Getting To Know Marianne Gambaro And Her New Book, Do Not Stop For Hitchhikers

When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?

My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Van Stone, was a poetry lover. She made us memorize poems and act them out, even making props during our art classes. I remember doing a puppet of a cowboy out of a paper bag and reciting a poem (I don’t remember what it was) with my New Jersey 10-year-old’s version of a western drawl. I loved the sounds of the words and began writing what I now look back on as embarrassingly romantic historical epic poems.

Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?

Writing always seems like such an indulgence (like really, really good chocolate) so I don’t write as often as I should or would like to. I do spend one morning each week at our local Panera where I only work on new ideas, rather than revisions or submissions.

Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?

Anywhere—a bird at the feeder, migrant workers in a field, something someone said years ago that stuck in my head, a photograph, a newspaper article… The writer Maggie Nelson said at a workshop “A writer is someone on whom nothing is wasted.” I have that quote taped to the front of my computer.

Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?

I tend to like poets who combine clarity with the magic of language. Edna St. Vincent Millay, Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Mark Doty, Kevin Pilkington, Martin Espada. Saying that, I’d have to include Emily Dickinson, whom one could never accuse of clarity, but I’ve always been intrigued by her work, and she IS my neighbor.

Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what’s the significance of the title? Are there over-arching themes? What was the process of assembling it? Was is a project book?

Do NOT Stop for Hitchhikers is the type of road sign you typically see when driving past a correctional facility. The title poem is the musings of the narrator “escaping” to a better place, both physically and metaphorically. The book is loosely organized around the theme of “place” from as near as inside one’s head to as far away as the international space station. I felt that I had amassed enough poems, some published, that I wanted to put together a collection. Once I had decided what to include, deciding on the order was the most difficult part. After I had re-ordered them half a dozen times (at least), I shared the manuscript with a few writer and non-writer friends who made very helpful suggestions. It was accepted by the second publisher I submitted it to.

Marianne Gambaro describes herself as “a recovering journalist.” After a career in news writing and public relations for a nonprofit organization, she now writes for love of the word. In addition to her first chapbook, Do NOT Stop for Hitchhikers, published in Spring 2018 by Finishing Line Press, her work has been published in print and online by several literary journals including The Aurorean, Oberon Poetry Magazine, Pirene’s Fountain, Avocet Journal, Snowy Egret and The Naugatuck River Review. She lives and writes not far from the home of Emily Dickinson, in Massachusetts’ verdant Pioneer Valley with her husband Jim, a fine art photographer, and three feline companions.