Poems from a Mountain Ghetto...
"In the chambers of the owl I sought to find answers which only God, in His light, could unfurl."
For more information, phone 1 (304) 599-2294, or write:
454 Kensington Ave.
Star City, WV 26505
The reputations of some authors take on statures after death that they could not imagine in life. Edgar Allan Poe is an example. Henry David Thoreau is another. And in that classical tradition so is Russell Marano. The books that he left us, POEMS FROM A MOUNTAIN GHETTO and POCKETS OF LOVE, capture first his impassioned life growing up in an ethnic Appalachian neighborhood, and in his last book his finally odyssey towards a heroic death. A West Virginia native, he grew up in Glen Elk, a section of Clarksburg where those who had not yet been fully assimilated into the community, Italian immigrants, and the descendants of African slaves, vie with "poor whites" from Appalachia. Writers who leave their marks upon their times more often than not come from the downtrodden parts of society, from places where people know defeat and exclusion. Witness the great literature that came from the American South after it became a beaten land. Its intellectuals were forced to a profound, introspective examination of society and their own trouble psyches. In like manner, Marano, embittered and angry, yet possessed of grandiose dreams, with the wanderlust upon him, took off from the ghetto with $20 in his shoe and extended thumb and followed the route many Appalachian migrants took. That is from personal mountain poverty to impersonal suffering in big cities. Marano ended up in Chicago, where he eventually took a degree at Northwestern University and began to teach. But intermittently his restlessness drove him to travel the world. Before he was "degreed," he lived by common labor and his wits. He fell in love with Greek and Roman classical literature and studied them in the very locales from which they sprang. He wrote more than one thousand works and his short stories and poetry began to be published in school textbooks. He was twice invited to lecture at Cambridge University in England. His stable marriage to the librarian Nancy Hanfelder provided the security and stability he needed to pursue his art. Then, at the peak of his powers, he discovered he would die of a tumor in his brain that was inoperable. With only a few years to live, and those in agony and blindness, he devoted his energy to his final book, POCKETS OF LOVE. Marano has a small but continuing reputation as a classic writer who was coming into his own when cancer struck him down. Some years ago, his "ghetto" book was one of a dozen books by West Virginia authors used in a West Virginia Humanities lectureship series at sites about the state directed by Dr. Ruel Foster, past chair of English at West Virginia University. POCKETS OF LOVE followed in 1984. The books have lasting appeal.
What they say about Poems from a Mountain Ghetto
"Russell Marano's choice of words for his first collection's title, POEMS FROM A MOUNTAIN GHETTO, may strike some readers as oxymoronic. Not so. A ghetto-like environment did exist in the mountains' coal camps, lumber camps and in numerous towns of West Virginia, especially those large enough to be county seats. This collection reveals both the positive and negative side of that era in well-crafted, quite moving poetry. "It is a poignant view of a time when those deemed 'undesirables' were consigned to live in little pockets on 'the wrong side of the tracks,' or, in Marano's, case the wrong side of the bridge separating prosperous Clarksburg from teeming, seedy Glen Elk. "The collection truly brings his beloved ghetto alive. He peoples it with families, friends, winos, gamblers, priests and prostitutes, as well as with the 'proper' people across the bridge in Clarksburg. If you value poetry and truth, this is a book to add to your collection and to recommend to others." - Phyllis Wilson Moore, literary historian/researcher. "(This) is a startling book - one that will make the reader wince with realization and cry with empathy for these hard-biting, eloquent glimpses into a part of the Appalachian culture not often uncovered, and never fully understood.
"From the hard vision of burning crosses to the tender description of a miner's loving gardeningtouch, these poems describe the beauty and harshness that define all 'ghettos' of the Appalachian landscape, whether or not the reader wants to admit they are there. Sometimes tough, sometimes sly, sometimes loving, but always dead true, Marano does not mince the anguish, but ultimately finds hope in the characters that people this collection, because 'sometimes whores, not pension-funds...' represent the redeemer. It may not be easy but it is beautiful." - Kirk Judd, co-editor of Wild Sweet Notes.
What they say about Pockets of Love
"These poems that came out of the agonies and questioning of my husband's soul during his battle with terminal cancer. Mixed with his feelings of fear, sorrow and rage is the deep need for love both human and divine. He believed we must all reach out to others with a helpful word or a listening ear and create `pockets of love.' In the end, he believed Jesus' love for us was the only salvation and hope for the world. God, in His mercy, gave Russ the necessary time to find peace. Although his death was a tremendous loss to the ones he left behind, it was also a victorious, joyful return to his true home. This book is dedicated to all who suffer." - Nancy Marano.
"These are cries of a tortured soul, full of the pleading of one in pain. He makes the connection between the physical hurt and fear of spiritual rejection, but ultimately embraces his faith. One can almost hear the plea from Calvary. These are poems of suffering, but eventually of release and acceptance. In a final act of mercy, the poet gives us his gift of light. Remarkable for their honesty, these poems heal." - Kirk Judd, internationally known poet.
"Inspirational and profound, it is the crowning testament of West Virginia's least known great writer. With a degree in philosophy from Northwestern University, Marano, like his mentor and soulmate Fyodor Dostoyevsky, probes the depths with a professional perspective sharpened by the insights of personal Christian experience. Though blinded by an inoperable tumor behind his nose, Russell maintained his sanity and dictated his final poems to his wife at his bedside, the last one only ten days before his death. Russell knew how not only to make a good poem but a good death. In both instances, what he left has much to teach us." - Norman Julian
To order both books, send $25 to Trillium Publishing, 454 Kensington Ave, Star City, WV 26505. To order Poems from a Mountain Ghetto, send $15. To order Pockets of Love, send $15.