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Poet Lynne Viti reads in Westwood

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By Katrina Margolis
Hometown Weekly Reporter

This past Tuesday, Lynne Viti gave a reading at the Islington Branch Library in Westwood. Viti is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Wellesley College, and the chance to learn and absorb from a published poet was well-attended. Many of those in attendance knew Viti from the area. Originally from Baltimore, she has been a New England local for many years. Viti read from her first published book of poetry, “Baltimore Girls.” Many of her works have been published previously in a variety of platforms, online and in print. However, “Baltimore Girls” marks the first time Viti’s poetry has appeared in a cohesive collection.

Before beginning to read her work, Viti held up a black and white photograph of four girls. “We don’t know who took this picture, we have no memory - all of these women I was friends with junior high school and high school,” Viti said. “All we know, we can sort of tell about when it was taken. It was taken when we were still in high school and it must have been summer time and it was out in the country, because you can see the barbed wire in the background.” Viti pointed at each figure, explaining where they are now. “Here I am with the flower in my mouth, no memory of this!” she said. “Of these girls, this one has passed away several years ago, this one is a writer living in Cincinnati and this one is a retired elementary school teacher.” This is the photograph she submitted to the printers for the cover of “Baltimore Girls.”

Before each poem, Viti pauses to tell the story behind the creation of the poem, or to give a bit of backstory. “I’m going to start with a poem that I wrote right before my big high school reunion, my 50th reunion,” she explained. “And several of these grew out of anticipating that event and trying to get people to come to that event. This one is called ‘Salad Days.’”
It is a rare thing to be able to gain insight into poetry, which when on a page, holds no more context than the collection it is a part of.

Viti smiled as she went through poems, pulling out pieces about a friend of hers who was incredibly interested in trains and trolleys, or about her father taking her crabbing with eels when they discovered chicken backs were the best bait. “Baltimore is sometimes referred to as ‘smalltimore,’ because everyone knows each other. It’s kind of like Boston in that way,” she said. The audience laughed and leaned in for more of her work.

“Baltimore Girls” will be available in four to six weeks. Viti has a second collection of poetry that has been submitted, but has yet to be accepted. It is, however, being circulated. Luckily, Viti posts much of her work on her blog, stillinschool.wordpress.com.

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