PCCC Poet Receives American Book Award

PCCC student is watching an event with the smile in his face

PCCC Poet Receives American Book Award


Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Maria Mazziotti Gillan, founder and executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College, is a recipient of the 2008 American Book Award for her recent book All That Lies Between Us (Guernica Editions Inc.). This represents the second major prize Gillan received last year for the book. She is among twelve authors, including celebrated poet Nikki Giovanni, who were honored at an awards ceremony held last month in Berkeley, California.

“I was so excited to learn that my book was chosen for the American Book Award,” said Gillan who attended the ceremony where she, and other recipients, gave a reading from their winning works and received an award certificate.  “This award represents national validation of my work and brings increased public attention,” Gillan added.  In fact, the poet recently learned that as a result of news about the award, a professor at Howard University chose her book for use in his classes next semester.


Published in 2007, All That Lies Between Us is Mazziotti’s eighth book of poetry and, in the style of a memoir, touching details the story of the author’s life, with particular emphasis on growing up in an Italian-American community. The critically acclaimed book also received the 2007 Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Society.


The American Book Awards are presented by the Before Columbus Foundation, an organization that views American culture as inclusive and inherently multi-cultural.


The book awards were created “to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America's diverse literary community,” according to the Foundation’s website.  Presented by writers to writers, the American Book Awards recognize established writers and newcomers alike. The 2008 awards represent the 28th year for this literary honor.


A native of Paterson, Gillan has led the Poetry Center at PCCC since 1980 and has attracted renowned poets from the world over to read at the Center’s events.  In addition to her work as a published poet, she is co-editor with her daughter, Jennifer, of four anthologies about ethnicity in America.  Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, New Letters, The New York Times, Poetry Ireland, Connecticut Review, The Los Angeles Review, LIPS, and Rattle, as well as in numerous other journals and anthologies.


Other awards received by Gillan include the May Sarton Award, the Fearing Houghton Award, New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowships in Poetry, and the American Literary Translators Association Award through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is also the editor of the Paterson Literary Review.


The Poetry Center is an arm of the Cultural Affairs Department at Passaic County Community College. Founded in 1980, the Center has won international recognition for many of its activities including the Distinguished Poets Series, the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Paterson Fiction Prize, and the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People. The Center also publishes the annual Paterson Literary Review, the monthly New Jersey Poetry.