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Martin Willitts Jr

Martin Willitts, Jr. retired as a Senior Librarian in upstate New York and currently is a volunteer literacy tutor. He is a visual artist ofVictorian and Chinese paper cutouts. Martin was nominated for 5 Pushcart and 3 Best Of The Net awards. He is the editor of Willet Press.  (Update: 2014 the OPP nominated Martin's poem, Love is Breathing, for a Pushcart Prize.

And more recent books include:  Swimming in the Ladle of the Stars (kattywompus press), Irises, The Lightening Conductor for Van Gogh’s Illness, (Aldrich Press vis Amazon), and City of Tents, (Crisis Chronicle Press)

Read his essay, 'Writing 13 Ways to Digest a Purple Coneflower,' from the OPP May 2013 newsletter.

Congratulate Martin for being one of three winners of the 2014 national chapbook contest at Red Ochre Literature!!  His chapbook, entitled, "William Blake, Not Blessed Angel But Restless Man" includes poems from the OPP micro-chapbook, The Coming and Going of Belonging.

Martin Willitts Jr has won the 2012 Big River Poetry Review’s William K. Hathaway Award ; 2013 Bill Holm Witness Poetry Contest; 2013 “Trees” Poetry Contest; 2014 Broadsided award; 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Contest; and, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2015, Editor’s Choice.  See a somewhat complete list of his books offered on Amazon.

 Martin's Origami microchaps and selected poem(s) are available below.

Origami Microchap

Selected Poem(s)

 Before You Go  


Martin Willitts Jr CVR Before You Go 2017

Cover by Jan Keough



Before You Go


Notice this light
filling in the empty spaces.

Notice the tracks in fresh snow
are not human, but
they are heading towards home.

Notice, the quiet has stopped here,
facing the cloudless sky,
simple as a room without furniture.

Notice: no one answers when called.

Experiences like this happen
without even trying, and then,
night wakes up, opens a door,
trying to catch up with those tracks
before they disappear into new snow,
before the woods enter into us.

Martin Willitts Jr. © 2017


What would I do

if you did not wait for me?



Martin Willitts Jr CVR What would you do 2017

Cover: Mind in the Waters

by Lauri Burke




What would I do
if you did not wait for me?
What would I do if
you became so bored
from waiting, you moved on
and now I had to search for you
among a crowd?

I found you, once.
I cannot let you get out of my sight.
I would be lost without you.

Martin Willitts Jr © 2017


The Restlessness of the Gardener


Cover photo of WNC Wild Roses
by Jan Keough

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

hummingbirds feast on this
perennial display of red flowers
in eight inch spikes

each flower has three lower petals
and two upper petals
like staircases of red spilled ink

Cardinals in Rome wear red shoes
and whisper in the Pope’s ear
with hummingbird tongues
Martin Willitts Jr. © 2016


Cover art: Hapi - Nile Flooding God
by Lauri Burke


In every short breeze

In every short breeze there is laughter.
You just have to find it.

Every nerve ending is waiting for that touch;
the one that can lift you out of your skin.
Martin Willitts Jr. © 2016

Farming in Late Summer

Cover art: Moon-Mystical by Lauri Burke


Wisdom: a barn without a cat
is overrun by mice
nibbling in the corn.

Moonlight slid under a small wooden bridge
like the low whispers of drunken men
wobbling home
not wanting to wake up their wives
who will curse them out
for spending most of their paycheck.
Martin Willitts Jr. © 2016

Letters to Sappho

Cover art by Lauri Burke


First Three Letters

ever notice
how rain
is a woman's tears
after a stillbirth
ever notice
I found a shipwreck
beached skeleton
near a seaman
exposed lungs
does it matter
we all return to earth
we are all fragments
all sunken
all forgotten
all cast aside
reduced to shell

gulls fly out of letters
you sent
music from a lyre
you are far away
distant shores
battered by waves
come here for comfort
waves within my cove
love is delicious
love is sand
love is waves after waves
gulls speaking your words
Martin Willitts Jr. © 2015

Sappho Waiting for a Lover  
Cover: Google images, ‘Sappho’


Opening Lines

My hand is testing the hurting rain,
standing on a bone-rock, slew-
waves at cliff’s edge, searching for rescue.
Somewhere, out there, is a lover, grains
of her, a soft fabric, a furthering orbit
made from stars, none that ever fit.

This wanting, if she knew its name, this pain,
would she make me wait, a tool
needing use? Or would she be a ship
heading to my island, making her claim?
Martin Willitts, Jr. © 2015

Silent Work

“Silent work, perhaps, stays with us the most.”
— Eylnn Alexandra
Cover: Imperial tortoise beetle



Selection - 3.

When an orchestra enters a composition
and every instrument is in tune, in sync,
the whole becomes united, effortless with practice.

Today, I want to kiss notes across her neck.
Like fingers finding the right spread on a piano,
I want to find that secret threshold of love.
Martin Willitts, Jr. © 2014



There is a Weight to Love

Cover: Ammonite lamp post at dusk
Lyme Regis (Wikimedia Commons)


Opening Lines

There is a weight to love which deepens or
recedes depending on the emphasis given
or taken. It is like being called back at dark
by parents when you want to hold what’s left
of light before it retires. There are subtle notes
where love is an undertow of sadness. Leaves
shudder in abrupt, drenching rain, like this.
The moon reaches its climax, and now it wanes,
a kiss, like not enough kisses, kisses like haze.
When did that ever stop you? Tinderboxes of love
open to where a hug burns all the way to your toes.

There is a secret weight to love: all holy fire
found in the right person’s eyes, and is just as quickly
is stubbed out by a careless word, a misunderstanding.
This is when in a darkness of stars
lose all sense of direction, becoming obscure.

There is a lost weight to love, heavy flakes of love,
deserted roads plummeting into darkness of love
where no house lights exist, where no one calls us
to come inside, find yourself, rest.
We often crumble love into wads of paper, toss them
into a fire of our own making, and then expect
someone to find what is left of love among the ashes.
We try to hold onto the weightlessness of love
like a kite in gasps of wind. In the unseen dark
there are never any easy answers, nothing to cling to.
We have the hard edges of love, its raw burnt beauty,
the smokeless memory of love and what it means.
Just that ounce of love, a hawk’s breathe before strike.
Like a drizzle of moths in lamplight finding light and
death, like groves in a familiar record, like the smell
of fresh pine needles, things come all together
                                                       in an apex.

It is always better to experience love than to weigh it.
Martin Willitts, Jr. © 2014





Cover: ‘The Sun’s Limb was Lifted’
from Tolkein’s The Two Towers
By Lauri Burke


Love is Breathing

Love, like music, is breathing,
the deepest thing
memory or future or now or never
finds in air, where
nothing cares
what happens next
because it will happen
regardless impressions,
light or shadow,
are animals born out of expectant air
to the changes we need to make
which are never too late,
just like a solid, forceful wind
gives in
to the greater force —

Before I die. O, I can say,
I loved and I was loved,
and regret was a shadow
in that far-off green fields
only a single step away
to a person in tremendous love
and sinews of light
Martin Willitts, Jr. © 2014



Improvisations in Darkness



Cover photo: ‘White Fawn Lily’
© Dave Ingram


Opening Lines

The delineation from lamp
around a corner, into
a dark room, narrowing
into lost light, is still
of one reality
into another, all hazy
into nothingness.

Going into the unknown,
expect surprises.
Martin Willitts, Jr. © 2014


The Coming and Going of Belonging



Cover image from web:
'David Delivered out of Many Waters'
Blake illustration (1805)


Outward Creation

    “I do not behold the outward Creation
    & that to me it is hindrance...”
        From A Vision of the Last Judgment
Once I went outwards of myself
and created myself, I was welcomed.
When I spoke simply, I was understood.
When I opened my nailed eyes,
angels were everywhere,
exclaiming so loudly,
sparrows filled the winds.

In the nothingness after,
there was a cleansing,
my tears were wiped by hair.

I heard the universe welcoming me.
It came from everywhere & nowhere.
I was translucent. I was air.
I was the music, the Silence,
& merged Light.
Martin Willitts, Jr. © 2013


13 Ways to Digest a Purple Coneflower

Echinacea has been used as a cure for colds,
inflammation,chronic fatigue, ADD,
influenza, bee stings, allergies, & eczema.


We pour pitchers of pictures
of coneflowers
into wings of wind
into heart-shaped suns
into imperfect agreements
into healing
we can only dream about
The thirteen sax notes are notations
of what to do
a sparrow without a song
is a wind without a song
is a song without coneflowers
is packets of old seed
our heart needs for healing
is thirteen promises
for repairing distance
great and small

Martin Willitts, Jr. © 2013

Haiku Irises


A sequenced haiku based on
Van Gogh’s painting of Irises, 1889

Van Gogh considered this work a “study”
of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints


No. 13-16

Irises teacup,
chipped like a tooth, no fortune
in the leaves, no lies.

Love is unopened,
like a moth or irises,
or stillbirth, or arms.

Love-starved bumblebees
excavate honey for poems,
leave stung blue surprise.

Still nothing in mail –
not iris-colored sparrows
or damp-flamed promise.

Martin Willitts, Jr. © 2012