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About Marguerite Maria Rivas

For the archive of Marguerite's poetry, click here.

Marguerite Maria Rivas

(Photo: Marguerite Rivas by Wil Wynn, September 2001. © Copyright 2001 by Wil Wynn. All rights reserved.)

Marguerite Maria Rivas is a Staten Island-born poet who has been called by one local cultural commentator "the de facto poet laureate of Staten Island." In May 2001 she received her Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from Drew University, where she won The Robert Campbell Prize for excellence in literature. Her dissertation, a collage-form long poem about Staten Island, explores the relationship of Staten Island women, past and present, to the Island's geography and history.

Marguerite has received the Irene C. Fromer Award for Creative and Performing Arts, the Council on the Arts and Humanities Performing Arts Award (Junefest), and three grants from the Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island. In the summer of 2005, she received the Marg Chandler Memorial Award given by A Room of Her Own Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports women writers. She was a featured reader at the foundation’s 2005 retreat/conference, held at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, as well as a faculty member there. She has also been a featured reader at Snug Harbor Cultural Center, the College of Staten Island, the Unitarian Church of Staten Island, the Tibetan Museum on Staten Island, and the New York Public Library, among other venues.

A winner of the Staten Island-New Jersey Secessionist Slam, Marguerite has performed at open-mike events throughout the city. Her poems have appeared in Americas Review, Mothershare, Earth's Daughters, Frisson, Waterways, and Always a Woman. She has published book reviews in Multicultural Review. Rivas has offered poetry workshops for adults and young adults as part of the Poet's House "Poetry in the Branches" program. In Summer 2006 she conducted a workshop—"The Nature of Nurture in Poetry: A Feminist Perspective"—at the A Room of Her Own Foundation's annual writers' retreat at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Formerly on the faculty of the College of Staten Island, she is presently an Assistant Professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. With Wil Wynn and others, she is a member of Elektromotif, the arts performance collective.

Description of My Work

"Six years ago, while listening to a choral group perform the 'St. John's Passion,' I began to write poetry. While listening to the music, a flood of images overtook me, and these images eventually became my first poem. In the ensuing years I continued to write, in isolation at first, and then I gradually started to attend readings and workshops. I studied poetry and worked with other poets. I was invited to be a featured poet at numerous Staten Island venues, and my poems were published locally. I studied the work of other poets as I continued to grow as an artist. My work is largely open-form poetry, both narrative and imagistic in nature, and varies thematically. I write about nature, community, domestic life, and cultural heritage.

"As a member of Staten Island TRASH [a previous incarnation of The Sepoy Rebellion], and now of The Sepoy Rebellion, my work has been geared toward public performance. Our mission at Staten Island TRASH was to bring open-mike events to the various communities of Staten Island in order to foster the Staten Island voice. Staten Island TRASH gave me the opportunity to read my work and to experiment with other performing artists. Our open-mike events gave me the impetus to experiment with my poetry and to cultivate a deeper understanding of poetry in performance. I bring that to what we do now with The Sepoy Rebellion."

Here's a sample of what Marguerite reads at The Sepoy Rebellion's performances.

Hannah Street Bridge

When I cross over to stolen time
past ferry boats abandoned
to rust, rats, and junkies,

I think my space more fair
than summer fields of supplicant goldenrod
or pine needle-laced earth
in cool New England air.

When I cross over to stolen time,
thunderstorms shear the harbor,
soak my soul with city grit
drops of cold, hard rain.

Yet this I mark as life imbuing baptism
more renewing
than silken immersion in mountain stream.

When I cross over to stolen time,
my love stands watch for shadowed moon
to peer above the blanket of smog-filled cloud
so that I might behold the lunate spike
of silver cloud.

Oblation then offered (borrowed heart and soul)
we steal in moonstruck silence
across Hannah Street Bridge
then sleep in the depth of celestial communion
through the welcome daybreak heart.

Allan Douglass Coleman Wil Wynn Marguerite Maria Rivas Sepoy tag

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