Maria DellaPorte, poetess and author of Magical Heart.
As she explains in this first half of our extended conversation, Maria’s work comes from a very special place deep inside her, one which we all possess, but too often lose contact with as we age and make our way through the world.
Thankfully, we have good people like Maria willing to help us reconnect with that too-often lost sense of innocence and grace that we all had, when we were so very young.
How do you describe Magical Heart to those who haven’t seen it?
Well, it’s actually a tribute to my late sister, Marilyn.
It’s about a little girl who is basically afraid to grow up, because she thinks to do so would mean losing her magical imagination and all the wonderful things that children are able to see and enjoy that adults seem unaware of or perhaps have forgotten. But then, in conversation with her sister, she learns a lesson—that love is basically the magic, and will live with you, in your heart, no matter what age you are so long as you believe.
Really, that’s the message of the book, because that’s what my sister (taught me). It’s a connection to my sister, the love in our hearts that grew.
It also teaches other important things; not just imagining, but also determination, a desire to learn, and working towards goals.That’s what the book is about.
One of the things that struck me while I was reading it was that, not only is it a good book for kids, but it also seems to have a message meant for adults, too. Am I wrong in that impression?
No, absolutely not! And I’m really happy that you just said that, because I had an idea recently that I’m really going with. I’m actually writing another book right now, because I lost another sister, as well.
She suffered from Down's Syndrome, and I think it’s really important to write something about how special these children are, but it’s hard to write that on a child’s level. But I like the idea of doing it with a child’s voice, so I came up with this idea of children’s books for adults.
So, basically Magical Heart is something like that, and this new book would be along those lines, also.
It sounds like these books really are your way of dealing with your obvious sense of loss, and are an attempt to turn that experience into something positive. Which makes me wonder if all of your work comes from that sense of loss or some other powerful emotional experience?
Somewhat; I definitely use writing as a therapeutic tool in dealing with emotions. But I want to do more than that, of course. These books help me cope with my personal loss, yes. But it’s also important I want to remember them, to let them be known to the world for how beautiful they were, not just to me but with what I believe their message to the world would be.
So, again, it’s a tribute to them, to the wonderful things that they taught me.
Her Heart Fades Pale
her heart fades
memories never diminish,
but find small corners to hide,
along with his whisper
I love you.
Twenty-year-old letters contain
a new message
Acute heartache, dispatched with fervor,
every body part suffering loss;
Gentle gratitude beneath pain’s surface,
for the times
their lips joined softly,
eyes met trusting,
running out of time.
Each day, a foot in front of the other, living,
breathing in wishes,
In her dreams they walk together,
his hand enclosing hers.
Forever seemed so close—
And she whispers back
“I love you”
to his ghost.
And my poetry is also along the lines of, yes, taking from emotional experiences. But also I look to be broader than that. It’s not just about loss. It’s about being in touch with the complexity of human emotion, learning, coping, being understood, and other things, as well. Then sharing the experience in a way that impacts others.
Right, because while the book is about a lost sister, it’s not downbeat. It’s incredibly positive. So, how difficult was it to get to that point with the book? Or was getting to that positive state of mind made easier because of your work on the book?
Well, Bill, there’ll always be the sadness of the loss, because my sister was, in fact, my best friend. But the positive was very easy for me, because that part of her lives inside of me. And it’s very strong, very positive, and I don’t lose touch with that. And it’s also
Remember that I was just talking about children’s books for adults? As I’m writing the stories my own inner child and magical imagination are very much alive, and through the experience, I am learning and evolving myself, from a place of old wisdom, but through a child’s perspective, a child’s voice.
OK. Now, how did you run across Kenn Yapsangco, and why choose him to illustrate Magical Heart?
Well, actually, I tried
I’m not by any means an artist that could illustrate a book on my own. I like to freestyle paint. I paint furniture. I’m very creative like that, and I did design all of the pictures in the book.
I actually did pencils, did all that, and actually tried (to illustrate it myself). I did all these drawings, and tried to do it, but it was like grammar school, you know? [Laughter] So, I knew I had to hire somebody.
I do have an artist friend of mine that’s a teacher, and she thought it was a great idea that I was doing that, because she thought it would work with the book. But, I said “Absolutely not!”
So I went through the publishing company, and that is who I was introduced to.
I had looked into other artists, as well, but it didn’t work out. I had a couple of friends that I had chosen—one of them was the artist-teacher—but it’s just difficult, because she didn’t have the time.
Yes, that can be a major factor, of course.
Exactly, I didn’t want to wait years. And there were certain close friends that could have done it. And they are wonderful artists but, again, it would be a matter of probably waiting years, sometimes, for somebody to get motivated (or free up the time), and I knew I wasn’t waiting. This was going to be done, and done when I did it, by 2011.
How important is revision to your work?
It’s extremely important. There are still parts of the book where I’m still going, “Well, this could have been this way, and this is this, and ”
I had only so much control from my end, it was frustrating, trying to have instructions followed correctly, the whole back and forth procedure of editing, and with this book it was a matter of being able to afford it.
I know that I’ll have the option, later on, with other books, when I can have even more control over how things are done. Because that’s hard for me; I’m very particular, and I had to kind of be resigned to certain things at some points, just to move forward.
Well, how do you know when things are done, then?
You reach a certain point of being content with things. But I think maybe all writers, or artists, can look back and go, “Well, maybe I could have done this instead, or do this more.” But that’s part of improving, also. Writing my poetry book, the next one, I think I’ll be better.
Right. Because there are always external things that can dictate when you’re done—deadlines, for instance—but there’s also...well, you mentioned contentment.
There was a feeling of satisfaction, yeah. There was a feeling of satisfaction, basically like my point was made in the book. And that’s what made me settle, and say, “This is done, this is what I want it to be.” And this great satisfaction came from
It was almost like a I want to say a thank you, to my sister. Or a gift, and a connection, again, with her, that
I wanted her known by the world. She was a beautiful, beautiful soul.
Next time, Maria discusses what she gets from her work, be it poetry or prose, what she hopes her readers get from her work, and reveals what she’s got planned for her next few projects in the second half of this extended interview, found exclusively here on TMR.