an introduction to Elizabeth Marino

Poets may be distilled into any number of classes. Writers fall into broad groups of performance-first versus text-first. They may describe themselves as "town" -- poets of the people who embrace populist causes. Or they may define themselves as "gown" -- writers who challenge the theoretical status quo and collect diplomas at every turn. There are writers who never publish and only perform, and writers who only publish and never perform.

But in the simplest terms there are only two basic classes of writer that transcend all these other categorizations: those who write because that's "just what they do", and those who capture the language they seek through strategy. Elizabeth Marino resides easily in the latter and more savvy category.

As an Oxford alumna, Marino has the academic credentials to command respect anywhere she goes. But it's not unusual to find Marino on Chicago's performance poetry circuit on any given night, where she's recognized and appreciated by audiences from Wicker Park to downtown. She's published in a good number of poetry journals, but she's also a theatrical director and actor. She is attuned to her neighborhood and community; she's been a life-long resident of Chicago, and shows much pride in her Puerto Rican heritage. Yet these definitions do not limit her concerns for universal issues. Any discussion with Marino on women's issues, for example, will immediately reveal her solid and well-grounded grasp of the world.

Elizabeth Marino sets an example. She removes the superficiality that poets sometimes use to distinguish each other. Instead her focus comes down to one essential point: Is the poetry considered or not? By "considered", I mean that all the aspects of any given word are given full consideration for their worth in sound, context, meaning, and any number of other ways that a word is significant in a poem.

This is deliberate and often unglamorous work. It can profit from spontaneous flights of the imagination. Many writers say this "the muse" talking when they get those few words going in their heads that drive a poem forward. However, waiting for an unpredictable muse to spark some inspiration won't necessarily get the job done. If you're writing for a stage production or a journal, you have deadlines that can't be put off. For this real writing, you need real tactics, real strategies.

Marino's poetry demonstrates her studied approaches both in sound and text. Listen, read, and consider for yourself all the ways her language signifies.

- KEH, April 2002

Read and listen to poems.