The Write Space is a monthly Q&A series from Creative Salem covering a local writer and a Salem space(s) she associates with writing. Questions? Contact [email protected].
Give us your best writerly bio.
Jennifer Martelli’s debut poetry collection, The Uncanny Valley, was published in 2016 by Big Table Publishing Company. She is also the author of After Bird from Grey Book Press. Her work has appeared in Thrush, [Pank], Glass Poetry Journal, Cleaver, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Martelli has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes, and is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is a book reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly and the co-curator for The Mom Egg VOX Folio.
Tell us about your Salem Write Space.
Every Thursday morning, I meet with fellow writers Jennifer Jean, January Gill O’Neil, Kathi Aguero, Kali Lightfoot, and MP Carver at Gulu-Gulu Café. We started meeting a couple of years ago. Sometimes we workshop, but mostly we talk about the poetry world: trends, new books, opportunities. It’s such an important part of my writing experience, because it’s community. I think it’s as important as writing. I also belong to the Salem Writers’ Group which meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month. We meet at the Salem Athenaeum. J.D. Scrimgeour started this almost a decade ago (more?); I’ve been going regularly for about four years. It’s very welcoming and not at all intimidating. Folks bring their work—poetry, prose, essays, screenplays, etc.—and we’re given ten minutes to talk about the work. As J.D. says, the emphasis is on pleasure, not pain!
When I’m in Salem, not writing, I’m …
… getting coffee at Starbucks! I love Salem. I grew up on the North Shore and live in Marblehead now, so Salem has always been in my life. My sister and I like to go in just to walk around; I’m a sucker for all the tourist-y stuff. My husband is a member of the Harvard Club of the North Shore, which meets at the Hawthorne Hotel. They have a great speaker series; I’ve heard Seth Moulton, Elizabeth Warren, and Barney Frank there.
What are you working on now?
A little more than a year ago, I watched the documentary The Witness, which was about the murder of Kitty Genovese. I started writing poems about her; this turned into a chapbook, and now I’m fine-tuning a full-length manuscript. The poems began to morph after the presidential election, which was painful but exciting to see this direction!
This poem below is the last poem in my manuscript. I actually workshopped it at Salem Writers’ Group. It recently appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal.
I Offer Kitty Genovese Fake Fruit
The gilt pears shine like the hooded eyelids of the Madonna peering from the wall in shame and piety. The black glass grapes tight with silk and wire grow round as your lover’s eyes when she’d see you come back into the room. Would she remember your softness, Kitty? Like these velvet apples stuck with pins and green sequin-cloves? The fruit bleed something dead and dusty in the lead crystal bowl in my mother’s parlor in the old house where the lights don’t work, the gold cherub-sconces unplugged from the walls. Outside, the moon is new, unlit. Eat. Stay here with me. Don’t ever leave.