry is both a vocation and a vocabulary for me; without it, I feel like my words can't be properly heard.”

I’ve been reading Nazos’ poetry for years and continue to find it extraordinary. Since we share a sense of place in our work, I asked her about the role that living on the Cape plays in her creative expression.

“Place is important to me,” she responded. “I look outside every day and whether the landscape is my homeland in Middle America or the ocean outside my window right now, I have always found something exhilarating and all-powerful about the way our surroundings dictate our lives.”

Nazos pauses, wondering. “Or do they? Is our topography an incentive for our fears, hungers, obsessions, and loves, or would we be the same person no matter where we live? If so, what patterns do we endure that play out, over and over, as we move to different regions, both emotionally and geographically?”

Nazos explores these questions and more in A Hymn That Meanders, available wherever books are sold, including online.

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